Drawings by Chris Nieratko
I don’t like scary movies—they scare me. I was seeing a therapist once for it but it all seemed like a big waste of time. I felt like he wasn’t listening to me. He was always texting someone on his cell phone. Is that normal? I asked him if my slow-moving hockey coach trying to kill me with a machete while wearing a goalie mask back when I was five had anything to do with my horror-movie fears but he said it was doubtful and most likely to be blamed on my mother. I asked my mother if she liked horror movies and she said, “No. I hate them. But I do like fish.” And it’s true, she does like fish. She was born in Portugal, which is basically an island, if you ignore the two sides that are connected to Spain, which most Portuguese do. They eat anything that comes out of the ocean over there. Once, while sitting on the beach in our small fishing town of Vagos with my wife, we saw a group of fishermen pulling in the nets early in the morning. One man went over and saw an old boot. He picked it up, held it up to the sun, and smiled. And then he took a bite of it. No soy sauce or nothin’!
Do you know what a sea robin is? Google Image that shit. Trippy, trippy stuff. It’s basically like the last living dinosaur and surprisingly it lives off the shores of New Jersey. People don’t believe me when I tell them this: It has a face like a catfish with whiskers, it has rigid scaly wings to move it along the ocean floor, a hard back, and a tail like a lobster, and when it’s out of the water it barks. It’s true. And those guys are total pricks. You’ll be out fishing for hours, hoping to get some tuna or something worthwhile, but instead every tug at the line is another sea robin. And like I said, if you take too long getting them off the hook they start barking at you like you told them to eat the damn hook. Total dicks. The water in the bay between Coney Island and my town in Jersey is disgusting. Five years back the shit plant exploded and emptied into the water. They said it would take ten years to repair the damage. Four months later my buddies were out fishing in it again and keeping their catch. “Didn’t they say it would take ten years to clean this up?” I asked. “Ah, it’s fine,” they explained. Well, in that case, let’s eat!
Of course the time I go out to catch some shit-fish all I got were sea robins, which I threw back. When I saw my mom later that day she was like, “So what did you catch? What’s for dinner?” “Nothing. Just sea robins. We threw them back.” You could see tears well up in her eyes. She called me an idiot. She had to take a seat as if I’d knocked the wind out of her. “Don’t you know sea robins’ tails taste just like lobster tails, you big dummy?” I shook my head no and she shook her head yes.