The grey trout flops on the ice and stills, its blood clotted. Dave holds the rigid fish trophy-high, and I snap a photo to prove our lives are as full as the trout’s thick belly. The fish’s mouth gapes, its body wall-mounted stiff.

It’s late, this fishing. This casting into the dark maw of lake with spider-web lines that glisten in the lowering sun. I stamp the membrane of ice, knowing we forged a two-foot hole with the hand auger, yet wonder if it’s strong enough to hold us. My silhouette stretches across the surface, strange and taffy-pulled. I raise my shadow hand; I’m still here.

Frozen fish stuffed into our bag, we mount the snowmobile and fly past gnarled scrub brush teetering on the edge of the timberline. Cold bites my jutted kneecaps. I want to release my arms hooked around Dave’s waist and soar into the darkening expanse, but instead, I brace harder and close my eyes. I am a plane, a roller coaster, a train barrelling south.

The moon is a silver-scaled bowl, the sky brilliant black. Dave cuts the engine at the cabin, our silence heavier than the snow. Northern Lights peek around a ring of clouds and trawl across the sky in purple, green, and yellow tendrils.

Inside, the woodstove spears heat into each corner. Knife poised beneath a gill, he guts each fish and drops the rubbery heads into a bucket, a hollow sound, and I wonder if that’s the sound of falling out of love, not sharp and sudden, but quiet. Slow. The row of headless trout fans across layers of outdated Northern Times; warmed blood blurs the newsprint. I press my thumb to the warmth and edge the paper in a line of fading whorls, like roses, until they vanish.

Dawn Miller

Dawn Miller’s most recent work appears or is forthcoming in Cleaver Magazine, SmokeLong Quarterly, Fractured Lit, Typehouse, Jellyfish Review, Guernica Edition’s This Will Only Take a Minute anthology, and The Maine Review, among others. Her work has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize. She lives and writes in Picton, Ontario, Canada. Connect at and on Twitter @DawnFMiller1

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