Phillip Hua © 2016 All Rights Reserved

Half Fish, Half Dog


I

I’m in Pat’s Place for dinner. The waiter tells me the special: sea bass on a bed of broccoli rabe with little red potatoes. “Let’s go with that,” I say. With some clearing of the throat and nervous looking about, he says, “It’s the whole fish with the head on, sir.” “Fine,” I say. He returns with the plate and says, “Please be careful.” “You mean bones?” I say. “Eyes,” he says. “Oh, I don’t eat the eyes,” I say, “I’m not that brave.” He says, “Not eat. Don’t look into them, sir. They’re very . . . soulful.” “I’ve looked into the eyes of a lot of sea bass,” I say. “The adjective ‘soulful’ has never come to mind.”

The waiter puts the plate down in front of me, and I’m about to dig in, when I look into the fish’s eyes and say to myself, Damn, those are the warmest, moistest, most involving eyes I’ve ever seen on a fish. If the last woman I’d dated had had eyes like that, we’d still be doing the tango on a cruise ship in the Bahamas. I say things I’ve never said to a fish before. “I wish we would have met sooner. We might have been so much more to each other. We might have shared meaningful bubbles across the liquid void.” I’m so in those eyes, tears come to mine. And then I’m weeping, and in my mind, doing a tango with the fish by an island in the Bahamas. The waiter comes up behind me, gently pats me on the back and says, “There, there, sir. There, there.”

II

I’m in Pat’s Place for dinner. I have to sit at the bar, because all they’re serving at the tables is dog. Not as a dish. Dogs are seated at the tables and being served. It’s Dog’s Night Out. The restaurant owner is doing his bit to bring the dogs up a couple rungs on the evolutionary ladder. The dog owners lie on the floor by the tables. They look so distraught. They can’t believe that no matter how often they roll over and play dead, or sit up and beg, or toss their own shoes and fetch them, the dogs won’t feed them from the table. The dogs are in it for the dogs.

The owners beat their breasts, pound their heads against the floor and say, “Where did we go wrong? We gave them everything. Rubber bones, steak bones, booties in winter. We pushed them in baby carriages, and let them lick our faces. They licked our faces! How can they enjoy themselves knowing we’re down here hungry?” The dog owners are lost to themselves. The waiters fret and watch nervously. They know that the truly depressed tip erratically, and dogs don’t tip at all.

 



Douglas Collura
Copyright © 2016  

Douglas Collura is the author of the book Things I Can Fit My Whole Head Into, a finalist for the 2007 Paterson Poetry Prize. He was the 2008 First Prize Winner of the Missouri Review Audio Poetry Competition. His work has appeared in Broome Review, Paterson Literary Review, and other periodicals.


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