By CL Bledsoe

There’s no sign, just a gravel parking lot
leading to an open door, a concrete floor dark
as mud, the thud of knives on cutting boards.
Customers pick fish — cat or buffalo — from a tank
out front for us to weigh up and clean. A man
breaks out a harmonica while he waits. Another day,
a man brings his guitar, plays “Long-Haired Doney,”
Well my trouble, soon’ll be over. Every time someone
comes in, they ask him to play. He comes back
the next day and does it again. Outside, dust itches
the throat, smells of bone. Somebody gets drunk
and tries to find water with a curved stick, walks
into the stock pond, and says, “I told you it works.”
In the garden across the lot, customers can pick
greens while they wait. They come in pairs, so one
can watch to make sure we don’t try to slip frozen fish
in with the fresh. Which we would. The battered
radio hums country music no one can hear over
the laughter, the practical jokes. “Have you fed
the mongoose today, Bobby? Y’all ain’t seen
our mongoose?” Everyone knows there’s no
mongoose until the lid flies open and the fur-
covered tennis ball flies out. Trouble will make you
sad for your Mama. Evenings, Dad and them
stand around drinking and telling stories
none of them believe.

Stuff My Stupid Heart Likes by CL Bledsoe (co-author of and The Wild Word:

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