One of the many nuisances in my life is that I have an eel that lives inside me. Its head sits in the cave of my mouth, and its body extends down my throat, through my stomach and into my guts. It likes me; it won’t leave.
Whenever I’m near a bird it reaches out to eat it, and it won’t let me have any no matter how nicely I ask.
Why do I put up with this? Why am I not living in the woods? Why do I let eel after eel bruise me this way?
I’m going to move to Japan. They will know what to do with me. I will train with all the unagi masters. I will be marvelous.
Or else I am going to stick my cellphone charger in the eel’s mouth and see what happens. I want something out of this relationship too.
I met Lorraine at the support group. We both knew you’re not supposed to date someone you meet at your support group, because it’s not really love you’re feeling when you hook up, it’s the release of being with someone who has the same problems as you.
Still, I thought, it would be so nice to go out with someone and not have to explain why there was an eel inside my mouth nipping at her when we’re trying to kiss.
We kept having sex because we kept running out of things to say, but at least our eels got along. We let them loose in her bathtub and watched them thrash in the water. I got so frustrated – why couldn’t we just be like our eels, satisfied with twining?
What was worse was when my eel left me for her eel; I couldn’t look at Lorraine, and she wouldn’t understand why. “It’s part of their life cycle, it’s nothing personal,” she said. “We should still see each other,” she said.
Lorraine kept wanting to know if I was willing at least to carry some of the eggs, to go with her to the Sargasso sea, but without an eel of my own what kind of man was I?
So I went to stand in the cold river, my mouth open for anyone who wanted me, wondering if any eel would take me seriously again for giving my heart away so freely.
[Picture derived from this by Jennifer C.]
Hugh Behm-Steinberg’s prose can be found in The Fabulist, *82 Review, Gone Lawn and Gigantic. His short story “Taylor Swift” won the 2015 Barthelme Prize from Gulf Coast. He is a member of the non-ranked faculty collective bargaining team at California College of the Arts in San Francisco, where he edits the journal Eleven Eleven.
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