The Talking Catfish of Moxy Breedlove

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: True Confessions  |  House: Booksie Classic


The oxbow hides a secret of witchcraft beneath the hypnotic drift of its silvery surface....

Submitted: September 06, 2018

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Submitted: September 06, 2018

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Thank you so very much for your lovely pink letters and thank you also for your lovely compliments for the fun story I wrote.  I’m glad you inquired about the Ghosts of Yvette’s, for they are a deeply brooding mystery even to me.  The Ghosts of Yvette’s are like psychic foggy weather, a storm of the soul, at present haunting the eerie remains of the old 19th century Hotel Skerryvore built upon an islet of wind-sculpted solid granite among the 30,000 rocky islands of the great northern bay of Huron near Pointe au Baril in southern Ontario Canada.

The Ghosts of Yvette’s reach out to us, summoning from mists of macabre secrets of times long gone by, sometimes sorrowful in mourning, while at other moments offering occult knowledge of great immortal power.  The Ghosts of Yvette’s are always with us.  I shall be delighted to share with you everything I know of the evocative nature-spawned spirit of the Ghosts of Yvette’s.  For a moment in the past they swirled their esoteric mystery in the spectral barrens of a lonely roadside cafe, a narrative of the funereal encounter I forthwith share with you, my friend ~*~*~*~*~*~*~*

The best catfishing story I ever heard involves one of the many legends of the Missouri river where that prehistoric watershed flows in eerie silence along its winding path through the vast windswept expanse of the plains states.  There are many legends about that mysterious ancient river and many odd sayings such as when the pioneering settlers in their wagon trains quoted, “The Missouri river - a mile wide, a foot deep, too thin to plow, too thick to drink.”  

Then, of course, there’s the legend of the Rolling Head that tumbles over the sprawling enigmatic plains like a ghost of diabolical omen.  People dread to catch even so much as a glimpse of the fearsome Rolling Head because if they do, it’s an ominous portent of an impending death in the family.  One way or another, all this old-time folklore ties into the dreary warnings about the Talking Catfish.  

The story I heard concerning the grim paranormal mystery of the woeful Talking Catfish was told to me during a violent late-summer thunderstorm.  I was sitting at the eating counter of an all-night diner, a greasy spoon, a hash-house.  The hour was approaching midnight, when in walked a stranger in a dripping wet rain parka.  He slung the big slicker on the coat-rack just inside the door, then ambled over and perched himself on the stool beside me.  His behavior was suspicious because other than the bearded truck-driver of the big rig parked out back, I was the only patron in the joint.  The big-boned red-head waitress behind the counter, with a coughing voice like rocks in her throat and an ash-laden cigarette hanging out of the corner of her thickly red lipstick-coated mouth, took the uncanny stranger’s order for a large platter of hash-browns scattered smothered and covered.

He then turned to me with an expression of searching scrutiny in his sad watery gray eyes.  After this disconcerting assessment that lasted so long I began to squirm with apprehensive self-consciousness, he introduced himself to me as Bufford Zadock.  The old fellow was apparently in a talking mood because he immediately began telling me the creepiest catfishing story I ever heard.

Old Zadock and a life-long friend of his went out on the cryptic legend-haunted Missouri river aboard a small wooden boat late one night and anchored in an oxbow where they knew lurked a deep hole full of gargantuan flat-heads.  Bufford’s fishing pal, a retired wheat farmer named Tulbert Peabody, had, for a solid week prior to that ill-fated catfishing voyage, talked of nothing else but how anxiously ready he was for that night because he had been to see Moxy Breedlove, the old conjure woman who lived all alone in a sod hut among the whispering sedges way out by rumor-shadowed Pawnee bluff - a bleak haunt of unsolved murders and unexplained disappearances.

Since childhood, old Tulbert had heard eerie stories of the Talking Catfish, but it wasn’t until after his sixty-fifth birthday that he caught wind of lurid gossip that the scraggly hag Moxy Breedlove knew the secret for how to summon the legendary monstrous flat-head.  According to Bufford, his old pal Tulbert said that for a payment of several pairs of worn-out leather shoes, the haggard Plains Witch disclosed in hushed and reverent mutterings that the only known method for summoning the Talking Catfish was to take some river reeds out on the main channel at night under the ghostly light of a full harvest moon and rub them together just above the flame of a candle which would heat them to a necessary temperature.  It was important not to let the reeds touch the flame while rubbing them together, because that would disorder the spell which meant the Talking Catfish wouldn’t be seen that night, in which case one would have to wait all the way to the next harvest moon to attempt the spell again.

