Winter/Spring 2001Volume II Issue I

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portal to our archives

from the editors

failbetter presents

who we are & how to submit


Peter Markus has published his short fictions in recent issues of
Black Warrior Review, Quarterly West, New Orleans Review, Flyway,
Quarter After Eight, Faultline, Barnabe Mountain Review, as well as in
two anthologies,

  American Poetry: The Next Generation from Carnegie Mellon University Press and

The Best of the Prose Poem brought out by
White Pine Press. His book of fictions Good, Brother is forthcoming this
April from the AWOL Arts Collective. A short film based on the title
story is also currently being shot.


Our Father Who Walks On Water Comes Home With Two Buckets Of Fish

Peter Markus


We watch our father walk on water. He is walking across it. Our father is crossing this dirty river that runs through this dirty river town. He is crossing the river, coming back from the river's other side. We see that he has, hanging from each of his muddy hands, a muddy bucket. When it is us, his sons, that he sees are doing the watching, our father walks up to face us. He sets those muddy buckets down onto the ground. We look at those buckets. When we look down inside them, we see how each is filled up to the rusty brim with fish. Supper, our father says. We each take up a bucket and follow our father home. Us brothers, his sons, mudding through the mud, walking in the tracks of our father's muddy boots. We watch him walk into the kitchen without first taking off his muddy boots. We follow him doing the same. The kitchen floor, with mud all over it, has never looked so shiny. Mother, our father barks out. Then he calls to her by her name. We don't say anything about our mother. What we do is fetch a frying pan. We fetch it from her cupboard and put it on her stove. Our father sees this. He sees this and begins going at the fish with his knife. He is first cutting off their heads, then their tails, then going down each with the blade up inside. What is inside the fish comes slushing out. What is inside the fish is now down on the floor. We fry what is left in the pan with some lard. Then to us our father says something. He says something else and calls for our mother. But he gets no answer, only his echo, made empty by the emptier house. He looks at us, shrugs. Again, we do not say a thing about our mother. Again, our father shrugs. After we are done with the eating, it is us brothers who do the cleaning up. We take what's left off from our plates and we scrape what's left into the trash. The dirty dishes, slick with lard, we pile these up in the sink. The parts on the floor—heads and bones and the inside rest—these we take outside, out to the back yard. We bury some of what is left in holes that us brothers dig. The heads we hammer into the creosote-coated telephone pole that's in the back of our back yard. We look at their eyes catching light from the moon. It is the sound of us hammering that brings our father outside. When he asks us where is our mother, one of us whispers, Fish, and the other one mutters, Moon. To this our father nods, then heads off down in the direction of the river. We follow him. And without so much as a word or a wave goodbye, we watch our father walk back across the river to the river's other side, walking and walking and walking on, until he's nothing but a sound the river sometimes makes when a stone is skipped across it.

© 2001 by Peter Markus