By: Merak Alosa, For the Clock

Billy plunged his arm into the warm river murk. Searching with a meaty hand, sans half a thumb,for the slimy nest he knew was buried deep in the thick Louisiana mud. Around him, in the waistdeep water, stood his five river-burned and shirtless sons, Bill, Bobby, Billium, Terrence and Howard. They waited in relative silence while their father grunted his way towards their prey, hismatted beard dipping in and out of the water as he felt along the bottom of the riverbed. They had been in this exact situation so many times that they did not need to communicate verbally. All six were tuned into the frequencies of the river and each other; aware of every shift and ripple despite the oppressive eastern Louisiana heat, alive with the buzzing of cicadas, that pressed down upon them.

“Yep, that’s it,” Billy said, his voice barely audible above the hum of insect activity. He dipped a little lower into the water and stirred up the sludge-like orange mud around the mouth of the lair, sussing out the diameters of what felt like a good-sized catfish nest. “Yeeap, that’s it. Get ready boys. Big one too.”

The boys were already there. Picking up on their father’s anticipation before he had even spoken, all five had instinctively drifted around Billy; positioning themselves in a tactical pentagon formation like a mercenary wet work squad about to kick down a door. Terrence, the youngest and physically largest, took point behind his father. This was the first time Terrence had assumed the role of point man, and was clearly agitated; blinking furiously at the water in anattempt to keep the sweat that poured down his forehead out of his eyes for long enough to achieve a maximum level of clarity. For the most part, his efforts were in vain; and Terrence’s vision was smudged, not so much by the sweat in his eyes, than by the thick heat that hung in the swamp air and created a sheen that, combined with the impenetrable murk of the constantly moving river, disoriented and clouded the visions of everyone.

They were all nervous. At this point, anything could be in that hole. Billy had as of yet never picked a dud, but all five brothers had seen their uncle Cleet staining a white operating table red after shoving his arm down the throat of an angry beaver the year prior. The doctors had to taken his whole arm and reduced Cleet, the mighty bayou lion of their collective childhood, to a carbon copy of his father, all but trapped in a musty trailer, living on Campbell’s and Saltines.