Catfish

Today’s word prompt was “fish.” I thought I’d bite. Via Daily Post: Fish

The summer I was seven years old is the last happy one I remember of my childhood.

My family spent two weeks out at my father’s business partner’s “farm,” which was really just a house on some land about an hour’s drive from Houston, Texas where we lived. I insisted on wearing a burnt orange bikini that was a bit too small for me. I was still young enough to be un-self-conscious, and I just loved that suit. I didn’t see my belly protruding out as any problem. The rolls of baby fat still at my waist didn’t concern me at all. Nor did I care that my butt crack peeked out in the back.

I wore it loud and proud, much to my parents’ chagrin. My mother hated it because it was “too revealing” (translation: my body made her uncomfortable.) My father, because it was “too revealing” (translation: he wanted me to stay a little girl forever.)

Me and my two older brothers spent many hours swimming in the swimming hole, a small  manmade body of water that had an anemic dock and several leafy trees ringing it that offered shade and respite from the unremitting Texas sun. There was a raft or two, and we’d all end up out by the hole, floating or swimming about.

My mom, who never swam and stayed inside to read her beloved crime novels, insisted I wear a t-shirt, to save my pale white skin from the dangers of skin cancer. I begrudgingly wore one, hating the extra layer between my skin and the water and the hot-but-still-moving-air slow breezes that the Texas heat sometimes mustered up.

Our dog Ginger would leap off the dock onto the raft with us, then slide off into the water. She’d paddle to the side of the hole and hunt for a pile of cow dung and then roll ecstatically in it.

I, too, was ecstatic, despite the darned t-shirt. My brothers were both entering their teen years, so the times we were together had siphoned down to a trickle. Here at the “farm,” they seemed to shed the new attitudes they’d picked up from junior high school. I had my Bubbies back to myself, and they had me giddy with laughter.

The only damper on the occasion was that we shared the swimming hole with the dreaded catfish.

Catfish, put there for ambiance, I suppose. Catfish get their name from prominent barbels which appear to be like cat’s whiskers on either side of the fish’s head. I had gotten it into my mind that those whiskers would sting me. Not just sting, but actually slice any skin that they touched.

You might think that such a fear would have kept me out of the water. But my brothers went in, so I was going in. I was not going to be a baby about it. Not me. Plus, it was hot as Hades. The choice between staying hot and sticky and getting some relief was no choice at all.

So in I would go. But boy, was it scary. Any slight movement in the water around me, and I was shrieking and lurching to cling to one or the other of my brothers. They’d toss me back in the water, away from the safety of their older brother-ness, and surges of adrenaline would shoot through me as I scrambled to get back to their vicinities.

Those two weeks would eventually come to an end, as would the summer. My brothers would adorn their new attitudes again. We’d never play together like that again.

But I can still remember the feeling of being in that water, and the odd mix of love and fear and safety. I loved every minute of it. I loved my brothers. I loved my burnt orange bikini. But I hated those catfish.

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