Chapter Nine - The Fish Farm
1997 - Mom is 48, Scott is 23, I am 20
"Hi Gramps! How are ya?"
"Ohhh, fair-to-middlin' I guess."
"You have any cookies left?"
"Aww, I think there's still a bag or two out in the freezer, but gettin' low."
"Well, that's what I'm here for, to stock you up. How's the peckers?"
"Well, that's good, got lots of fishers lately?"
"Yeah, been pretty busy, need a fish-wife this weekend, got lots a tacos comin' out."
"Well, that's what I'm here for, to be the fish-wife. Where's my brother?"
"Oh, I think he's up in the orchard somewhere, I don't know, probably fartin' around somewhere. SKINNY! SKINNY! Jellybean's here! Yeah, I guess he's not in the house. Probably out back somewhere."
"I'll find him later, no worries."
Grandpa and I sit on the porch for a while and watch for "big birds". Blue herons, king-fishers, fish-hawks. We talk about what needs fixed and what's working. We sit in silence for a bit and just listen to the serenity that surrounds us. Listening to my Grandpa is always interesting. I used to berate him for calling his Mexican customers "tacos", but it really is a term of endearment for him. My Grandma used to call them that, and never out of any sort of predjudiced or hateful attitude. And Grandpa loves his Mexican customers. They are his best, and most frequent customers, the most polite and respectful, and they have huge picnics where they make fish tacos, and grilled steak and chicken, among other things. They always bring him, and anyone else on the porch, a big plate of yumminess. The birds are his biggest enemies. They eat his fish by the hundreds on a daily basis. Stealing profit, and flying around mocking him with their squawks and calls and chatters. He calls his fish "peckers", partly because when he feeds them, they seem to peck at the top of the water for their food like a bird would peck at the ground for his. He also uses that word because he thinks it's funny, being that it also means wieners. He cares for those fish almost like they were his children, feeds them methodically, cleans the leaves out of the screens in the ponds so they always have fresh water flowing through. From the moment day breaks, til after the sun goes to bed, he's the guru of fish, the captain of Rainbow Trout. It still amazes me, how so many people come out here, to fish, to visit, to picnic, to bring their sons and grandsons. Word-of-mouth is all this little fish farm ever needed. Larsen's U-Catch-Em has been someone's home-away-from-home for decades. And no one ever forgets. Way out in the middle of nowhere, literally, nestled between a couple of mountains, and at the end of a long, winding gravel road, you'll find the most serene, beautiful, forest-oasis you ever saw. Most people fish with hand-made bamboo poles, crafted by Grandpa, me and Scott. They use whole kernel corn as bait. And I love it here.
I think my obsession with nick-naming people came from my Grandpa. To him, I am Jellybean, my cousin Mike is the Village Idiot, my aunt Karen is Tuh-Tuh, my aunt MaryBeth is Bessie, my uncle Gary is Short, my aunt Anita (half-Mexican) is Taco, my uncle Harvey Jr. is Denny (for Dennis the Menace), and my brother is Skinny, for obvious reasons. My brother has lived here for about six years now. Right after high school he moved out here. Partly to go to college, partly to get away from me and Mom. And partly, I think, because this place is so beautiful, everyone wants to live here. But in reality, you have to be very comfortable in your own skin, your own mind, to be able to live in a place like this. Social separation, total isolation at times, and a lot of rain can wear a person down, no matter how green the grass or serene the setting. And it's plain to see that Scott isn't very comfortable in his own skin, or mind, for that matter.
"Hey Scooter, how are ya?" Scott comes in the kitchen door, grunting and sweating.
"Fine, MOVE DOG!" The dogs are always in the way. Dogs are more revered than people in this neck of the woods. "Shit! Dammit!" More grunting and sweating and cursing as Scott lugs firewood in the house with an old wheelbarrow.
"Want some help?"
"No! I'm fine."
"Okeeey." I'll wait til he's calmed down, sat down, and not sweating so much.
Scott is big, really big. I've noticed him steadily gaining weight for years now. You can't talk to him about it. He just gets WAY defensive and mad, or cries a lot, which is worse I think. It's hard to understand because he works here on the farm all the time - and works hard. He chops things, hauls things, moves things, mows things, weedeats, builds things, and takes things apart. And he works at Target too, on his feet all day, stocking things, lifting things, moving things. It's hard to understand.
"Here, have some water." I hand him a glass of water and sit down next to him. "Workin' hard today, huh?"
"What do you want for dinner tonight? Thought I might make chicken dumplings for Gramps. Sound good?"
"Mmmmmmm, yeah, nummies." This perks him up a bit.
"You're a dork, and I hate when you make those sounds."
"Why? They're my nummy sounds."
"Yeah, that's why."
There's a definite food obsession where Scott's concerned. I've never seen someone get so excited over a meal. I've never seen someone eat so much, so fast, so happily. There's a focus that comes over his face, like when a meth addict is chopping out a line. Like I used to do. Nothing can tear you away from such a task, you enter a different place, a purposeful place, a silent tunnel where nothing else matters. And you eat, or you snort, or you shoot, or you swallow. And you are satisfied, if only for a moment or two.