The Mudcat Intent on Mischief

by Jamie Good

One day a young woman was repeatedly licked by a catfish. For a long while, this went unnoticed. Who on Earth can detect a wet tongue amidst wet water? Anyone who has been licked in a public swimming pool would know this. 

But this was no ordinary catfish and no public swimming pool. For one, this catfish had a gift. With each lick, the woman grew larger and larger until she was so enormous she could clearly see the catfish through the murky Atlantic Ocean. How does this work, you might ask? To start, this is a silly question. Wouldn’t you much rather know how the catfish gained magical powers? To answer, because everything about her grew in proportion: with her huge body came huge eyes. Everyone knows massive eyes can see much better than regular-sized eyes. 

What further distinguishes this catfish from others is that this catfish desired fame. He was meant to be a star! He knew in his catfish heart that he was destined for something greater than slinking around the Gulf Coast, eating crustaceans and aquatic plants, known to no one. 

Of course, his gift had to be honed. He began licking dog fish, turning them into sharks. He licked worms into snakes. He licked tiny stingrays into manta rays. Gradually, he built up the courage to lick the first human into a giant. 

And so he was discovered! This giantess snatched him right out of the ocean, holding him up for all to see. 

“Watch!” she said to everyone, extending one arm for the catfish to lick. The catfish didn’t particularly enjoy being bossed around, especially by his own creation, but he supposed there were prices to pay for fame, especially in the early stages. He licked. She was now so tall she blocked the sun. 

The beachgoers crowded around, wanting to see what else the catfish could lick bigger. The catfish had to scream all sorts of obscenities before the giantess, caught up in her own newfound attention, remembered to periodically dunk him back into that delicious salty ocean, so he could breathe. And how horrible that sun felt, in those moments when the giantess waved him around like an overexcited ferret holding an item it’s stolen (the catfish didn’t like ferrets; anyone who knows anything knows ferrets are among the nastiest of thieves). 

The catfish was all too happy to show off his talent, but he did not care for the rudeness of all sorts of objects shoved into his face. This is what’s important to know about gifts: they can all too quickly turn malicious tricks. And so the catfish grew cheeky. A man stepped forward, a baby in his arms clutching an ice-cream cone. It was clear to all, including the catfish, the man intended to double the scoop of frozen dairy for his child, but this naughty fish stuck his tongue out as far as it would go, and instead licked the child. A giant baby! Regular-sized babies are often lovely, but overgrown babies are always insufferable. Besides, catfish are lactose intolerant. Terribly inconsiderate. 

The government discussed whether or not to capture the catfish, to keep him in a tank for Important Use Only—could he lick gold reserves and make America rich?—but what if the catfish licked himself, and grew so large he shattered his tank, or crushed to death? It was better to leave the catfish to reside in his home in Florida. 

The giant woman, too quickly realized the catfish had ruined her life for his own gain. What the catfish didn’t anticipate: the acrimony his infamous tricks would cause! The giantess, determined to smite the catfish from stardom, exposed his worst secret. Reader, have you ever flipped a catfish upside down, stroking its belly? Have you heard the croaking sound they can’t help but make? It is easy to see how catfish earn the nickname, chucklehead

Humiliated, the catfish resolved himself to commit only secret mischief. What do you think of the giant squid or perhaps of tsunamis? As for the giant woman, this story is not about her! This is the catfish’s tale. And so he skulked about, lying in wait for perfectly evil moments to enjoy his talent.

Jamie Good is an MFA candidate at Western Washington University. Their fiction and personal essays have been published in literary spaces including The Writing DisorderWaxing and WaningLammergeier, and Wire’s Dream Magazine, among others. Their idols include Shakespeare’s Hamlet and Patricia Highsmith’s Bruno from “Strangers on a Train”. Good hopes to soon be abducted back into the fairy world.

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