Today, I searched for the giant squid in Petticoat Lake with a badminton net and a badminton racket, and a yellow wrist band, and a pink knee sock, and a dead green zebra tomato stalk I freshly weeded from my garden, and a sun-blistered cassette tape of spring birdsong, and a triangular scrap of barely pink and thereby sexualized underskirt, and not a single bird. The frogs belched their wet manifestos and the ants whispered their secrets to each other in voices that, to them, were deafening. This morning, as I was packing my thermos of yerba mate infused with four peach pits (I waste nothing), the cat said something blasphemous about the American flag. On the banks of the Petticoat, I repeated this, but in my mouth, it sounded like any old meow. The end of a fantasy. I cast my net and a one-eyed blue gill named Doña María de la Luz Padilla y Gómez de Cervantes leapt toward the sun, her scales shining like a lehenga. I thought about the things we use to protect our bodies from other things—whether cloth or spray; about whether the blood is the silk slip to the skin. I wanted to catch the giant squid quickly, because I had pancakes waiting for me at home—yet another fluffy thing named for the vessel that cooks it. Yet another thing wet with butter. I swear it: the lake sighed into the net as if some hemophiliac making love to her handkerchief, and no squid came. For some reason, my body can float on no water. For another reason, I considered windowsills and wires, the skinniest solid things that, if push came to shove, would support me.
Matthew Gavin Frank is the author of the nonfiction books, The Mad Feast: An Ecstatic Tour Through America’s Food, Preparing the Ghost: An Essay Concerning the Giant Squid and Its First Photographer, Pot Farm, and Barolo; the poetry books, The Morrow Plots, Warranty in Zulu, and Sagittarius Agitprop, and 2 chapbooks. He teaches at Northern Michigan University, where he is the Nonfiction/Hybrids Editor of Passages North. He persevered through this past winter via the occasional one-handed cartwheel in his mind.