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goldfish cherry pie :: kenneth pobo

My family often pulls pranks on me, especially Duncan, our ten-year-old, named after a Paul Simon song my wife Jenna likes but I don’t, I can’t stand all that twee folky stuff—he likes to pull the chair out so fast that I fall on my ass. I don’t say “ass” to Duncan. Jenna hates all slang and cursing. So I say, “Duncan, you little roach clip, you hurt my fanny.”

Our daughter Melissa only answers to the name of Missy. She thinks it makes her sound voluptuous. I didn’t know voluptuous at thirteen. When she was ten she saw Barbara Stanwyck’s Double Indemnity film on the Movie Channel and became obsessed with all things Stanwyck. She bought a gold anklet like the one Stanwyck wears in the film. Jenna says she looks cute. Stanwyck, Missy says, also was called Missy and that’s that!

That’s what?

I don’t get these people I live with. But why complain—they don’t get me either. I don’t think I’m getable. I’d like to make a getaway but Jenna knows I lack gumption. The La-Z-Boy holds me with more passion than either Jenna or wanderlust. Don’t think I’m lazy. I’m not lazy. It’s just that so little interests me.

My job definitely doesn’t interest me. How interesting is selling cars? I greet customers at the door, all friendly and cherry pie with a lard crust sweet. I want them to cut into me, eat me—and sign the check. I do it fairly well. Maybe I’m like Barbara Stanwyck too—I can get into a role and make you believe I care so very, very much about Kias.

“And this year’s award for Best Car Salesman is . . . TOM LABOUSH!” I walk up to the stage to massive applause shaking hands and flashing my cherry smile. As I’m about to give my acceptance speech, the room becomes a goldfish bowl. I’m floating on the top, pale, a few thin pieces of fish food drifting by me.

It’s not a dream. It’s the working week.

Duncan, according to Jenna, who is rarely wrong I must admit (grudgingly), will grow up to be a politician or a minister. He hates reading the Bible though we tell him “Jesus wants you to know him so you need to read about him.” “Unnn,” he says, running upstairs to play the latest Super Mario.

Maybe he will run a mega-church. The plate passed will fill with fancy cars and condos. He will pull the chair out from under his church members and skip town. Why do I think my son isn’t very nice? He is nice. Usually. It is upsetting to watch him step on ants and bust up spider webs just for fun.

Missy doesn’t bust up anything though she says if she married a guy like that husband in Double Indemnity she’d make sure he got killed but quick. Jenna says this is good—it proves she’s already strong.

I don’t say anything. Maybe Jenna’s thought she might off me someday. But why would she want to? We live comfortably. I’m not mean and I don’t argue. I’m like a clean couch. Anyone can sit on me.

Well, not anyone. Mrs. Dowbuck down the street, she’s made it clear she’d sit on me, or part of me, but I say I’m married and she winks. Jenna and I still do it. Sometimes. It’s nostalgia, I guess.

My favorite book is Huck Finn. I want to have adventures, want to roll down a river and see steamboats. But cars on the lot call me, even in my sleep. “Sell us, sell us,” they say. Each is another child. Morning comes and I step into my shower and then my suit. Whoever heard of a pale goldfish in a suit?

I get in the Optima and drive to work. Jenna in the window waves goodbye. That’s nice. She looks so happy. She never waves when I come home.

——

Kenneth Pobo’s fiction is published by Galleon, The Ampersand, Clapboard House, Fiction at Work, Verbsap, Word Riot, and elsewhere. A new chapbook of poems, Trina and the Sky, won the 2009 Main Street Rag Poetry Chapbook Contest and will be published.