There Are Rules

I’m nine on the family trip to the West Coast, when my aunt confiscates the dead crawfish from the restaurant, wraps it in a cloth napkin.

A rule: you can take the napkin if it’s for a dead fish.

Outside, set the fish in a stream. When it’s not resuscitated, watch your kid heart do something that feels a lot like falling. This is new. Keep it between you and the fish.

Years later, two feet of snow for the next six hundred miles. Your mom, still young, calls from a hospital bed. “I’ll be ok,” she says. “I haven’t been to Europe yet.” Says it three times, like Peter. Or Paul. Whoever. As if she didn’t know what was coming and soon. You too, but some things…you just can’t.

A rule: allow for early departures.

A dead fish crawls through your brain. Mr. Roarke from Fantasy Island shills luxury Cordobas, Corinthian leather. What did the Corinthians, recipients of countless epistles from Paul, have to do with Chrysler?

Good. Stay here: things you can churn on, resolve or pretend to. When it feels like falling, think harder.

A rule: this is how I wrap my dead.