“The Tale of the Trigger Fish” by Michael Patrick McSweeney

There was once a little trigger fish

swimming in a tiny corner of the Pacific
amongst empty soda cans,
dirty clouds of diapers, coat hangers,
webs of duct tape, light bulbs.

He did not have a home.

One day he saw his friend Jellyfish and asked,
Jellyfish, can you find me a home?
Jellyfish huddled inside a styrofoam cup.
He was small, pink, weak
except for a tiny spark at the ends of his tentacles.
I don't know, Jellyfish said.
I'm all out of ideas myself.

Well, can you help me find one?
asked the little trigger fish.
Jellyfish agreed and the two set off,
gliding by fleets of empty water bottles,
a reef of toothbrushes and old dentures,
a rusty motherboard dangling between the lips
of a motionless swordfish.
They swam for days
--everything was filled, little schools
birthing and dying inside garbage barrels
while barnacles clung to the sides, begging
to be rolled over, to be fed the water--
but found they nothing

until the sea was calm, sun-white.
The little trigger fish drank the water;
it was colder, smoother.
The little trigger fish looked around and asked,
But where is everything? How do I build my home?
Jellyfish opened his mouth to speak
but suddenly the sea around them blackened
a gaping hole in the water, a maelstrom
they were pulled into and the little trigger fish
shouted for his friend Jellyfish, coughing--
he saw little pink tentacles stab hopelessly
against the roaring, blinding current then
nothing more.

The little trigger fish awoke,
ears brushing the shore of a toilet seat
ensnared by a jumble of discarded fishing lines.
He slipped beneath the water, drank deeply
--this was the water of home, he thought--
and swam deeply, madly, blindly

past a pair of crabs raging over a beer can
past an old pufferfish, his face away from the sun
past a school of tuna, cowered beneath the wreck of man
past a a baby jellyfish who just wanted to eat and die

until he found a white cylinder,
like a tower on its side--an empty tube,
a frond of seaweed draped across its opening.
The little trigger fish swam inside,
rubbed his fins along the polished walls.
This is home, he sighed, and relaxed

until another trigger fish floated towards him,
smiling at the curvature of his door,
the barnacle sleeping on the roof.
The little trigger fish snarled, swam out at him,
a swirl of plastic-laced water pushing the tube
back. He swam inside. The tube was his only.
He grew fat, sedentary,
unable to leave his hard-earned home
even when he died.

Some years later a rusty fishing buoy
bristled against a wave, nudging the tube
out to into the wide blue nothingness;
the last bones crumbled but the plastic remained.

Michael Patrick McSweeney is an artist and educator from the Boston region. His work has appeared in numerous journals and various regions of the Internet thanks to truly wonderful individuals. He is also the founder and chief financial officer of a used submarine conglomerate, the business website of which can be found at discountsubmarines.wordpress.com, and he hopes you have a great day.