Something Fishy Going On by Adele Evershed, Short Story Finalist, LISP 2nd Quarter 2020
She quickly wraps herself in a large towel as she gets out of the bath, she doesn’t want to accidentally catch sight of her body in the mirror. Sighing as she reaches for her ”La Mer” body cream, it’s as expensive as caviar but it does promise “sumptuous comfort and renewal,” she slathers her décolletage. She wonders idly if the “blue algae” will produce the miracle she is hoping for. As she waits for the lotion to be absorbed, she spots a new wrinkle flowing like a rivulet towards her pale pink areole. “It’s as if The Mississippi Delta is carving itself on my chest,'' she muses as she traces a finger over the cross-hatched lines etched across her bosom.
One day, a walleye swims up from between the shadowy valley of her breasts. The size of it gives her quite a shock, but she likes its shimmering scales and so she hangs it around her neck. It works as a statement piece even if it is a bit avant-garde for everyday wear. Her acquaintances either love it or simply don’t comment. Lorna was never one to go fishing for compliments.
The following week a shoal of longear sunfish show up cavorting in a blue-veined oxbow lake just below her left nipple. She plucks two and hangs them from her doughy earlobes. They sparkle green and orange when she shakes her head as she reads all the dire side-effects on the labels of her newly prescribed medication.
She finds it ironic that with all these rivers coursing over her body other parts are dry as bone. She tries to tilt a particularly aggressive purple stream on her thigh towards her bush by raising her legs but she overshoots. It gets lost in the dingily crease beneath the undulating mountain of her stomach.
“I won’t see that again”, she thinks, “My time to move mountains is long gone”.
At first, she was bothered by the smell that enrobed her and she would spray herself with copious amounts of ‘Tresor’, the scent her husband would bring back for her when he travelled overseas. He left her five years ago, so now she buys the perfume for herself. She can’t remember who said that ‘men are nothing if not predictable’--probably every woman ever. And he was never one to swim against the tide in any regard; he now lives with his secretary. In her head she hears her son, Ben, say, “Personal assistant, Mom. We’re not in the eighties”.
When she stands, grass shrimp that have left the thinning vegetation of her pubic hair to look for thicker shelter are tickling her downy thighs. She pinches them between her thumb and finger and uses them to clip back her newly dyed hair. They complement her bold choice of periwinkle blue. As she hoists her sagging tits into the cage of her underwired bra she spots a rush of paddlefish. She’s no longer surprised; she knows this type of fish prefer the faster flow of her aging. She yanks them from the backwater of her boobs and hooks them on her bracelet. It was once full of charms but now only her mourning charm is left. She tries to catch some crappies for variety, but they are swift and disappear into a sinkhole that has suddenly appeared where her belly button used to be.
Lately, she hardly notices the smell--maybe a faint fishy odor when she pees. But she has stopped leaving the house completely because when she steps outside, she is blanketed in a tide of black flies. It’s not the flies that bother her---they act like a curtain that shields her from prying eyes--but she can’t bear the noise. The buzzing gives her vertigo.
In the second month of her hermit-crab existence, she observes the callouses on her feet glittering iridescently. As she swishes them back and forth, they remind her of the book, “The Rainbow Fish”, which she used to read to Ben when he was little. Before her eyes, her feet melt together and her bunions morph into fins. Pulling herself along the floor to the full-length mirror in her bedroom, she notes the bat-wings under her arms have become gills. They flutter like her thoughts.
Panicked now, she flaps her way to the bathroom and manages to turn on the bath taps just before her arms are absorbed into her body. The mourning charm drops onto the marble floor with a hollow tinkle and the paddlefish jump into the cool waterfall gushing from the faucets. Hefting herself into the tub, sweet relief floods her. Her crêpey eyelids recede. She has a moment of mirth realizing that she can now give the whole world the ‘fish-eye’, although if she believed Ben, she’s already been guilty of doing that for years.
“Wait until Ben sees the magnificence of me”, she thinks, “I’m as large as a Volkswagen, like one of those legendary giant catfish, who skulk around the bottom of a dam”. No sooner has she had this thought than it swims away down the plughole. She summons up a newfound energy and follows it; she emerges some time later in the Mississippi. Gliding through the water, she has the glorious revelation that she doesn’t have to settle for treading water anymore.
Looking up, she notices a dark shadow of a boat and a hook dangling dangerously above her head. She flexes her sleek body and with a quick flick of her tail she heads out to open water. She realizes she no longer needs to try and attract a fisherman’s pole. The indignities of being hooked and then being thrown back again, being deemed not good enough for a trophy, are well and truly over for her now.