My Octopus

Octopi especially love to whisper: “What a bastard you are.”
Mine looks more like a squid, but with a darker shade of purple. Although he’s familiar, I’ve never cared to give him a name. He comes out of nowhere, suctions onto my brain, shoots ink all over me. So as not to ruin any of my clothes, I put on my father’s white Sunday shirt, the one that looks like a smoked cigarette filter inside the collar. I am speechless, dripping with ink, my every perception poisoned.
I don’t know if he’s searching for shrimp or plankton or what the hell an octopus eats. All I know is that his pecking makes me feel like my head has sunk to the bottom of the Black Warrior River. I wander slowly up and down the bank. My back is burdened even more than normal because of the extra weight. I spit on anthills. I swing my cane at cave crickets. I look at my mother holding hands with a stranger and never crack a smile. I read about an explosive brassiere without blinking. There’s so much ink everywhere I turn that I feel like I’m living inside a newspaper.
My octopus hangs around for days and never shuts up. Often while he’s talking, I wish I had my father’s arms instead of his shirts. My octopus’s ink forces me to feel all alone in a great big world. I leave my fingerprints on everything I touch.

Scott McWaters teaches in the English Department at the University of Alabama. This piece is part of a larger work titled The Naked Prophet’s Thread.