8.9 / September 2013

The Sea Is Only Meat

listen to this story

I say the sea is boiling. You laugh and say I am definitely a poet.

I say no it is, really. And hold my scalded toe. You walk to the edge and dip your big rightie in, the monkey-looking one. You look straight at me while you do it. Then you recoil as if bit. As if the sea itself bit you. You say goddamn, it really is boiling.

All across, we see fish, stingrays, crabs, eels float to the surface and back down, pulled and pushed by a subterranean desire. This terrible heat. Steam rises off the surface like the world is a sauna.

Then weirder creatures roll to the surface. Teeth jutting from mouths that cannot contain them. Eyes translucent, vestigial remnants made for seeing, that cannot see. Scales so sheer, the heat makes them opaque, more substantial. Their salty fleshs peel away from the white underneath. They are exposed. They show us their dark secrets.

They collect on shore, pulse up and onto the sand.

We stare, dumb. I say they are dead, all dead. We see a shark turning over in the bubbling waves. Far offshore, I make out a whale’s flipper, lazy-eighting like a capsizing sailboat.

I begin to dig. You ask what I am digging. I say graves.

You stop me and take my hand.

Then you help. We bury them all day: perch, shrimp, mussels, anemone, tuna. Even marlins, dolphins, seals. They are so light, I can pick them up myself. Most of their flesh is boiled away. When you aren’t looking, I cradle a bluefish in my arms. I would have been a wonderful mother.

We take a picture of each with our cell phones. We look them up online if we cannot name them. They must all have names. The shore is a morgue and a cemetery. There is no family to identify them by their teeth. Only birds. Lots of birds. I shoo them away, throw my shoes at them. There are too many.

The day ends, but we are not done. We will never be done. We have to walk much farther and carry them back. The shore stretches always before us. We pass well-picked chunks. The sea is only meat.
In the night, when you think I am sleeping, I see you dig two more graves. They are larger this time.

h. l. nelson is Editor-in-Beef for Cease, Cows, Fiction Editor for Black Heart, and a former sidewalk mannequin. (Yes, that happened.) Pubs: Hobart, Connotation Press, Bartleby Snopes, Writer’s Digest, Metazen, DOGZPLOT, Zygote in My Coffee, Pure Slush, etc. h.l.’s MFA is kicking her ass. Tell her what you're wearing: heather@hlnelson.com.
8.9 / September 2013