And Then, And Then, And Then…

by Nick Mamatas

I woke up. I ate a banana and a bagel. I turned on the TV and watched the news from Boston. It was going to be cloudy. Someone had a book out about carbohydrates. There was a lot of traffic. I felt good to be home, away from all the commuters and the highways. I almost never leave town. I ate another banana and then a peanut butter sandwich because I was still hungry. I stopped being hungry. The mail came early because I live near the Post Office. It was all junk mail and coupons. Sometimes, I use coupons. Nothing good today though. I go to Ipswich to shop. I take the bus. It comes only six times all morning and afternoon.

I felt cold. The bus is by the waterfront. The waterfront isn’t very busy anymore. Just some guys fishing. Lobster traps stacked high. A couple of years ago, one dock crumbled into the bay after a big storm. Sometimes, people come here and say that the waterfront smells. I don’t smell the waterfront. I never smell the waterfront. When you’ve lived here a long time, you can’t smell what things smell like to outsiders. It’s the same everywhere. I went to Salem State College for a semester and then dropped out. I had a girlfriend there. She had three black cats, sort of as a joke. Her apartment smelled like cats. She said she couldn’t smell the cats. Innsmouth is like this. The bus smells sometimes.

Today, the bus smells like a bus. I go to Ipswich. I buy some fruit. I buy some pork chops. The pork chops are on sale because they’re about to go bad. They have fish for sale too in Ipswich, but nobody from my town needs to buy fish because we live on the water. Sometimes, I buy fish right off the boat. Sometimes, I go fishing myself, with a reel. Sometimes, I fish with a net. Sometimes, I take a boat with Marsh and we go out to the reef. I like to row the boat, but I get tired. Marsh rows better than I do. I buy Pop-Tarts. The kind that are half-strawberry and half-blueberry. I only ever find that kind in Ipswich. I run out of money. Thinking about fishing before makes me decide to go fishing. I like to fish in the evenings anyway. In the morning, too many people try to fish. Some people think this is because the fish bite better in the morning. No, it is really because people who want to fish early want to get there before everyone else. Everyone ends up fishing just as the sun comes up. I’m in bed when the sun comes up. I wait till the morning news to get up. When I go fishing in the evening, I am almost always alone.

I go home and put the grocery bags on the counter. I take the stuff that needs to be refrigerated out of the bags and put it in the Fridigaire. Everything else I leave in the bags on the counter and on the range. I see I have plenty of room in the Frigidaire for some fish if I catch any. I get my reel and go fishing. I don’t use live bait. At the waterfront, I meet Marsh. Marsh says Hello. I say Hello. He says Fancy Meeting You Here. I laugh and say Yeah. We cast.

Marsh uses tiny eels. He talks to one as he puts it on the hook. I look out to sea. I like the white caps. I like to see how long it takes for the Devil’s Reef to disappear from sight as the sun sinks down and the water turns wine-dark. I read that in college. Wine-dark. I brought a banana with me. I start eating it. Marsh says something, but I don’t hear him because I thought he was talking to the eel on his hook. The last bus comes and the door opens, but nobody steps out. Marsh repeats himself, but I don’t answer because I have a lot of banana in my mouth. Then he asks a third time.

How Old Are You?

Twenty-One Now I say.

Would You Like To Join A Secret Society? Marsh asks me. I ask him What Do You Mean, A Secret Society? He says Everyone Around Here Is In It. I say Then How Come I Haven’t Heard Of It? Then we both say Because It’s A Secret and we both laugh. Then I say Is It Communism? Because I Am Not Into That. In College, I Learned That Communism Is Perfect Except For Human Nature. Marsh says Oh, You Don’t Have To Worry About Human Nature. It’s Not Really Communism. I say That Sounds Fine, Then. He says Great. We Should Get Going.

I didn’t catch anything. Marsh says he’ll give me one of his. He recommends eel for bluefish. We go to the main drag. We go to the Oddfellows Club. Marsh tells me that the secret society is not an Oddfellows branch. Nobody bothers to take down the sign because everyone is in the secret society. We walk in. The Oddfellows Club smells like brine and salt water. It smells like the waterfront smelled to my old girlfriend when she came that one time to visit after I left school. Marsh says Take Off All Your Clothes. Then he takes off all his clothes. He has a belly on him; the rolls look a little like gills on his flanks. I take off all my clothes and leave them in a heap.

We walk down a hall. I hear chanting and burbling. There is a big double-door like from a castle in a movie. It opens without Marsh or me touching it. Two people I’ve seen around town, a man and a woman, both naked, have opened the door. Marsh says Well, Here It Is. The room is huge and full of naked people. I see the mayor. I see my mailman, who is a lady. I see my cousin Freddy, who I don’t see much even though we’re cousins. There is a big pool in the middle of the room. There’s light coming from the water, like there was another sun, a white-wine sun, way down deep. Marsh says In You Go and in I do.

I swim down toward the watery sun. It’s awesome. There’s a thing down there and she loves me. I never want to leave her. I don’t need to breathe down here. Then I hear splashing and see feet and hands bubbling up the water and everyone is with me. Thank You, Thank You, Thank You I think to myself. I’m glad to be from here.


Nick Mamatas is the author of two novels, the Lovecraftian Move Under Ground and the satirical Under My Roof. His short fiction has appeared in subTERRAIN, Poe’s Lighthouse, Lovecraft Unbound, and many other journals, magazines and anthologies. Much of his short fiction was recently collected in You Might Sleep… A native New Yorker, Nick now lives in the California Bay Area, but misses Boston and the North Shore more than he thought he would.