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MacQueen’s Quinterly: Knock-your-socks-off Art and Literature
Issue 9: August 2021
Micro-Fiction: 386 words
By John Brantingham

The Big Fish


You’re sitting on your motorcycle at the gas station filling up with gas in the tank between your legs the warm scent of the fuel making you oddly happy or maybe it is the sunset or the oil slick prisming colors on the street or the fact that you’ve just been fired and it hasn’t hit you yet not emotionally when your daughter pulls up in her VW Bug next to you and rolls down the window and says “Hi Daddy” and you “hi” her back and she asks what you are doing by which she means why aren’t you at work at 2 o’clock on a Tuesday and you say that you’re just taking some me time which isn’t the first time you’ve lied to her but it’s the first flat-out lie that you can ever remember and she says that she was just heading out to work and you tell her that she works too hard that she should be focusing on college and making friends and dating and there must be something in your voice because she cocks her head and says “All right” in that elongated way that includes multitudes and you tell her not to listen to you that you’re just in a weird mood and she says all right again in that same way but laughs this time nervously and you ask her if she wants to go to the beach and she asks “Right now?” and you say “Yeah like we did when you were a kid” and she says no and asks you if everything is all right and you say yeah sure which is not a lie you decide not a lie if you can get another job right now just walk into another garage explain to the boss that you’re a good solid mechanic and get a job today before you get back home because everything is good as long as you are providing and everything you’ve said will be true and so you say goodbye to her and take off in the direction of the nearest shop that might be hiring and instead you find yourself in an hour at the beach stripped down to your boxer shorts and swimming out beyond the breakers out to where the big fish swim.

John Brantingham
Issue 9, August 2021

is the author of 19 books of poetry and fiction including his latest, Life: Orange to Pear (Bamboo Dart Press, 2020). His poems, stories, and essays are published in hundreds of magazines and journals. His work has appeared on Garrison Keillor’s daily show, The Writer’s Almanac; has been nominated multiple times for the Pushcart Prize; was selected for publication in The Best Small Fictions 2016 (TBSF); and was a semi-finalist for TBSF 2018.

Brantingham is a fiction editor at The Chiron Review and teaches at Mt. San Antonio College, where he coordinates the creative writing program and runs the annual creative writing conference, Culturama. He was the first poet laureate of Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks. He is writer-in-residence at the dA Center for the Arts in Pomona, California, and co-creator of the San Gabriel Valley Literary Festival and the Valley Poets Reading Series, which has featured poets and writers from around the world.

Author’s website: johnbrantingham.com

More on the Web: By, About, and Beyond

Objects of Curiosity, a collection of Brantingham’s ekphrastic poems (Sasse Museum of Art, 2020)

For the Deer, one of two of his haibun in KYSO Flash (Issue 8, August 2017)

Four prose poems in Serving House Journal (Issue 7, Spring 2013), including A Man Stepping Into a River and Poem to the Child Who I Almost Adopted

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