The Fate of Some Minnows: Comanche Lake c. 1977

Written by Joey Brown

Image: Big Encyclopedia of Defunct Animals #407 by Stanton Fink

We went into the minnow room,
the slender sliver of porch
slapped-up and screened-in
alongside the bait shop,
to observe the minnows in their
unnatural habitat:
a cooler box, lid removed,
that once sold cold drinks,
probably in the shop next door.

The whirring box sat on the screened wall,
so it caught the sun in the early part of the day.
They swam by the hundreds, maybe more,
tiny schools in a tinier ocean.
The water rippled almost imperceptibly, clear,
though green lake scum grew thick globs
ending in fine hair
all along the sides.

From time to time we watched
a man from the shop, cooked tan,
come in to fill tubs once used
for the likes of margarine
with the borrowed lake water.
He eyeballed the haul of each,
took a small net like the ones used
for goldfish, and chased up
a scoop or two of fleeing minnows.

I knew the fate of these plugged-in fish,
but I must not have thought about it.
I remember nothing else that I know
to have happened:
my dad buying boxes of damp dirt
filled with worms,
his fishing,
or his even liking to fish;

only that if I touched the surface of the
cooler water with my finger tip
softly enough
the minnows still darted away,
but returned quick and curious;
and I knew that if I moved slowly enough
I could lower my finger,
then maybe all my fingers,
into the water without the minnows
leaving again;
that just like the ones
on the lake shoreline did,
these minnows lingered with me
in the shallow water,
glancing against my skin.

This work was featured in issue #7

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