My brother used to go down to the river and fish with a stick and a dirty sock every weekend.

When he would get back I would ask him what he caught, and he always replied,

“The biggest fish you ever saw.”

“So why didn’t you bring it home?” I would ask him.

“Because it promised me that if I threw it back, I wouldn’t be able to catch it ever again.”

“That’s what it said?”

“Yup.” My brother would then amble off to his room, leaving me to ponder the value of a fish who could speak well enough to bargain for his freedom.

One day my brother came back from the river without his wooden pole. He wouldn’t explain to me what had happened; instead he ran to his room, tight-lipped. The next morning we found that he had packed a suitcase and left in the night.

I went down to the river, searching for the spot he had always described, where the piles were perfectly spaced for a man to lean on one and use its neighbor as a footrest. But I did not find such a spot. There were only gray gravel yards and rotting warehouses.

Seven months later though, we found where he had really been going. Or should I say it found us? On our doorstep was a bundle with a newborn baby inside and a note that read, “Be careful what you fish for, asshole.”

I wouldn’t say I was surprised that I never saw my brother again.


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