Curved Bones

By Jess Golden

Fish are brought here from wobbling boats draped with nets and hooks and salt in the black hours of morning. Now they lie heaped on table after table. People examine them, mill around, call out to friends. Someone is breaking a swordfish’s backbone with a saw. Someone else is serving steaks from its body.

Alain waits for customers behind his own table with its stacks of creatures wrapped in slick scales. A tourist steps forward and chooses a mackerel. She and her friends wince, close thickly painted eyes when Alain runs a slit through the fish, lets it sag and spill open. He scoops out the parts they don’t want, drops them onto his table in a wet slap.

He sells a large turbot to Father Christophe and a few rockfish to a woman with falling leaves in her voice. He waits for Marguerite to show up. When she does, neither says much. Both smile. He wraps his best red mullet in paper and she watches his thick forearms move.

Later in her empty flat she will undress the fish of its scales, otherwise leaving it whole. Alain likes to imagine what her hands will look like. Her fingertips will glisten with olive oil. Herbs will cling to the whorls and arches. She will slide the mullet onto a plate just as its skin begins to crackle and break open with heat.

Marguerite would never wince at the body before her. She honors the dead in her own way, with lemon and garlic. She tastes the lingering memory of saltwater in each bite and sees poetry in the curved bones left on her plate.

* * *

Jess Golden used to work odd jobs around the world. Now she lives in California with her partner. Previous work has appeared in Lunate, Cotton Xenomorph, and Gingerbread House.

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