The Fisherman’s Wife – Eva M. Schlesinger

The fisherman and his wife lived in one of the many mustard yellow cottages dotting the fishing village. He chose their home’s location, a cul-de-sac by the boats that lined the harbor.

They were both forty-five. His tanned skin was weathered like an old dock. He had been fishing since he was twenty. He woke before dawn to throw out his nets. He fished for a few hours, or for days. He brought home bass and sole and salmon.

While he grilled fish, his wife’s chest shook, wracked by coughs from inhaling barbecue smoke. Her hands stunk of the fish juice dripping from platters she sold to travelers arriving by boat.

“Best fish ever,” a lady with fishnet stockings and cat’s eye glasses said.

“Nothing fishy about this fish,” proclaimed the Fresh Fish Newsflash.

“This fish is going places,” the National Association for Fish Fillets announced.

The fisherman’s wife listened with a fake smile. She ground her teeth so hard flakes of plaque flicked her tongue.

She kept the house running and the kitchen up to code. The health inspector gave an A+ and said, “tell your husband he’s doing a terrific job.”

If one more person praised her husband, she would say, “You want good fish?” and slap its scales across their face. Yeah, that would show them. But right after she thought that, the line ended. People dispersed to the hammocks strung on their yachts. She stood alone, only the waves lapping the shore, sea salt clinging to her pores, to keep her company.

Her hands were restless, unused to being still. They flapped. Her toe inched out from her sandal. Her foot gave a kick. She shimmied her hips. She crouched down, scooping up kelp. She wrapped the slimy belt around her waist. She twirled. She hadn’t danced like this since she was fifteen and her friends nicknamed her Gumbo. Her knees knocked, hips jutting up, shoulders swaying as she swirled, her limbs a fluid, lithe ribbon.

She waltzed to her right, hands holding an invisible partner’s arms. She swing-danced left, sliding into a two-step rhythm. No one clapped. No one cheered. No one said, “You are the best we’ve ever seen.”

“Why do you keep going?” a man in shorts the color of a sand dollar asked. “Your soles are bleeding.”

“Stop,” her husband said. His eyelids drooped, tired. “Otherwise your blisters will pop.”

A photographer with a camera lens the length of a bluefish shoved them aside. He clicked photo after photo. Next to him, a reporter’s thumbs tkked-tkked into his phone.

Excitement rippled through the woman. She couldn’t wait to see the photo illustrating the article all about her on the newspaper’s front page.

The journalist cleared his throat. People climbed out of hammocks and deck chairs. They edged closer to the reporter.

The dancing woman skipped onto the harbor’s ledge. She peered into the water. Her reflection bobbed up and down. She did not recognize her topsy-turvy hair that tangled like fishing wire, her face that gleamed like the sunlight sparkling on the waves’ crests. At the sound of her splash, her husband spun around. She darted underwater. He put a hand to his heart. Who would market his fish now? His wife’s ears clogged with bubbles. By the time the journalist said, “Breaking news: Wife of award-winning fisherman fishes for compliments,” she had already swum far away.

Eva M. Schlesinger, author of four poetry chapbooks, has received the Literal Latte Food Verse Award and twice been a Grand SLAM contender on the Moth Stage where she made the audience of 1,400 laugh nonstop. Her flash has appeared inWomen in Clothes, Lost Balloon, Fiction Southeast, and elsewhere.

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