The fish is staring at me from the plate, its blackened skin and brittle tail spread between rice pilaf and sautéed mushrooms. A foot of omega-3 fatty acids, which my mother, who set the plate before me, said helps with depression.

I wasn’t depressed last winter when I hugged the possibility I might be pregnant, wrapping my heart around the secret, envisioning my baby tadpole-size clinging to the side of my uterus, our blood intermingling. Brian’s baby. There was a bridal shop down the street from my apartment; I already knew the dress I wanted. But then I wasn’t pregnant after all and Brian told me he’d met someone else.

At night I drank and wept, working up a Camille-like tragic image. During the day, I sniffled at my desk until co-workers rolled their eyes when I reached for another tissue. Then, in early April, a bunch of us got let go.

When I couldn’t find a job, my mother said she’d moved her sewing stuff out of my old room and I was welcome to it. So, I’m back home with this damn fish, my mother eyeing me across the table, and my father hunched over his food like a wolf with a fresh kill. Who wouldn’t be depressed?

The fish doesn’t want to be here. Once it shimmered in fast moving water. It might have been pregnant with hundreds of luminous eggs. How can I eat it when, like me, all it wanted was to have babies? I try to explain this to my mother, but she can’t get past the sex part.

by Anna Peerbolt


Anna Peerbolt’s flash and short stories have appeared in Drunken Boat, Prick of the Spindle, Apollo’s Lyre, The Legendary, Long Story Short, DOGZPLOT, and elsewhere online.

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