So there Bufford was, sitting in the back of the little boat laughing his head off in the autumn moonlight at poor old Tulbert as he rubbed the reeds together just above the teeny yellow flame of a little beeswax candle he had brought along.  The harvest moon was foreboding in its bloated fullness and it did shine with a ghastly luminescence that made the surface of the silent river look like shimmering quick silver.  

Bufford’s raucous laughter was rudely cut short into abrupt dead silence when the water began to bubble wildly all around their little boat which heaved dangerously up and down rolling precariously from side to side as the mighty river frothed and foamed, surging water over the side and into the slimy bilge.  A suddenly terrified Bufford was frantically bailing with a rusty worm can to keep the little boat from sinking, yet Tulbert kept faithfully to his task of rubbing the reeds together over the candle flame, his eyes wide with revolting expectant excitement.  

The old crone Moxy Breedlove had further instructed Tulbert that when the river began to welter up in a big boil, he should give utterance to a peculiar chant, which the wild-eyed retired wheat farmer did begin to mutter in the fashion that the ancient conjure woman had gibbered it with her own toothless mouth, “Snicker snicker snicker snick!  Snicker snicker snicker snick!

At that point, Bufford Zadock was sure his faithful friend Tulbert had completely lost his mind and gone stark-raving mad, but when the river settled again and the biggest catfish the stunned and amazed Bufford had ever seen in his entire life poked it’s leviathan head above the surface of the now calm water, his breath held still and his heart skipped several beats.  There was something otherworldly about that monstrous catfish.  A devilish light glowed in its huge bulging water-glossed eyes.  It’s nauseating whiskers groped with sinister intent like wanton octopus tentacles.  The hideous thing seemed to know something dark and inscrutable about the future fate of all human kind.  

Tulbert was grinning from ear to ear as he gazed at the hulking aquatic obscenity.  To Bufford’s astonishment and utter disbelief, that big old dangerously threatening catfish did in fact begin talking in a booming voice - morbid, baleful, malevolent.  

“Who dares summon me!” the gross thing bellowed from its cavernous grotesque mouth.

“It was I,” Tulbert whimpered.

The nasty horn-finned beast turned its loathsome eyes on Tulbert with a sadistic glare as it declared that it could show him incredible unbelievable ancient knowledge, appalling things the Pawnee, Arapaho, and Kiowa didn’t even know, if Tulbert was willing to trade bodies with the catfish for the midnight hour.

Bufford was frozen with horror, helplessly speechless and totally incapable of action when Tulbert agreed to trade bodies with the grisly repugnant Talking Catfish.  The witching hour was upon them when that foul abomination opened its massive jaws to let a weirdly dreadful moth flutter out of its cavernous mouth.  Tulbert opened his mouth and a smaller but similar moth fluttered out.  The moths changed places.  Tulbert and the Talking Catfish were now anatomically switched.  

With Tulbert’s soul inside that barbaric unwholesome catfish, the grim colossally overgrown thing dove down under the shimmering water to the brooding depths of unknown darkness below.  Bufford sat at the back of the little boat trembling in blood-freezing horror at the uncanny stare of the witchy catfish looking at him from out of his best friend’s hollow vacant eyes.  That was the longest and most foul midnight vigil Bufford Zadock had ever endured.  He still gets nightmares from the gut-wrenching psychological torment of it.

As the witching hour under that ghastly full harvest moon drew to an ominous close, the shapeshifter-possessed Tulbert opened his mouth as the huge Talking Catfish again broke the silvery surface of the river to gape open its awful heavy jaws, whence the moths exchanged bodies again.

Sitting right there during a violent thunderstorm on the worn-out stools of the coffee-odored greasy all-night diner, old Bufford Zadock confided to me that his unfortunate friend Tulbert never went catfishing again after that tragic night.  Yet, that wasn’t the worst of it.  Tulbert Peabody never even so much as spoke another single solitary word for the rest of his life.  He was like a man under a wicked spell - eerily silent, a forlorn catatonic.  He was finally taken to the state psychiatric hospital up at Sioux City where he lingered for long sorrowful years as a sallow-skinned mute.  Something that ghoulish Talking Catfish had shown Tulbert through its unnatural bulging eyes down in the cryptic muddy darkness on the bottom of the mysteriously haunting river on that fateful autumn night had broken the old wheat farmer’s stricken mind.


© Copyright 2018 Sean Terrence Best. All rights reserved.

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