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Guest Writer

The lucky catfish
by Troy Eggleston

veryone know'd the story of Old Wyman Stilts catchin' this odd lookin' catfish, too small fer keepin' but too interestin' lookin' fer lettin' go.

Had these long bright orange whiskers and whitewashed belly. Even curled a smile when it looked at ya with those big brown bowling ball eyes. On account of its unfamiliar beauty, he decided to take her home for a pet and ended up winnin' the lottery the day after. He called her Odetta, his lucky catfish.

It became front-page news, stretched out all across the state. But poor Wyman had the misfortune of comin' mighty sick soon after and you could imagine how people was half backward when they read in the obituary column that he left his entire fortune to this fish but not 'fore settin' Odetta free in Montgomery Lake a day 'fore he passed.

After quite a stir and weeks of deep thinkin', judges came up with the rulin' that whoever "retrieved" Odetta was entitled to Wyman's estate. News traveled fast, attractin' every kind, but mostly the losin' kind, like Mister.

I don’t know how I got to callin' him Mister, 'cause usually that means you respect the person you callin' it to and when I first met 'im I couldn't find half a reason to respect 'im. He showed in town real drunk, runnin' up in the water without knowin' how to swim. Almost drowned, but for me jumpin' in and savin' 'im.

He slurred some mighty grateful words, sayin' no way he wanted to travel to heaven with whiskey on his breath, and for 'preciation he gave me a blessin' that was told to be worth a extra life. I told 'im how I never believed any in blessins from a priest much less a wet drunk. This turned the colors on his face and he ran straight toward me with fists flyin', accusin' me of bein' a selfish ingrate.

Now, while we was scufflin', two locals, Jerry and Jimmy Mack, come kickin' up all kinds of dust hollerin' out the windows of their pickup, doin' doughnuts, actin' like devils. Their granddaddy had worked the mines and the only thing he left them boys in the will was a basement filled of dynamite and a gene or two for crazy.

They were convinced they could blow Odetta outta the lake with their inheritance. After makin' quite the scene, they come down to the lake, Jerry with a stick of dynamite in his hand sayin' how Jimmy had a dream of bein' mayor the night 'fore. Then he'd turn to his brother Jimmy makin' sure the dream was true and he'd nod all proud like, then Jerry kept goin' on and on how this were their lucky day, how he could feel it deep inside his bones and last time he felt similar he won the hot dog eatin' competition at the fair.

Jerry put a blastin' cap on the dynamite and lit the fuse with his cigarette, holdin' it far longer than any sensible person might and give it a mighty toss into the middle of the lake. Everything went dreadful silent, all profound and unbroken like. Then, just when you'd thought it warn't gonna do nothin', a thunder came boilin' up from the water, violent and angry, damn near knockin' everyone on their backs. Then sure enough if it warn't predicted, Odetta goes flyin' outta the center of the blast, flappin' all vigorous in the air. You could tell it was her 'cause those orange whiskers seemed to glow sittin' up against the blue sky.

She must've flown a mile high and, when she started makin' for earth, she was divin' right for Mister, who was passed out drunk and worn out from our scuffle on the other side of the lake.

Startled 'im more than a thousand ghosts ever could, snappin' 'im straight outta his slumber when she done landed bullseye in his mouth.

Now, by the time a crowd gathered 'round 'im, Mister was blue in the face havin' been chokin' on Odetta for a minute or so. People was standin' round starin', afraid to help 'cause that might make 'im swallow instead of cough. Priority seemed to be lettin' a man die rather than ruin the chance of gettin' hold of a regurgitated fortune.

Well, I couldn't stand by those morals. I walked up behind Mister, stretched out my palm and smacked his back hard as ever. Sure 'nough if that didn’t open his eyes wide and make his Adams apple move, pushin' ol' Odetta down into his belly.

The judge ended up rulin' that Mister didn't "retrieve" Odetta in a respectable like manner, so therefore old Wyman's estate died with Odetta. Mister tried arguin' that Odetta was still alive, 'cause he felt her kickin' some nights in his belly, but the judge said that it was just the whiskey makin' his stomach all orn'ry like that.

I never did think much 'bout complexities, but that blessin' Mister first gave me when I saved 'im that was worth an extra life, well, I figure he gave it to me so I could use it to save 'im a second time. Just like me to waste a blessin' like that.

Anyway, that there's the story of Old Wyman and his fish Odetta and if you didn't know it 'fore, now ya do.

E-mail Troy at tolstilts@earthlink.net, and find his previous efforts in our archives.

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