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MacQueen’s Quinterly: Knock-your-socks-off Art and Literature
Issue 12: March 2022
Cheribun: 271 words
+ Judge’s Commentary: 76 words
By Peter Jastermsky

Fishboy

 

I’ll never forget the adults shrieking, “The dam let go!”

I was hard at work in my room. When my mother called me, I had to drop the instructions for creating a smart fish. It was a science project I had told no one about. I had just reached the sentence that read “just add water.” My mother grabbed my arm and said we had to run. I asked if we were ever coming back. “We’ll only come back to cry,” she replied. Well, I wanted to cry right then, my important project interrupted. I was a serious boy flooded with stimuli.

After we reached higher ground, the water took an hour to cover the whole valley. That night, I don’t know how I slept, but sleep I did. The only thing I remember about this time is a dream.  I am swimming through the drowned rooms of my old town, examining which things float and which things don’t. Next to me, in one of the rooms, is a fish. In its gills, strangely inflated to resemble hands, are the instructions from my science project. The paper is fast returning to pulp, but the fish silently mouths the words in the paragraph where I’d left off, all those years ago. I can tell this because I am reading along with him.

Then, the fish looks at me oddly. Very carefully, I read his lips. Who added all this water? The fish asks again, clearly expecting an answer. It is time to dive a little deeper.


from source 
a story flows 

we’re carried along 
happy to be 
lost 

without a clue 


—Second Place Winner of MacQ’s Cheribun Challenge


Commentary by Guest Judge, Margaret Dornaus

Like the first-place winner, the writer of “Fishboy” immediately engaged me. This time it was a deft use of story-telling dialogue (as well as the main character’s surreal encounter with the object of his science project) that was the vehicle for illuminating an important existential issue. The result is a fairytale-like fable that explores the very real, modern-day concerns of climate change without sounding heavy-handed or preachy. I love Fishboy.

Peter Jastermsky
Issue 12, March 2022

is an award-winning cherita poet, a Best of the Net and Dwarf Star nominee, and the author of seven books of haiku-based writing. Titles include Steel Cut Moon (Cholla Needles Press, 2019), and three from Yavanika Press: No Velcro Here (2019), The Silence We Came For (2020), and Fingerbone Sky (2021). His short-form writing has appeared in many journals and anthologies, including Failed Haiku, Haibun Today, KYSO Flash, MacQueen’s Quinterly, The Aurorean, and The Cherita among others.

In 2017, Peter invented a new haiku-centered linked form called “split sequence.” His recent book, Just Dust and Stone (Velvet Dusk Publishing, May 2021), is a collection of collaborative split sequences co-written with Bryan Rickert. Peter lives with his family in the high desert of southern California, USA.

More on the Web: By, About, and Beyond

“Love Thing”: The Allure of the Split Sequence, craft essay by Peter Jastermsky in Issue 9 of MacQ (August 2021)

 
 
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