Skip to main content

Grey Sparrow Journal

Issue 30, July 31, 2017
Home
Contents
Biographies
Submissions
Archives
Editors
Contact Us
Publications
Policies

Catch and Release

 

by Anika Fajardo


 

 

When Eddie’s around, Mama calls me Little Eddie. Which I hate. She calls him Eduardo, which he hates.

 

“Mi’jo,” she says when he complains. “That’s the name your Papá and I gave you in México.”

 

Most mothers would have given their two sons different names but not ours. Eddie was born in Mexico and his dad’s name is Eduardo. He’s nineteen and I’m eleven and my dad’s name is Ed. “It was nuestro destino, our fate,” Mama says. “Two Eddies.”

 

I was born in Minnesota while Eddie was in Mexico with his dad. He goes back and forth, mostly lives down there. I don’t know much about what happens in Mexico, but at home Mama coddles him and nags him. She asks about his daddy a lot and sometimes gets confused with all the Eds.

 

Mama and Big Eddie whisper after I go to bed. They’re fighting in Spanish, so I can’t understand. Eddie wants to go back to his dad in Mexico. I know Mama wants him to stay with us.

 

There’s no way Eddie wants to stay here. Mama and me live in frozen Minneapolis, in a rented house by one of the many lakes in this city. I don’t tell Eddie how much I love living here.

 

“You should see the ocean, cabrón,” Big Eddie teases. “These lakes are dirty puddles. The ocean, man, is so big you can’t see across it.”

 

But he doesn’t catch fish in the ocean the way I catch fish here in our little puddle. It’s in the middle of the city, a green and open space in the middle of houses and apartments and grocery stores, sitting there with all that water like it doesn’t belong. In the summer I love to ride my bike around the lake. I ride with my fishing tackle in my backpack and my pole across the handlebars.

 

My dad—Ed—bought me a fishing pole when I was seven. He taught me how to bait the hook, how you pierce the worm through at least twice, make sure it’s really on there. Mama must not have hooked my dad good enough because he left when I was nine.

 

***

 

“Okay, pendejo, if you’re so smart,” Eddie says. “Show me this fishing shit.”

So a couple of times I take him out. He’s got a car. I don’t know where he got it, but he wants to drive the three blocks to the lake. It’s close enough to walk.

 

“And let those white bitches stare at me?” Eddie’s talking about all the white people that live in the nice houses between our rental and the lake. Rich people like to live in the city near the lakes—like they’re in the country only not, like they can’t decide where they want to be. We’re the only family with brown skin around here. “No,” he says, “better hop in, Little Eddie.”

 

Big Eddie never stops talking, but he turns out to be good at fishing. He starts bringing home fish for Mama. And they’re big ones, big enough for a whole meal. I only catch little sunnies, sometimes a crappie. She makes ceviche and fries fish-filled albóndigas and beams at my brother.

 

Eddie’s car breaks down on Broadway in late August and we never see it again. We don’t ask what he was doing up on the north side of town. Now he walks to the lake with me.

 

We pack a cooler. It’s red and you can pull it on wheels. It’s half full: one plastic container of worms, one of minnows, a six-pack of Miller, and lots of room for the fish we’re going to catch.

 

Eddie’s so good at catching these lake fish, he gets bored. He talks about his car, swears in Spanish. I love Spanish curse words.

 

Cabrón!” he shouts at me. “Hand me a beer.”

 

I get him a beer.

 

“String these up. Let’s leave them in the water.”

 

I loop the stringer through the mouths of four good-sized bass and dangle them in the water. They get excited when they hit the cool and murky lake thinking they’re home free. Then they thrash and fight until they realize they’re caught for good.

 

Eddie leans over the railing of the dock and casts his line. A cigarette hangs from his mouth and the Miller balances on the railing’s ledge. It’s late, but the sun is still hot and he unbuttons his black guayabera, exposing his torn tank. I loosen the top button of my polo shirt. I look at Eddie and wish I had an old undershirt. Mama would never let me wear torn underwear.

 

Suddenly Eddie wheels around. “Gilipolla! Did you see that? That motherfucking monstruo just ate my fish!”

 

He’s yelling and laughing and spinning around, and I can’t understand what’s happened. He drops the butt into the water where it sizzles.

 

“My fish,” he shouts, “is bait.”

 

I lean over the railing and see that one of the bass has been decapitated or whatever the opposite of that is. The head is still hanging from the line, but the body has been chewed right off.

 

“Get these motherfuckers in the cooler, Little Eddie.”

 

He’s laughing and muttering a mix of Spanish and English curse words. I pull those three fish—and the forth head—out of the water and dump them in the cooler alongside the two last Millers.

 

“Wait,” says Eddie. “Toss me one of those.”

 

I toss him a bottle with a gentle underhand swing like he taught me.

 

“Not the beer, cabrón! The fish.”

 

I stare at him as the beer bottle crashes on the wooden boards of the dock. The foam seeps into the wood and drips into the water below.

