Korby Lenker is a wonderful local musician who crafts indie-pop tunes with a distinctly funky, playful flair. As a novelist as well as a songwriter, we thought we’d let Korby express his author side here: and urge you to experience his musical side tonight, at the Rutledge. For more information, visit his website, and check out the video for his tune “Forbidden Fruit” here. His self-titled album is out March 25.
Catfish, by Korby Lenker :::
Come pick me up
Is what the text said. No punctuation. No please. A simple sentence. The simplest. No, not quite a sentence. It had no formal end. So not a sentence then. A command. Or maybe a straightforward request. No, he knew her. A command. An imperative.
Come pick me up
Drop what you’re doing and come and get me. Come get me and take me from this place where I am to the place I hope to be. I may have something in mind or you may be required to furnish one or more ideas, depending on how good your first idea is. I may feel like a beer or I may feel like a coffee or I may feel like something I haven’t thought of and won’t think of until you suggest it. So, have a few ideas ready. Also I may need to change my mind at any moment, so don’t get too comfortable.
Simon was already brushing his teeth. People who knew Simon knew he only did this on special occasions. And this was one of them. A special occasion. He was going to see the girl.
Come pick me up
and I will reward you with some the benefits of my presence. Those benefits being as follows: I will permit you to attempt to make me laugh, to dig deep into your repertoire of wit and folly, spin out one of your far-fetched stories while I listen, perhaps only distractedly. If you are successful, you will have your reward. You will see me smile. You will watch my eyes twinkle like distant Christmas lights, dance around like gypsies. And you will be glad because you’ll know that they are dancing despite themselves. I dare you to try. Come pick me up
I believe I will.
The season summer, the night hot, the car heading south, Simon finished the text and returned his hands to the wheel to wait out the red light. All four windows were down, not because the night was pleasant but because he had no air conditioning.
The skin on Simon’s face was shiny at the forehead, his hair a little discouraged from the balloon of humidity that permeated his immediate environment and the thousand or so miles around it. He examined his wilted hairs drooping in the rear view mirror and absentmindedly pushed them back up from the face, to give them a chance. They looked a little braver. He returned his attention to scene beyond the windshield. The light changed from red to green
As he encouraged the car through its transition from second to third gear, Simon took stock of his general situation, and was, at the moment, pleased. The girl he was about to see was the girl he loved. Loved. He didn’t say it lightly.
He was a silver salmon from the cold waters of the Pacific Northwest and he had been swimming a long time, looking. He had swum in all the blue grey seas of the world, in choppy water and smooth, looking for one who would swim with him. Not just swim, but one who would swim with him in the deep. He had been around, had swum with exotic clownfish and common trout and there was something in them all that he liked, but nothing he loved. Most all the fish he knew hung near the surface where the food was easy. He liked to dive.
He neared another light. It clicked red. As he slowed down, the car shuddered like an old man pushing a walker. Funny old car. The light changed while he watched and he turned left onto the boulevard.
And then a year ago he had found this girl, this southern catfish. This blue eyed rarity of a creature who, behind her smooth skin and slow gaze, kept hidden a heart which knew no bottom. He had found her, he had seen the heart, and it was from that moment forever impossible the world could be anything but new. The water through which he moved grew warm. The shimmering tendrils of light now reached below the surface, deeper, down to the dark water to meet him where he was. He had found her and the scales on his own skin changed color. They were always silver, lustrous, arrogant even, these scales, but this girl, this slippery catfish of a girl had turned him blue. He was humbled. He would do anything.
Kay. I’m here
A period. She was feeling light hearted, sweet. The car began to move imperceptibly faster. Like a magnet was involved.
He turned onto her street. Oh yes, ideas. He thought it over. He was going to suggest a long walk. She was no hipster. She liked to walk. She wore Chacos.
He wheeled into the driveway of the house she shared. He turned the key and the engine shuddered and died. He cut the lights. He looked again in the mirror. The hairs were defeated. No matter, she knew what he looked like.
Twenty feet to the front door. Porch light on, a cloud of dizzy moths. He looked through the screen, pulled it open and entered, saying her name with a question mark at the end.
“Just a minute!”
The lights inside were off. He stood in the living room and extended his arms, making a cross shape in the dark. Airing himself out in the name of consideration.
He closed his eyes and took a deep breath, for no real reason other than he liked to do that. She must have come in at exactly the right second because he only got through one breath before her voice filled up the room like a breeze.
“What are you doing Simon?”
“Oh, you know, uh…”
“Are you airing yourself because you stink?”
“No of course not.”
“Let me smell.”
“I have nothing to hide.”
He remembered then to open his eyes. She had turned on the light. The light came from behind her, silhouetting her head and surrounding it with an imperceptible halo. He laughed out loud at the perfection of the gesture. She was the prettiest fish in the widest part of the warmest ocean. Her hair was down, was everywhere. Cascading was the word. He looked at her feet. Chacos.
She took two steps toward him. She wrinkled her nose.
“We should probably go for a walk,” she said. “That way I won’t have to smell you.”
He looked at her, smiling like a crook, like a pirate.
“Whatever you say, catfish.”
She cast him a wry glance, took another step forward. He could smell her perfume.
There was a pause while the ocean refilled.
She tilted her head slightly to the left and then she advanced a little more and then she moved toward him until her cheek was just under his chin. He felt her work her cheek a little more deeply into that place on his neck. She wrapped her arms around him, beneath his arms, and he wrapped his arms around her, over her shoulders and he pulled her into him. A wave broke through the room and twisted their fingers and hair together like seaweed and washed the furniture out the front door and the light from the lamp shivered in the reflected pools of seawater that lay at their feet while the warm blue ocean drained away into the night.
It’s good to see you