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 dont 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'
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
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
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 didnt 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
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.