Saturday, July 7, 2012

“The Fisherman & His Wife”: a terribleminds flash fiction challenge

This week’s flash fiction challenge at terribleminds is to modernize a fairy tale or fable in 1000 words or less. Weighing in at just under 1000 words, please to enjoy “The Fisherman & His Wife”….

“I always knew you were full of shit,” Mike teased, taking a swig of rotgut as we gazed at the ocean. The campfire sizzled with drippings; dinner was awesome.
I hadn’t seen him in a long time. “It’s true. We had it all, more than we ever shoulda. Damn woman, anyway. Never satisfied.”


Wife and I lived in a rusted-out trailer in a rusted-out trailer-park between the rail crossing and the jetty. Wife called it a hovel, but I could pack up the tackle and walk to a couple sweet fishing spots from there. I tried to get out every day for a little peace and quiet; catching something was a bonus.
So this one morning I hooked a big one in the surf, but I reeled in a fish like none I’d ever seen. Good fifteen pounder, whiskers like a catfish…but it was bright gold. And as I pulled the hook from its bleeding lip, the bastard looked me right in the eyes and spoke.
“Hey, if you let me go, friend, I’ll grant you a wish. Whatever you want.”
“Yeah, right. My trailer’s a dump. Gimme a house, maybe the wife will stop bitching about it.”
“Set me free and go home. Your house awaits.”
I felt stupid walking home empty-handed but sure enough, where the trailer had been before, now there was a house. It was clean, not too big, had a nice garden. The wife was thrilled.
Too bad the thrill didn’t last. Pretty soon she was bitching again: the house wasn’t big enough, not fancy enough. She insisted I go back and find that fish again and demand a nice house, a big one like the rentals up the mountain. If the fish was really magic, he could give us one.
“Hey, fish!” I yelled at the water, and damned if that big gold head didn’t pop up. “Wife says you need to give us a better house, like the townies have up there,” I jerked a thumb behind me at the headland.
“Go home, fisherman, and see your mansion.”
So I went…and I got lost, not realizing that the McMansion on the corner was ours. It had decks, a three-car garage and a ten-foot-tall stone entry with spiral-trimmed trees on each side. Wife met me in the foyer with a bottle of good scotch and a huge grin. Took an hour to see the whole place, it was so big.
“Oh honey,” she cooed,  “it’s perfect!”
Well, maybe it was, but apparently not perfect enough. After awhile she was back to her old self, but now she’d found ambition. I had to go back to the fish.
“What does she want now?” the fish asked.
“She wants to be president. She’s lost her mind, but—”
“Wow. Have fun being the First Man.”
When I got home the place was swarming with Secret Service. Marine One was now parked behind my Chevy. I got frisked walking up to my own damn house! And it wasn’t even an election year….
I’d figured as Prez she’d be too busy to bitch at me now. I was wrong. Now she had staff to bitch at me for her. And right on schedule, a few weeks later, her personal secretary informed me that I needed to go see the fish.
“What now, O Beleaguered One?” asked the fish.
“President isn’t good enough. She wants to be Empress.”
The fish sighed. “Very well, Empress she is. I hope there’s room in that house for you and her ego.”
“You ain’t kiddin’, buddy.”
And so it was…and there was much rejoicing, and kowtowing, and blowing of trumpets. At least the trickle-down benefits of being King Consort included me getting my own residence so I didn’t have to see her as much. But, well, too much is never enough. Sooner than later, I found myself out on the beach again, yelling like a lunatic at a fish.
“Yes, Dolentem Imperator?” The fish actually looked put-upon, which I could totally understand, even if I didn’t know what it said.
“It means ‘The Emperor Who Suffers’,” it explained, with some boredom. “I was being a little facetious but I probably shouldn’t be, given your station these days. My apologies, O Great One. What does she want to be this time?”
And yes, the fish gave me the fish-eye. “Pope. Pope?! Are you shitting me? Shes aware that she’s not a man, right? Hell, is she even Catholic?”
“She wants to be the Pope and as Empress she demands that you make her wish come true. Hey, I’m just the messenger, here. This isn’t my idea.”
“Fry me up and swaddle me in newsprint if that woman isn’t the biggest megalo-maniac on the planet,” the fish said, somehow managing to shake his head in wonder. “All right, all right. She’s the Pope. Good luck with that.”
The opulence of St. Peter’s Basilica looked ridiculous, planted in this godforsaken beach town. Pikemen in garish purple-striped shorts and feathered hats guarded the gates. Red-robed cardinals flocked around her, catering to her every whim. She wasn’t sure whether she liked the hat or the red-heeled designer shoes better, but she was over the moon. 
Was it enough? Nope.
The next time I stood there on the sand, yelling at the fish, the winds nearly knocked me over. I have no idea how the fish even heard me.
“But there’s nothing else she could be!” it complained. “Great Peter’s Net, man...she’s the Pope!”
“Yeah, that’s what I told her. But she wants to be God.”
The fish laughed a maniacal sort of laugh that a fish shouldn’t be able to make and darted toward me, almost beaching itself in rage. “Yeah? Well, fuck you! Go home to your harpy. I gave you back your hovel!”


“I still think you’re full of shit,” Mike said, picking a long golden fishbone out of his teeth and reaching for the whisky. “Good fish, though. Got any tartar sauce?”