Aunt Catfish



“I’ll meet you at Aunt Catfish’s” I yelled as I pulled the rusted door of my 1972 Dodge pick-up closed. Metal met rusty metal with a vibrating bang. Something in the latch didn’t meet up just right with the strike pin and I had to do it again.

 “Aunt Catfish’s!” she said with obvious disappointment. “I hate that place.” I knew she did, too. She didn’t like seeing the live lobsters in the tanks scattered about the dining room.

 She didn’t like that her ex-boyfriend was a cook there, either. I didn’t like that part much myself.

 Her ex-boyfriend was Ricky Hill. Ricky was a nice enough guy. He and I had always gotten along. Well, until the incident that led her to being my girlfriend instead of his. I always felt bad about that.

 Some things had happened that weren’t really of my doing. And, unfortunately, weren’t of Ricky’s doing either. It seemed that he had to pay a price for someone else’s actions, someone else’s decisions.

 I suppose that none of that really mattered now. It had come and gone and all that was left of it were the memories. Good or bad, they needed to be forgotten.

 “I’ll be there at four” I said through the window as ‘Red’ rolled, slowly, onto the highway, trying to gain enough speed to not be dangerous…but not enough to be dangerous. There was a very fine line between the two. 

The old girl always took a half mile or so to get adjusted to the fact that she had gone from sitting motionless to moving about 40 miles an hour in a matter of about 30 seconds. It was the best she could do and I rarely asked more of her.

 After 10 minutes of inconsistencies in speed, running quality and overall performance, Red eased onto the dirt drive to my shed. The shed is where I kept everything that meant much to me outside of people and animals. And, truth be known, there was a cat in there that had been dear enough to me that I’d had it mounted upon its death. I regret having done it, but like that I loved it enough to think it was the right thing to do.

 The church-key door lock didn’t work good enough to earn its name. There was no glass in the windows, either. There was nothing inside that anyone would have wanted to steal. And, most everyone knew they could borrow anything from me, anyway.

 I went in and got my waders and a big net I used for seining minnows and sometimes smelt. The smell in the shed was one of my favorite things in the world. It was a potpourri of mildew, dirt, old rubber, oil and ghosts. I loved my shed.

 I put the boots and net in the bed of the truck and coaxed the door into opening again. The hinge creaked its disapproval as it always did.  I sweet-talked the gas pedal and before I knew it we were on the highway again, heading for Indian River.

 I seined for a few minutes and was doing pretty well considering I was by myself. My seine is too big to be handled easily by one guy. I didn’t need that much bait, though, and I knew it. 

Lucy and I were going to Port Orange fishing after dinner. And, we usually didn’t end up doing much fishing. We’d talk, or stare at the sky. She used to read the bible to me because she liked the way it was written. Psalm 23 was her favorite.  “…though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death…” she’d say. 

I put my minnows in a Styrofoam bucket with some water from the creek and headed back to Red. The path back to the parking area along the highway was rough. Water and little fish were sloshing around, splashing onto my waders. I slowed down and wondered why I hadn’t brought the lid for the bucket.  

Walking up behind Red it was apparent that getting to Aunt Catfish’s by four was going to be a problem. The right side of the tailgate sat much lower than the left and that isn’t the way it usually is. A large wood screw sticking out of the tread was more than likely the problem. This wouldn’t have bothered me as much if the right rear tire hadn’t been the best one on the truck.  

The thing about having a truck like Red was that I was pretty well prepared for most things. I knew I was never going to drive her too far from home. And, I kept enough tools with me to work on most things I was capable of working on. The jack and spare tire sat at the ready in the bed and I was in the process of changing the tire in no time.

 Even though things went well, it still took about a half an hour to change the tire. That was more the result of location than anything. The place I needed to set the jack to lift the truck was right over a deep pothole. I had to do some makeshift excavating and shimming to get the jack to lift the truck high enough to get the new tire on.

 Some more sweet-talking to the throttle and we were on our way home for the last of the gear and then to Aunt Catfish’s for dinner and Lucy.

 I turned the radio on to try to find the time. The local NPR station was playing a Garrison Keillor show live from Purdue University. I knew it was after four because Garrison’s shows always started at four.

 I quickly ran in the house and got my duffle bag, which was always loaded and ready to go, and a lantern.  The cat clock over the kitchen sink said it was a quarter of five. I knew Lucy wasn’t going to be real excited about having to spend a lot of extra time alone someplace she didn’t want to be in the first place, so I cut a fresh rose off the bush by the front door to help appease her.

 As I pulled into the parking lot at Aunt Catfish’s, I wasn’t sure how to feel about something I saw. I was glad to see that Lucy had found someone to talk to while she waited for me. But, I wasn’t thrilled that it was Ricky and that they seemed to be having a really good time.

 Red slowed to a stop, left front brake pad squeaking the way it liked to, next to Ricky’s truck. Lucy and Ricky were sitting on the open tailgate, smoking cigars and laughing. She knew I hated it when she smoked. I knew she hated it when I was late.  

“Hey, Ricky” I said. “How’s it going?”

 “Good. It’s going good. How ‘bout you?”

 “Yeah, good here, too. We’re headin’ down to Port Orange to see if we can catch any crappie. I think they’re runnin’. “

 “Ummm,” Lucy started slowly, “I think I’m gonna go with Ricky to a bonfire out at Patton’s Woods. Is that okay?”

 She caught me off guard. Of course it wasn’t okay. Of course I could never tell her it wasn’t okay. I looked at the ash hanging on the end of her cigar and I knew at that moment that I’d lost Lucy. She tapped the cigar on the tailgate and the ash tumbled to the ground as my relationship with her just had. 

 Oh? Sure, why not?” I stuttered. “I’m…I’m gonna go ahead and go to Port Orange, though. Is that cool?”

 I laid on my back and smelled the rose as I stared at the sky that night. The air was cool and damp. “That’s alright,” I thought. And, it was. I had a good day. I had a lot of good days.


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 Felix J. McGillicuddy