Sara Kachelman | How My Heart Really Feels

Every night at 8 p.m. I wait for the beautiful telemarketer to call again. Her voice has a radio liquidation. She’s lowered it like a man’s. Each word floats up from the pit of warm offerings that must be her slim frame (she has a slim voice) and when I whisper into the phone I feel my words dissolving into the buttery hug of her listening sounds: “mhm,” “yes,” “yeah.” I never have to smooth out what I’m saying. She hears it just the right way.

She calls to ask me about my forms. I get checklists in the mail that ask my bathroom habits. Her research monitors men’s hygiene aged 50-55, she says, and I am the ideal specimen, but as our relationship progresses I can tell what she really wants to monitor, which is what I keep in the pool in the backyard.

I didn’t mean to tell her about it at all, but she kept asking me what I did with my nails after I collected them.

It started out as an aboveground pool, no deep end, but as my project expanded, I knew I needed to dig. Now I can’t remember how deep it is and with the black liner it’s just bottomless. On the census I reported that I am a market breeder, carp mostly, but I’ve long neglected my stock to focus on a single passion project. I am growing the largest goldfish in the world.

I saw it on the Internet where people were pulling up these monster goldfish in Lake Tahoe. Those things will get as big as they have space, and now they’re eating everything, all the lake trash. I thought, I bet I can make a bigger one. I’d fill the pool with my junk and observe it every day at sunset. Then Fox would interview me, and I’d tell them how I really feel about foreign relations and bombs and breeding.

At first I had four but they ate one another and now there is just my one prizefighter, a real Goliath. He’s barely a shadow down there, that is how dark it is, how deep. He only comes up if I feed him treats. I started with food scraps and then on a lark I spat in the water to see if he would eat it. He did. And then I started throwing in my nails. I pulled out my hair. Harvested scabs. I swept up my dead skin into grayish lumps and sprinkled it out there, waiting for the snap of his mouth. When he does this it drives me wild. I mutter sweet things under my breath. I shiver all over. The first time I came it was an accident, really. But he swallowed it just the same.

There’s a fantasy I have of sinking in this black water, really slow and cool, with this dark shape circling, its vacuum mouth gulping my filth, body garbage, more mine than my own face, because I can pick it off with my fingers and throw it away.

All bodies live in their own trash. Anyway this fish has eaten a lot of mine.

The telemarketer, all this gets her hot. She’s supervised, obviously, so she sticks to the script, but I know she cares because she keeps sending me those envelopes with crisp dollar bills, even though I’ve already given the required information. She wants more, it’s sick and she likes it. I feel like I can trust her because what does she care? She likes what I say, and I can’t see her, but I like the way she looks. It’s better this way for men and women. It’s like talking to myself if I were someone else, it’s like sleeping in sheets full of a lover’s stink, it’s like loving my own mother, though my mother’s dead.

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Sara Kachelman’s fiction has appeared or is forthcoming in DIAGRAM, Fanzine, and Portland Review.