“Cheap Fish” by Addison Reilly

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I’m not really above it
like I like to think that I am –
I don’t ever put change in the
Salvation Army
buckets outside grocery stores,
Santa hats notwithstanding;
I’ll shoot a wasp
out of the air with a thick rope
of pesticide
for sport;
And I love the feeling of your
failure
because it makes me feel better.
But I’ve taken a moral stance
concerning the frogs.

You might never have seen the frogs.
I don’t see them in suburbs or the city
as much as I saw them in my hometown and all the little podunk cities
nearby.
But you’ve seen the cups of
solitary beta fish
at pet stores (cohabitation not advised)
and it’s the same idea.
They’re generally translucent,
long-fingered, webbed,
staring dumbly
in a plastic container with
nothing else
in it.
Totally still.
Until some jackass kid shakes the
plastic to-go universe they inhabit.
They scurry, nowhere to go
and then
eventually
settle back down.
Still.
Always.

Walmart.
$3.99.
Buy two get one free.

When I was a kid, I thought about
how boring that must be:
stuck in that see-through world.
How many frogs lived their
whole lives
there? Never finding an algae-frosted
home aquarium
replete with suckerfish and African cichlids
(the cheap fish).
But now that I’m older,
I don’t think that way.

I think about the horror.
Do frogs have that existential
terror of loneliness?
Of insignificance?
Of suffering so deep that
you can only detach and float away?
Ambivalent.
Amphibious.

I am afraid of the frogs.

 

Addison Reilly is a writer and ghostwriter based in Dallas. She received her Bachelor’s in Religious Studies from Southern Methodist University. Her writing has appeared in Black Horse Review and under various pseudonyms.

 

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