Kathy Fish


The babysit­ter sets a plate of pan­cakes in front of the boy. She’s eigh­teen and wear­ing a short night­ie. Fingers of sun stretch across her freck­led face.

Oh shit, kid, I got some ash on that,” she says, but the boy is already gobbling.

I LOVE the ash­es,” the boy says.

The babysit­ter gets her cig­a­rette where it’s bal­anced with the bread knife on the lid of the peanut but­ter jar, comes over and taps more ash onto his plate. He swirls his fork around, blend­ing it with the syrup.

I LOVE the ash­es,” he says again.

The babysit­ter sashays around the house, flick­ing ash­es every­where. The cat pukes on the rug. She says, “bad kit­ty,” and hurls him into the garage and slams the door. She throws a paper plate over the vom­it. Lights the can­dle that smells of eucalyptus.

What’re you going to do today, kid?”

I’m going to the POOL,” the boy says. He slept in his swim trunks.

Oh that’s great,” she says. “Maybe you should go RIGHT NOW.”

He has syrup on his cheeks. His bel­ly pro­trudes over the top of his swim trunks. They are fes­tooned with skulls.

The babysit­ter is look­ing at her phone, absent­ly scratch­ing her crotch. From the garage, the cat meows. The boy lets out a belch wor­thy of a longshoreman.

The babysit­ter looks up. “You’re still here?”

I believe I’d like a cup of Joe.” He leans back in his chair, pats his stomach.

The babysit­ter opens the cup­board, stands on tip­toe to get a cof­fee mug. Her night­ie rides up. The boy reach­es his hand out as if to touch.

She was just sup­posed to take care of him the one night. His moth­er told them she was going to a con­ven­tion in Tuscaloosa. She claimed to work on a con­struc­tion site, direct­ing traf­fic in a bright orange vest.

The babysit­ter plops the cup on the table, pours syrup to the rim. She looks at the boy. “Wait, kid, did you just grow?”

He stands, tip­ping over the chair. He tow­ers over her. His swim trunks appear to have shrunk.

Power pan­cakes,” the boy whis­pers. “Power pan­cakes!” he roars.

What the FUCK are you going to do today, kid?” The babysit­ter stands on a chair and reach­es her hand up to pat the boy’s head. She says, “Kid!”

The boy real­izes the POOL is no longer an option. Giants have bet­ter things to do.

We should call Mom,” he says. The babysit­ter has been call­ing sev­er­al times a day. The phone just rings.

About that,” she says. “I don’t think she’s com­ing back.”

A smile the size of a water­mel­on slice creas­es the boy’s face. He races around the house, knock­ing over the plant, the end table, bang­ing his head on a door­frame. He springs the cat from its garage jail.

The babysitter’s hold­ing the door open. Outside, the lawn is a car­pet of sparkling emer­ald. He hoists the cat onto his shoul­der. Ducking his head, he steps out and greets the world.


Kathy Fish’s sto­ries have been pub­lished or are forth­com­ing in The Lineup: 20 Provocative Women Writers (Black Lawrence Press, 2015), Yemassee Journal, Guernica, Indiana Review and var­i­ous oth­er jour­nals and antholo­gies. She is the author of four col­lec­tions of short fic­tion: Together We Can Bury It (The Lit Pub, 2013), Wild Life (Matter Press, 2012), a chap­book in A Peculiar Feeling of Restlessness (Rose Metal Press, 2008) and Rift, co-authored with Robert Vaughan (Unknown Press, 2015). She has recent­ly joined the fac­ul­ty of the Mile High MFA at Regis University in Denver where she will be teach­ing flash fic­tion. She blogs at www.kathy-fish.com