STORYGLOSSIA    Issue 37    December 2009


when Jimmy fishes for what was his mother


by J. A. Tyler



I don't know what this is.


This is true.


Jimmy fished, his pole hung in the water, the tip making ripples. And yes, Jimmy caught a fish that was his mother. He brought it home, this fish that was his mother, and he wrapped it in bathtub water. And yes, the bathtub had claw feet, so it was very much like dropping a fish into the mouth of a hungry tiger. And in the middle of the night he heard his father screaming for something that was missing and sweat collected on the back of his head, wet as water, swimming. Jimmy dove in.


There is no use in this pretending.


Tell the stories.


Jimmy was riding his bike on a dirt road, collecting every rock that shone in the sun. Quartz. Formica. And trees with heavy-hanging leaves dipped down toward him, lunging. And yes, the limbs of these trees reached out and hugged Jimmy, drew his shoulders to his chest, made a curl of him. The branches swaddling Jimmy, Jimmy holding the rocks tight, the quartz and formica already compacted.




Down in the basement Jimmy's father is looking through jars of peaches. They are dust-lined on shelves and look like sunset caught in glass. There is sugar in them, these jars, the fruit holding steady there, Jimmy's father looking for a mother's face in the swells. Jimmy's father is coming unglued.


In the basement is a box of straw hats that she wore. In the basement is a tangle of ribbon. In the basement is a feeling that these things by the bare bulbs are drying out faster than they should. Jimmy is a kid. Jimmy's father is a father. Jimmy's father is a dad. Jimmy is curious why his father's hands are always so rough when Jimmy only ever sees him weeping into palms. Those hands should be lotion soft, nearly liquid by now.


So much of this is what happened before. The already gone by.


Inside of Jimmy's imagination there is a village. And inside of that village is a tree. And up on that tree, near the top where no one can see without climbing up and craning, there is a beehive filled with jellybeans. Jimmy goes there when he is almost crying. The tears he doesn't want can be traded for candy up in that tree, in this village, in the secret places of Jimmy's head.


Don't go down to the river. It will swallow you up. But he goes anyway. Fishing for his mother.


And yes, Jimmy has gone deaf some nights, laying in bed, hearing the crickets out his window and then hearing nothing, the summer cruelly muted. This is when Jimmy snaps his fingers by his ears, listening for noise. He hears nothing, these snaps and the underlying crickets, the locust applause that sometimes happens, the stillness. Jimmy caves in on himself these nights.


When there is no mother, like how Jimmy has no mother, the hole it leaves is wide and deep.


He gathers rocks and dirt, Jimmy, attempting to fill it.


Their house, this house, with Jimmy and his father sometimes inside of it, the spiders come in there through every hole and break, through every crack. Last night Jimmy swatted one off his arm. Last night Jimmy flicked one from the couch arm. Last night Jimmy found two hanging from the porch light, embedded in each other and hanging in circles from a single thread.


This is what it must be like to lose a family.


There is no way of knowing what this is.


Her dresses were flowers, his mother's, his father's wife's. Her ring is set in a box on a nightstand where the light always hits it first in the mornings. The sun through a window. Her eyes were hazel, creamed coffee, her eyes were articulate, her eyes were. She looked into him, Jimmy, and saw to his toes. Jimmy felt it like light when snow is still settling, when the wind is cold but the heat sits on your chest.


Jimmy lives in a dream. Jimmy's father lives in a house. Jimmy's mother is in the ground.


A stalk of grass, mock cigarette in his lips, Jimmy makes his finger and his thumb into a pistol and shoots himself in the head. He sees that the red swirling out is a scarf and tied around his neck this scarf makes for death. Jimmy cannot think some days beyond this decapitation.


Yes, it is true, Jimmy is one of those boys who comes undone half-way through the day. He is a mockery of sitting still. And yes, Jimmy is motherless. And yes, the watermelon seeds he spits over their fence sometimes become, in his mind, watermelon trees, and he swings from their arms like a catapult.


Jimmy is a wonder. And Jimmy's mother's body does not have a heart that beats anymore. And Jimmy's father's heart may have stopped going too sometime ago, he just doesn't know it yet. And yes, seeing his dad in the basement searching her face in their canned peaches, it makes of Jimmy an unsettling.


This must be what it is like.


No one told him that this is what would happen.


There was no preparation.


Stay in the yard Jimmy, don't taunt the crows, don't throw rocks. Your mother is watching Jimmy. Your mother sees what you are doing.


Let it go Jimmy. Surrender.


Go back to your fishing hole, trail sticks in the water, catch your mother as a fish. Watch the tiger smile knowing you have brought him another.


Come on Jimmy, let's us pretend this all the way out.



Copyright©2009 J. A. Tyler


J. A. Tyler is the author of INCONCEIVABLE WILSON (scrambler books, 2009), SOMEONE, Somewhere (ghost road press, 2009) and IN LOVE WITH A GHOST (willows wept press, 2010), A MAN OF GLASS AND ALL THE WAYS WE HAVE FAILED (fugue state press, 2011), and THE ZOO, A GOING (dzanc books, 2013). His work has appeared recently with Diagram, Sleepingfish, Caketrain, Hotel St. George, elimae, and Action, Yes among others. He is also founding editor of mud luscious / ml press. Visit: