Two women sit side by side on the pier. They dangle their legs over the water. Muscular men pierce fish heads on hooks and cast them out into the river.
One woman says, Do you really think they'd be scared?
Of the truth? I can't imagine why. There's nothing more terrifying than the unknown.
So what. You scare a few people. Buck up. They were probably scared to begin with.
The brackish water smells like chemicals and fish intestines. It smells like childhood summers.
She learns what it means to be a woman on a farm in rural New York. She is driving a borrowed car when the tire blows out. A man driving past pulls over and offers her a lift to his farm where she can use the phone. There's no cell phone reception on this part of the mountain, he explains. She leaves the hazards on and the car doors locked. His old truck smells of diesel and cracked plastic. The farm is five miles further, to the right, up a road, down another road. She tries to memorize the way in case she has to run for help but she is already disoriented. Every dirt road looks the same. Every tree, identical. At the farm where he lives with his family she uses the phone. When she comes back outside, having contacted a tow truck, he is standing a little way from the door. It's summer. He's standing with his back to her, skinning a rabbit. The smell of blood mixes with the smell of sweat and sun and mud. She imagines the muscles under his shirt. She sees the flash of the blade. It's the most arousing thing she has ever witnessed.
Later she will remember him standing there with his tanned neck, the sun illuminating his hair, shirtless. It doesn't matter that he really wore a shirt.
He offers to sell her the rabbit but she isn't interested in the rabbit so he drives her back to her car and they wait together for the tow truck to arrive.
She still thinks about him. The shirtless man with the rabbit hanging by its back paw, the smell of blood and sun.
There is a picture, a black and white photograph, Dalí floating on his back off the coast of Spain, off the fishing village of Cadaqués, like a sea otter, there's an urchin resting on his belly, and his moustache droops with salt water. This is the scene she dreams when she dreams about her father. These are the rocks that she sees from the rowboat where he takes her. The sun is shining. The landscape is no longer black and white. She is wearing a red and white polka dot bikini. The boat sways. The sun shines. In the next photograph Dalí is cracking open a sea urchin with a rock. She imagines him popping the yellow flesh into his mouth like a chicken heart.
Mother looks out the window and lights a cigarette. Don't write about me until I'm dead, she says, blowing smoke from the corner of her mouth. Stubbornly, she refuses to die.
They are in a rowboat off the coast. The boat smells like fishing lines and a diesel engine. Her father is waiting for her to ask him to fuck her but she won't say it out loud. He knows what she's thinking. He knows what she wants. He toys with her. He won't do a thing until he hears her say it out loud. Say it, he says, but she shakes her head. The boat rolls on the waves and she gags on the seaweed smell. She looks at the green blue water and the rocks on the shore. She thinks about sea urchins and chicken hearts.
She wakes up aroused. Next to her a man with thick peasant hands reaches out to stroke her hair.
She asks herself later, Is it wrong to fantasize about your father if your father is dead?
There is a yellow cake with chocolate frosting in the middle of the table. Someone strikes a match and lights the candles. Make a wish. Blow out the birthday candles. Eat a slice of cake but don't tell anyone what you wished for. The wish is to be kept secret. The wish is to be closely guarded.
An adult hands her a wiffle ball bat and blindfolds her eyes. Big hands with peasant fingers grasp her small shoulders and spin and spin and spin until she can no longer walk a straight line. A voice whispers in her ear, Just go straight and swing. Just swing.
The child swings and swings and barely makes contact. The edge of the bat knocks against the star shaped piñata but the piñata remains intact. She swings and swings until one of the adults takes the bat and hits a point from the star. Candy falls onto the grass.
Catherine Biggart was born in New York City. She attended the University of Southern California and received
an MFA in Writing and Literary Translation from Columbia University. She translates from Spanish and Catalan.