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The Cod Fisherman
The boy watches me tend the fry pan. First of November in a warm year. I was an old man this morning. Now it is night and I am still an old man. The good stink of hot fried whitefish rises in the kitchen and oak leaves have fallen, painted the hill red. I am an old man because my body does not move fast. I am an old man because I have seen change that is large enough to fit inside my body. The change I have seen is like a bent stick I have swallowed. It sits inside my chest. It might make a hole in something soon.
     This boy was my daughter’s son. My daughter knew how to work. She does not live by the water anymore, she moved away. It was sad, she said, to be by the water when it is empty like it is and she left me this boy and he does not know work.
     This morning, I asked him, “Do you know what this year will be?”
     He and I stood in the cove, on this skin of water, on the deck of the Dogger, which was named when there were cod. I did not know if there were any more cod. Above us on the ridge the houses of the other fishers were shut. I am the fisherman now. There was a lottery and I was picked. I was picked and it is good to be picked. If you do not catch a cod, you can fish the water the year through. And though you are hated by all who are not picked, you can sell the cusk and the crab and moon jellies and the sea whips to the tourists as curios.
     I hated the Rogersons, who fished until yesterday. Hated them all last year. They never caught a cod. The year before that I hated the Moseses. I watched the wharf each evening to see their return and if they had on them the blood of cod. They never caught a cod. And now I am hated for having been picked to fish. I can fish for cod in water with no more cod. I can fish for cod, because in the cities, the rich are hungry for it. I was once a cod fisherman.
     I told the boy that we would never catch a cod. And by God I hoped that we would not. I hoped that this year would outlast my life. I hoped that I might, how I thought I would as a young man, die working this water and release the water in my blood back to the ocean.
     “Do you know at all what this year will be?” I said to my grandson. When he did not answer but looked at me only with the dumb, dark eyes of an infant, though he is old enough to have some muscle and wit and a mind of his own, I said, “Put us off.”
     He did not know what I meant, when I said, Put us off. I can say that the anger I felt for him felt good then. He looked at me, his mouth open. The softness to his face was of a childhood he clung to. He is a type of youth sheltered from work. I do not understand this boy. He is twelve but lacks curiosity. When his mother was that age, she came onto the boat with me; she could bleed four cod a minute in the roughest chop and even then she would put her head back and laugh through it. But when she raised him, she took him from the water, away from where he might have learned of the work between this life and the next. He does not shout or run or find other boys to play with; he reads stories about other times.
     We looked at each other, the boy and I, and I saw the softness in his face shift to something like hate. All this in a moment, fast as a wing.
     “Put us off,” I said.
     I do not know when everything began to remind me of everything else. As if my life were folded at the center, and the second half was a thin film over the first. My voice went out into the bay, spreading across the water. The boats of other fishermen waited for tourists to pay to go out for a ride, to see the top of the water. Boats are rotting, they are sinking lately, like people. I am not a cruel man, but I believe I wanted the anger that can come, when you look at a weak thing who stands too close to you. You can forget things in anger and hate and it is good.
     “Put us off,” I said.
     The boy laid his hands on the cleat. We bobbed on one tall swell, as though a boat had made a wake, but there were no boats moving but the Dogger. “Put us off,” I said, and I let the hate into my voice. I let it loose like a throttle, but there was no limit for my hate. I looked at this boy and I saw my daughter and I missed her. I missed the water how it was and I hurt.
He pulled on the stern cleat with no energy, he patted at it with thin fingers, as though it were a docile cat. When it was finally loose, he threw it like he had seen movies of how working men throw. The rope was shorter than he thought; it cut his toss and fell into the water and he watched it there.
     “Put us off,” I said. I showed him how. I bent at the waist to push away from the dock and the bent stick in my chest poked out my ribs. I bent and pushed and the water was as dark as it was when I was young and there were still cod and the feeling of pushing the vessel from the dock in the dark before dawn was the same as it was then and I believe for a flashing moment that I forgot some things. Then I was stuck by that bent thing inside and remembered.
     The boy has lived with me now four months. My daughter left him in her childhood home. She said it would be good for us both. This I did not understand. She said she wanted the boy to know how things had changed. She said I was a piece of the past but the water, which has no past or future, did not remember me. She wanted him, finally, to see the confusions of living long enough. She liked to drink and then she died in an inland place this fall. All my life, I have not known why she was unhappy. When she was young, I was young. I watched her shape her unhappiness in her childhood and crash it against those bigger than her. With her first job at eleven she saved for a BB gun and shot up the glossy cruisers of the summer people who pushed the property taxes toward a heaven we could not afford. But the boats had done nothing wrong, I told her. So she asked me the difference between a boat and who owned it. She was a dazzling child. The boy and I do not speak much at all. We do not speak of change or of this woman whose blood we share, though I understand that her loss cuts us both. But he has the time left in his life to heal.
     He stood at the rail and watched the houses up on the ridge. They belong to out-of-staters now, when once they belonged to fishers or were not there at all. The new ones are very big and look as though a stone could put a hole through the wall.
     “Ducks in a bucket,” he said.
     “You mean something else,” I said.
     “Ducks in buckets. They’ll shoot us.”
     “They won’t,” I said. “Did I ever shoot the Rogersons?”
     And then I looked toward the east ridge and saw that the dawn had come over the Bay of Fundy, there was light in the sky. The sky lifted away from the ridge. The bay was a dark bowl, the ridges were basalt and rose up. The Dogger, she is a patient boat with me and I am a patient man with her. She has always moved slow. So do I, now.
     “We didn’t,” the boy said. His face can show a sharpness, as though his docility is a ruse over a quick mind. This unsettles me. “We didn’t,” he said, “but maybe they did not want to catch a cod.” He has the white teeth of a child.
     “People like to hate a sorry thing,” I said, after a moment. “I do. Don’t give them something to hate like that.” I took the Dogger out to sea.

