Toy boat. Toy boat. Toy boat. Toy boat. Toy boat. The fourth grade boys competed
to see who could speak it fastest without tripping over the words. Vincent practiced
all day, but could only speak it twice.
At lunch, Donny Thibodaux cornered Vincent and said he’d seen their trawler
advertised on Craigslist. “Losers,” Donny said, and Vincent punched
him in the gut and got sent home early. On his way to the house he stopped by the
Terrebonne Parish library to Google images of trawlers. On the monitor, a seventy-footer
looked as itty bitty as a toy. His daddy was praying someone would buy the trawler
before the bank took over the note and they got nothing for it. His mama had already
folded her good linens around her mama’s dishes and taped the boxes closed.
Vincent clicked on Wikipedia to read about Baton Rouge, a big city, though you’d
never know from looking at the little pictures. His daddy said he was done with
fishing. No future there any more. Their way of life was over, but at least Vincent
and Cheri could go to school and learn something else.
On Wikipedia, the Mississippi was small as Vincent’s pointer finger. He scrolled
down and found a photo of LSU Stadium. When you clicked on the picture, it got a
little bigger, so the people in the marching band matched the height of his fingernail.
Could their family shrink enough to live in Baton Rouge? He’d only been as
far as New Orleans, for the Mardis Gras. It was crowded and hot and his folks kept
telling him to stay where they could see him. Maybe they would like living in the
big city. At least it was still Louisiana. His Daddy said it would be worse to move
The library closed for the day and Vincent walked home. He smelled onions and green
peppers from the stoop. Toy boat. Toy boat. Toy boat. He could speak it three times
in a row now. His mama told him to wash up for dinner. He poured ice tea while Cheri
set the table. His mama added filé powder to the pot. She spooned steaming
gumbo into four bowls. They all held hands and closed their eyes and thanked Jesus
for their blessings. His daddy took a biscuit and passed around the plate.
“Whad’jou’do taday?” his daddy asked.
Vincent let Cheri bajeuler as long as she wanted without telling her to shut up.
When it was his turn he said, “Toy boat, toy boat, toy boat, toy boat, toy
boat,” and his sister’s lip dropped and she tried to speak it herself,
but no way could she match him. Her face boiled crayfish-mad and she asked,
“How’d jou’do tat?” and Vincent felt proud of himself for
being so smart, and for not speaking one word about what he knew about the trawler
to his daddy.
Is a Nebula Award-winning writer and the author of the novel, Olympic
Games. Her story collection, Crazy Love, was a finalist for the
Oregon Book Award.
She is the fiction editor of Phantom Drift: New Fabulism; and her writing
has appeared in numerous journals and anthologies, including Fugue, The Los Angeles
Review, Best New Horror, Mammoth Book of Tales From the Road, Bending the Landscape,
Asimov’s, Flurb, Calyx, and other places.