Gris-Gris, an online journal of literature, culture & the arts

The Hungry

by Nan Wigington


You didn’t think about it until you were much older, but those weren’t mustaches, just fine filaments of flesh, barbels. The fish probably weren’t hungry, either. And all the enchantment shimmering now tall, now fat on the cold black water before you was no ghost park, only a reflection of everything behind, an illumination of gate house, fun house, Loop de Loop, Kamikaze, Wild Chipmunk. Your imagination bent everything the wrong way then. Your sister could have explained it, you see there’s reflection and then there’s refraction.
+++But you never asked, so she never had to answer.
+++You will always consider the dock that attached to the pier, the sheen of oil, the bridge to the miniature red and white lighthouse, four of the five speed boats tied, tented for the night. Did the attendant’s back really look like a question mark? His bony finger pointed to the sputtering, now roaring, now speeding away boat. I told you. That’s the last ride tonight. Did the boy spit? Did the girl turn away?
+++Your sister pointed to the boat, too, whispered in your ear, there are water moccasins out there.
+++She lied. You recognized it, yearned for it–monstrous black scales, rising and falling, scything through lake waters–and looked where she pointed. You thought you saw a jaw unhinging.
+++It was just your sister’s hand waving you on, toward the end of the pier, toward the people who fed the catfish, who always fed the catfish. Such a crowd. So many dead-eyes. So many mouths opening, closing, and all those mustaches dripping desperation.
+++They’re hungry, your sister said, and you weren’t sure if they meant the fish or the people.
+++They want little girls.
+++She grabbed your wrist. Your popcorn tumbled out of your hands. Across the pier. Into the water. Here and there, the empty fish found something to fill them, a puff of white.
+++Mostly, the mass followed the box, a red and white frigate, sinking through the dark.
+++Part of you hated this adventure. Part of you thrilled in it. Your sister would feed you to the monsters if she could. She would save you from yourself if she had to.