In the water, with fins

By Michelle Hoeckel-Neal

Here, you see the parrotfish pecking. Its false beak bops bops bops off the coral, munching. It is your favorite species, something about royalty, or traffic. Its fins, iridescent. A glimmer of gold, scales like sapphires, sharp pink borders. You wonder what it means, to be both parrot and fish. You make shapes with your lips, speaking now to the parrot. The fish does not have a return message. It is so close to you. If you’re not careful, you’ll slap it with your rubber fins. You are constantly twisting behind yourself, or arching your neck downward, checking that your fins are not damaging the coral, not slapping the species. It is exhausting, this contortion. Like a dog chasing its tail, you spin and bend, fins kicking.

The parrotfish disappears behind the cetacean blue curtain, the place where your eyes can’t see your fins below your knees. You mourn the bird, the fish, the princess. Whatever it was, you grieve that it is gone. It has evaporated, into the beyond. Beyond the protection of a sea floor, of coral and sunlight. You gaze into the darkness. It is not an abyss, it is solid. Impenetrable. The tide does not seem to reach this space. There is no shifting, no swirling. As you stare, you drift toward the curtain. Are you pulled? Or do you push? You think, it is not the darkness that scares you. It is the opposite. The light, a needle, pierces. And there is your parrotfish, only now it is: parrot. fish. It is in two. Tail feathers detached from false beak. Between the halves, the curtain, and you.

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Michelle Hoeckel-Neal is a graduate student of English concentrating in creative writing at the University of Maine. She is a writer of short things, strange things, and things that aren’t all-the-way true. She is also a teacher for the University’s first-year writing course, and an editor for the Spire Journal of Conservation and Sustainability. She is not much of a tweeter, but you can find her @MHN_hello.

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