ROCKFISH: A NOVEL EXCERPT

Posted: February 21, 2010 in Uncategorized

By David Hunter

Chapter One

My daddy, Jack Winsom, left when I was ten. No explanation why. I thought, and still think, we deserved one. My momma blamed Brian, my older brother. Brian was fine up until he was 8 or so, and then one day he was found walking around our farmhouse in a daze, unable to walk straight. Momma took him to the doctor up the road but in those days them country docs weren’t too sophisticated. Old Doc Phelps, who delivered all four of momma’s children, me, Luke, Hannah and Brian, casually examined her first born and arrived at a brilliant conclusion; the boy has a headache, give him some aspirin.

In actual fact, as I learned later, Brian had a concussion, a bad one. He wasn’t treated for it, ‘specially not by the old booze hound Doc Phelps, and he was never quite the same ever afterward. It scared me, let me tell you, to see my previously normal big brother, who used to play catch with me, and who taught me to catch butterflies, start talking to himself or scream in the middle of the night. Yep, Doc Phelps, what a piece of work he was. Brian had to be pulled out of the eight grade because he had grown to six feet tall and started getting violent when any of the kids called him names like dummy and feeb, the latter short for feeble. He didn’t know what the word meant, but correctly deduced that it wasn’t good. And all the laughing directed at him, he understood that. That was when Brian decided to take a rain-check on life; he descended into childlike whimsy, regressed to sucking his thumb and wetting his bed. Momma went berserk and daddy just left. A gimp son he could handle, but a feeble one too?

But the last straw was Luke.

Luke had been a hell raiser since the age of two, eating Clorox and having my frantic parents rush him over to Doc Phelps (a crap shoot at best) and somehow the old toss-pot managed to induce vomiting and my brother survived. After that Luke ran the gamut from bruises and cuts, to accidentally starting dad’s truck and putting it in gear; destroyed most of the barn and the back bedroom of our house. But somehow daddy Jack never got too mad at Luke. He’d explain it away, as if he was the great all- American son, “Aw hell, I was a rough and tumble when I was a boy. He’ll be a hell of a man, HELLUVA man! Got GRIT in his eye!” he’d say, mussing Luke’s almost white-blond hair, but that grit blinded daddy and it blinded Luke; a mutual shit-storm between them, each looking at each other through rose-colored and manly glasses. If none of us other family members ever existed, they’d of been fine and dandy, the two of them.

Luke was so spoiled by the time he got to be a teenager that no-one could tell him what-for. He knew it all. Daddy let it happen that way. Course, daddy left before it all hit the fan, so maybe he had an inkling of what he’d wrought. Guilt sometimes makes us do things unexpected. Daddy’s thing was to wash his hands of it. Daddy’s way was to leave us in the wake of his mistakes. Wonderful man, my daddy Jack.

Momma just plain fell apart. After daddy’s exit, the state caught wind of her boozing and week-long trips to God knows where, leaving us all by ourselves. They took my youngest sister Hannah, away, mostly because she was only six, and they figured Luke and I could fend for ourselves. They tried to take Brian away too, but he knew that land like the back of his hand and disappeared like a ghost. The only way you’d ever find him was and get him to come in was to yell “Rockfish!” at the top of your voice, and he’d come running out of the field somewhere or crawl out of a gully or something.

“Rockfish” of course was something Brian came up with. It was a mystery to us. When he was upset he’d draw his knees up, rock back and forth on the floor, and chant it, ‘Rockfish, rockfish, rockfish.. .’ like a mantra or something. It baffled me to no end, but to him it was, I guess, something that comforted him; his own secret portent. God only knew what things blew threw his mind.

But I loved him. Despite his flights of fancy and his bed-wetting and his chanting, he was, strangely, the only one in this cock-eyed world that I could truly rely on. If I need to talk, he was there. If I needed help, he’d be there. If I was hurt or sad or crying or happy or hungry or my back itched in a spot I couldn’t reach, he’d be there. I have never met a person more loyal and loving, and I miss him like hell.
But, like I said, it’ll all be revealed.

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