The Birdhouse, Or by Jamie Dopp

Little Fish

Winner of First Prize for Fiction in the 2011 gritLIT Competition.

For more information (or to order a copy) see the gritLIT website at www.gritlit.ca.

Story Description

Little Fish. In One Word at a Time: Poetry and Short Stories from the 2011 gritLIT Competition. Hamilton, ON: gritLIT, 2011. Pages 19-28.

A monologue told by a 47-year-old woman to another parent in a children's swimming pool. The woman explains why she is taking care of an infant at her age. The baby is her daughter's, who watches, sulkily, from a chair nearby. To explain about the baby, the woman has to tell about her own history, which culminates in a dramatic fishing trip she took with her husband when her daughter was small.


What the judges said

"I loved reading your story and was especially struck by the wonderful balance of laugh- out-loud humour and aching sadness you managed to achieve in so few words."
     -Jennifer Gillies, Artistic Director. gritLIT: Hamilton's Literary Festival


Excerpt From Little Fish

Maybe it would have been different [with my daughter] if Bill had stuck around. Not that he spent much time with her. He wasn't like the fathers today, some of them. He was one of your basic home-from-work-have-a-few-beers-watch-TV type guys. Or not home: that happened now and then too.

I'll tell you what he was like. He wasn't circumcised and one day he read this article that said most women like their guys that way. And he started worrying about it. It was like he'd discovered that he was defective or something. He just couldn't get it out of his mind. I told him what did it matter, I liked him the way he was, but that didn't make him feel any better. Finally one day he comes home walking real slow. He'd gotten it done! For three days he's on his back. He's popping .292s for the swelling and the pain. Then the bandages are off and he stands there, buck naked in front of my dressing mirror, to admire himself. He's turning from side to side holding himself with one hand like that in front of the mirror . . . . Well, I had to laugh. Though, really, I shouldn't have because right after that he took off for good.

How can you tell about men? A big strong man like that. Maybe he really did worry about himself, I don't know. All I know is that he was pretty good to me, most of the time, even if he wasn't always around. He even tried, once in a while, to do special things for us, though it never seemed to work out.


I remember this one time, it wasn't even our anniversary, he decided to take me fishing. Surprise, he said, we're going jigging for halibut . . . .