Apr 12, 2006

Forgetting in circles

The man kept his fish in buckets. Oblong corrugated water trough buckets to water the dairy cows, hooked up to pipes from faucets from wells with a little orange floater device on top to keep adding water when the cows kept drinking so the troughs would always stay full. I'd never seen a floater devise like that except for the bulb in the back of a toliet hooked to the chain you'd have to wiggle if the water wouldn't stop, so I thought he'd stolen them out of the back of old toliets. It was the kind of thing he'd have done.

He'd come by in the late afternoon, big red mustache, blue bandana and music too loud from the flatbed, and I'd turn off my radio and walk over through the water-run dirt to let him know what I'd done and how much and he'd say what I needed to do or could do tomorrow. He climb up the wood fence running between the barn and the road, up on on the bottom rung by the faucet, and lean over to the water and feed the fish. There were catfish in there, swiming in circles grey at the bottom of the green water, feeling out the metal edges with their weird fish-scale whiskers.

Yeah, he'd say, I figured out a way to get good cheap fish and never have to fish again. He wouldn't say it every time but he thought it was brilliant so he'd say it a lot and what he'd done was go fishing once, in the river down at the bottom of the road, and then release them again into his troughs. So on a sunny Saturday when he wanted to fry a catfish he'd drive out to a trough and shoo the cows away and grab a couple and go back home and the whole process was quicker than a trip to the grocery store.

His kids kind of missed the fishing, though. Sometimes they'd put on old waders and get out poles and hooks and dig up worms or catch some snails or beg a chicken liver off their mom, and they'd walk down the fence line until they came to bucket they liked and they'd go fishing. They couldn't cast their lines, really, so they just lowered them in, ploped them straight down and then they'd sit there, on the fence or whatever, for a few minutes until a couple of catfish bit and then they'd walk home again, holding them over their shoulders by the gills.

He had trough-fish tanks spaced out all up one side of the interstate. When people drove by in the morning and when they drove back in the evening they'd be blinded by buckets reflecting the sun. They'd put their hands up to block the glare or wear sun glasses and pregnant cows'd look up at them with water dribbling down their lips and the fish would swim and swim in circles.

I don't know that the fish swam around in endless circles, but I imagined them that way. Fish are supposed to have really bad memories so they'd probably forget where they were, every couple of circles, and then get mad all over again. I imagined them as muttering and swearing at the little circle and having their hopes raised when it rained. Sometimes when it rained real hard the water would rise all the way to the metal edge and spill over, down the side in a corrugated wash, but I never saw it rain so much that a fish fell out of its bucket.