Christmas Carp

I don’t recognize anyone. It’s light out but I can’t see. Dad is at the sink washing his hands. I am hiding from the people in the front yard.


Up against a wall, I keep my hands and knees to my chest and my left ear out. I hear Dad wipe his hands. The front door opens leaving me cold. Come in. Make yourself comfortable. I close my eyes before anyone gets too close. But I don’t hear anything. When I look into the room, I see three sitting figures. They were here last year. Dad says we are all related-- cousin, aunt, and uncle. This time they come without presents. I wince as their hair spins, taking a look at me from the couch. They walk over to me and I accept their lumbering gestures of affection. Padded coats, fur, and cracked lips leave a rhythm around my arms and cheeks. I lie down on the rug in between them and stare at the ceiling. Dad is still in the kitchen. He is wearing Mom’s apron. Her red one. I don’t think she ever wore it. Lying down, I wiggle my toes and feel the soft socks on my feet. I remember how she liked to kiss them.


We caught our own carp this year. I carried her in my bucket all the way home, then Dad put her in the bathtub. He said that it was important to keep her fresh until dinnertime. When I visited her last night, the doorknob to the bathroom felt cold. I was worried I would find her flapping on the floor. But she was dancing in the bathtub. I took off my socks and climbed onto the unbalanced toilet. My feet dangled in the water. I could still see her under there, gliding. She came to my feet and kissed them. When I made big splashes, she swam to the other side. It’s her slimy skin that tickles me. I pulled the stained stopper out and brought my ear to the sound. I got so close to her face. I could see her mouth gaping, her tail batting behind her uncontrollably. Bringing my face in closer, I poked her gills with my lips. Twice on each side.


Dad is standing over me, toolbox at his side. He asks me if I want to watch this year. I bring my head up and stare at him. You don’t have to, he says. He drops the toolbox on the counter and brings her out of the bathroom. The figures on the couch are silent now. I get up from the rug and the white threads follow me. They are also dancing. When I look towards Dad, a moving hammer is in his hand. It colors the window and now he is red in Mom’s apron, swinging down and swinging down.