The fish were all dead, of course. Not much could survive in that river from year to year. So my father made his living fishing for phantoms. Salmon mostly. Some perch.
He’d bring them home in a big metal bucket with a heavy lid. Once I tilted up the lid to see them, swirling around the bucket in circles, scales translucent, bones silver. But I looked too long and before I could shut the lid again, they all darted out and swam away into the sky. Except for one, which swam into the forsythia bush, where it was promptly caught by a cat.
My father sold his fish ghosts to the butcher, who knew how to prepare them, but my father was the only one who knew how to catch them.
Nobody could figure out how he did it. Ghosts are slippery things. Any number of us tried to follow him down to the river, learn his secret, but we’d always lose track of him somehow on the way. My mother said that was a trick of the light.
The whole thing was a trick, my mother told me. He didn’t really fish at all. He just went under the water with that bucket, told all the ghosts he had something to show them. Tilted the lid, said, Here, come closer. Take a peek.
Maria Romasco Moore's stories have appeared or are forthcoming in Diagram, Hobart, Interfictions, and Lightspeed. She received her MFA in fiction from Southern Illinois University. Her forthcoming book, GHOSTOGRAPHS, a full-length collection of flash fiction inspired by found vintage photos, will be published by Rose Metal Press in October 2018.