Naming the Shit That Has To Die

Corey Miller 

 

The nuclear power plant smokes O-rings along Lake Erie and I eat the walleye everyday. When you skin the fish you’re suppose to drag your knife perpendicular along its lateral line to strip the pin bones out for a softer fillet.

My fish guy, Andy C. Byler, is Amish and loves electricity. They can use it as long as it’s for work purposes, but they stretch that notion. His boat has a sonar Fishfinder that can tell how deep the lake floor descends. Andy says Lake Erie is the shallowest of the Great Lakes and that every turd Detroit flushes down floats our way. He pays me in fish to pile his crew, his 6 sons, into my truck and drive them to Mentor Headlands where they dock. I wait by the lighthouse, watching their boat bob up and down with the current. I use the park’s charcoal grills and inhale Marlboro 27s. Garlic, lemon, and rosemary melt onto Herbert; I name each fish to give them a life. Off the cedar plank he forms a burnt puddle pit on my Styrofoam plate.

I don’t think I could stomach telling Andy about Dana.

***

I can’t drive Andy to the lake today because of my doctor’s appointment. Cleveland has the #2 highest ranked hospital system in the country. The side of the building looks like a half-pipe; I imagine Tony Hawk doing a 900 degree spin. I sit alone in the atrium because I arrived two hours early and I eat the cafeteria food. I opt for an all-beef hotdog like I’m at an Indians baseball game. Andy and I have listened to countless games on the battery radio, pencilling the score down as Tom Hamilton announces who’s at bat.

Doctor Edmunson says they discovered a mass growing between my lungs and heart. He performs tests on me. Nitrile gloves, rusty iodine, stainless needles. He runs wires over my belly and they beep knowledge. “To get better you have to want to get better. Your body will follow your mind.” Doctor Edmunson talks about lasers like I’ve advanced to the future.

***

I adopt a Basset Hound off Craigslist from a family expecting a baby. She already has the name Lobster and I like that. We sit by the beach with binoculars, trying to see Canada when the sun collapses. I’ve never been before. I give Lobster all of the things I can’t consume: skin and eyes. She gnaws the scales and I pick at the Styrofoam that’s melted onto George. Bones are dangerous so neither of us has the spine.

She lies on my lap and we promise to keep each other warm. The only thing between us is Dana.

Andy says I should put Lobster to use and make her a hunting dog. I don’t have the patience to wait for my food to come to me anymore.

***

Andy docks his boat, The Rumdrinka, and dangles payment into the cleaning bucket. I scale Darcy and Samuel and gut them hollow. Lobster’s ears are so long that they drag on the ground. Her breed is known for its devotion.

“You ever get out there on the lake?” Andy asks me. We both know I haven’t. Amish can only grow beards under their chins once they’re married. I could ask Andy why he hasn’t shaved yet. “It could do you some good. The invitation’s always there.”

We live far enough from the power plant to think it produces clouds and close enough to die in a heartbeat if it’s not taken care of.

“You know it only takes an ounce of water to drown?” I say.

***

Doctor Edmunson speaks of stages like he’s a magician performing and now I’m his assistant. I wait for him to saw me in half; I pray it’s down the middle vertically. One half to stay with Lobster and take her on walks and the other half to sail into oblivion with Andy. This way nothing has to change. I think I never found a person to hold on to because I couldn’t get past the thought of eventually separating.

I ask Doctor Edmunson about timing — it’s all about timing. He answers in percentages, chances. I’d rather bet on the Cleveland Browns.

***

There’s a guy running laps in the parking lot at the beach. The tree line blocks the sunset, but I’m sure it’s easier running on pavement rather than sand.

Andy watches me dig a hole in the tree line near the lighthouse. Lobster helps dig like there are bones to be unearthed. I’m not sure if I’m allowed to, but no one stops me. I saw online these companies that can turn your corpse into a tree to be planted, supposed to be healthier for the environment.

“What’s the hole for?” Andy asks.

“I always want to stay right here at the beach. Okay?”

Andy nods to the things I never tell anyone, always reserved.

***

I have Andy watch Lobster today. Maybe just today. Or, maybe they’ll go hunting together. Or swimming.

Doctor Edmunson asks if I have any beneficiaries. I don’t have any children to carry on my name and I can’t list Lobster so I put Andy down to pay him back for all the fish and games. Hopefully that will make the score even for being chums.

Doctor Edmunson and a crew of people put the mask over my nose and mouth. I breathe the odorless gas while he asks a lot of questions.

The procedure is to break my ribs and fold them out like an open book. To reach into my chest and lift my heart. To get rid of Dana.

#

Corey Miller lives with his wife in a tiny house they built near Cleveland. He is an award-winning Brewmaster who enjoys a good lager. His work has appeared or is forthcoming in MoonPark Review, X-R-A-Y, Barren, Cleaver, Lost Balloon, Hobart, Cease Cows, and elsewhere. When not working or writing, Corey likes to take the dogs for adventures. Follow him on Twitter: @IronBrewer