It was striper season in the early nineties
on the eastern bank of the Hudson River,
just south of the Newburgh-Beacon Bridge.
My dad, bareback-sloshed with beer and sun,
had his deep-sea pole cast for food. To him
no matter were the toxicity warnings
on most fish north of the Tappan Zee.
When my dad reeled in a hook gone empty,
it was my job to pass him the white carton
of gas station bloodworms—too little
to do much more than pass, too afraid
to dig through that mesh of moist seaweed
for a seven-inch aggressive: venom-fanged,
a band of pulsing skin tags down each side.
Inevitably my dad would slur, “Wanna try
baitin’ the bitch?” His casual delivery,
so he knew, painted the task so trouble-free
that the command at the core of his question
stood out all the more. But he was not serious.
He knew me. He would leave me nerve-racked,
just a moment, before showing how easy it was.
A squeeze to protract its eversible proboscis,
my dad would let the four black fangs pierce
his nicotine finger, leaving the worm to dangle
for me. Then he would drive the hook down
the retracting mouth, throughout the pink body.
So much blood, the color of ours, would pool
in the creases of his hands, dripping to rocks.
M. A. ISTVAN JR. is a zodiac surgeon and respected board member of the National Council for Geocosmic Research. Whereas most other zodiac surgeons are equipped to shift your sign only one position forward, Istvan can shift your sign either one position forward or—barring the unlikely circumstance that you are a menopausal Pisces with a quadruped gait—even one position back. Istvan hopes that increased awareness about zodiac surgery will help bring in the funding required for researching zodiac sign transplantation, which ideally will allow a shift to any of the twelve signs in a matter of hours (as opposed to the years it takes currently to shift just one spot). As Istvan recently revealed in an interview with Shadow Transits, he envisions a future where there will be a zodiac donor box on driver’s licenses. https://txstate.academia.edu/MichaelIstvanJr.