 

“Here’s what I’m going to do.” Eddie proceeds to loop his line and hook around one of the fish from the cooler. These guys are as big as my size eight shoes and it doesn’t look like his hook is big enough. “Go after your own kind, Buddy,” he says to the bass with a chuckle.

 

He lowers the squirming fish into the water on the deep side of the dock. He’s got an audience now, the other fishermen are watching out of the corners of their eyes. No one’s ever seen somebody use a fish that big as bait. I feel proud.

 

“Never gonna happen,” says one of the fishermen.

 

There are a few twitters of laughter on the dock, but my brother doesn’t turn around. He’s leaning on the railing, lighting another cigarette, and watching the setting sun reflect on the water. He’s humming a tune, one of those boleros our Mama listens to.

 

And then there’s a tug and a splash.

 

Hijo de puta!” shouts Eddie and he’s reeling in the biggest fish I’ve ever seen.

 

The thing is almost as big as one of the small blonde children at the other end of the dock. A couple of the guys come over to help pull the line while I stand there, gaping. The reel slips a couple times and the clicks sound like they’re a hundred years apart. And then the fish is out of the water and Eddie reaches over the railing and grabs the beast by the head.

 

I don’t know how it all happens, but the next thing I know the fish is on the dock thrashing but tied up in line. Eddie is holding a rag to his bloody finger. Eddie and me lower the fish into the water where it splashes and I swear I can hear it cursing Eddie.

 

When the people on the dock calm down a bit, we lean over and look at this thing Eddie has caught. It’s at least forty-five inches long, maybe more. Has a mouth full of teeth, looks more like a shark than a fish. Eddie’s nursing his index finger. “Fuck, those teeth are sharp.”

 

We strap the fish to the top of the cooler like it’s some kind of king on one of those chariot things.

 

At home, Big Eddie takes a couple pictures with his phone and then wraps the thing in newspaper and stuffs it in the freezer. Mama doesn’t let me touch anything in the kitchen, but Eddie moves around the room as if he owns the place.

 

***

 

Eddie’s been moody and restless since he caught the fish. He and Mama have been fighting more.

 

“Can I show your fish to my friends?” I ask Eddie later.

 

“Vete, no me chingues,” he says. “Get out of here.”

 

I take a breath, get ready to argue even though I know I’ll lose.

 

“It’s my fish,” he says, cutting me off.

 

The whole time Eddie is with us, he’s also trying to figure out how to leave. He has a job and then he doesn’t have a job. He wanders around the house, shouts at the television. Eddie always wants to get back to Mexico. I don’t know what he’s going back for, maybe his dad. I don’t know where my dad is and I don’t think I’d want to leave Mama.

 

“Stay,” Mama says to him. She tries to bait him with words, with food, with promises. “I’ll make you buñuelos every day, mi amor.” Sometimes I think she looks at him like he’s her only son.

 

***

 

A week or two later, I get home from school and I can hear Mama crying.

 

“Don’t go yet, mi’jo,” she’s sobbing. Big Eddie is packing, throwing clothes around the living room, magazines, some CDs. “Stay till Christmas at least, make some more money, Eduardito.”

 

I stand in the corner of the living room and watch Eddie storm into the kitchen. I hear him open the fridge. I hear the beer can burp. Then I hear the freezer door swing open. The fridge’s motor whirrs as it tries to cool the warm night air.

 

“I swear, Mama.” Eddie comes back into the living room. He’s got the fish. It looks heavy. And cold. The blank frozen eyes watch Mama. Eddie swings the fish like it’s a misshapen club. “You can’t stop me. You couldn’t stop Papa and you can’t stop me. Me voy.”

 

When she rushes toward him, I can’t tell if she wants to hit him or hug him. He jerks away and the fish flies across the floor and trips her. Mama is down on the floor now, a bright gash in her cheek where she hit the edge of the TV.

 

“What are you doing?” I yell at Big Eddie.

 

Mama is crying softly and doesn’t look at either of us.

 

“You coming, Little Eddie?”

 

I look at Mama and look at the fish and shrug. Big Eddie zips up his duffle bag and heads to the door.

 

Bendiga,” he says to me. I recognize this. It is the tail end of a Mexican blessing: Que Díos te bendiga. May God bless you.

 

And then he’s gone.

 

***

 

And now I’m just Eddie again. Not big, not little. Just Eddie. Mama put the fish back in the freezer after she stopped crying. I go to school just like always, walk home in the afternoon. On the same sidewalk I walked with Big Eddie. I half expect to smell his cigarette smoke.

 

When I get close to my house, I start to run like I really want to get home, but really I just don’t want to be where I am anymore. I come barreling through the front door, letting the screen slap closed behind me.

 

I skid to a halt. The whole house smells like hot grease. I walk into the kitchen to find Mama standing at the stove singing boleros. She’s frying something that spatters oil everywhere. Mama’s hair is wrapped in a bandana and she’s wearing an apron. A huge tail flops out of the sink dripping fish blood on the vinyl floor.


 “There you are, Eddie,” Mama says, without turning around. “Dinner’s almost ready.”