We split away from land and the swells grew but were gentle. In the trough of the waves there was one smell, and on the wave peak another. A storm was breathing somewhere else. The water is not dead. It is only changed. I and all the others changed it. My dragger boat is one of all of them that has ever been. The water is not dead. Jellyfish clog the waves.
     The sun came back as we moved away from land. It remembers this place each day. It was splitting the swells. I wanted to be cruel. I wanted to say to the boy, This is all we will catch, every day for a year. We will reach into that wave and catch many tonnes of jelly. But cruelty is an intimacy.
     “Jellyfish!” he cried. “Look at all of them there scooting along. Gee!”
     He looked over his shoulder at me and his grin was toothy and wide, as if he knew but did not care for how I felt, as if his delight was a joke made at old men like me.

As long as I have fished, and I have always fished, there have been laws to water, certain as the tides. Like everything with law and money and water, some are imaginary and some are not. The Rogersons dragged this seafloor the whole past year. Yesterday, the Rogersons dragged, they sold their fish to the buyers at the dock, and then they moored their Dawn Hunter and shut themselves in their house. I watched them sell fish that once was trash fish, what a fisherman would shovel back into the water. Now the buyers were hungry for it. The year before, it had been the Moseses who scraped the seafloor. Two years and neither family caught a cod. And now I am the hated one. Jealousy is a wave that bad times push in. The chop this morning was small out to the horizon, as though the whole ocean was this gulf stretched wide.
     The seafloor is an empty space. Cold corals are gone and the capelin and the Dungeness crab and perhaps only sculpin now flourish here. It seemed if I listened I could hear all the winches of every boat that ever dragged it. Were any cod left in the Atlantic, I thought, I did not know where. A white bird flew fast, as though lonely and seeking, across our bow. A gannet. I had thought the gannets were all gone. Perhaps it was only a gull.
    It seems if I could forget who I was, I could be a grandfather with his grandson on the unmarked water but he is not that boy and I am not that man and the water is changed.

“When the bag comes on the deck and if I am not near the wheel you will keep us straight if a wave pushes,” I said.
     And the boy asked how.
     And I looked at the space between the window and the cabin ceiling where there are stuck photos of myself as a younger man with blooded cod the length of my thigh, and photos of people now gone and where white paint has turned yellow as a tired eye, and I did not say, What I feel for you is bad because I miss your mother and you are like her in some ways, but in most ways I do not understand you, your furious silence and your books, your lack of need for companions and movement in the air outside my house, and if she was here, this year of fishing and hate would be all right, but looking at you gives me a bad feeling so I don’t look at you, that is why I look always beside you, and I am not sorry. I did not say this because I am not a brave man, I am old.
     I said, “This wheel is a wheel. This is the throttle. Don’t touch the throttle. The autopilot will work and you won’t do anything unless a wave pushes and I am not at the wheel. You will stand here and do nothing. Then we will sort the catch.”
     The boy’s eyes quivered like they were taking a journey somewhere, across the old land of my skin. And I looked to the water and the horizon, hoping to see what I once saw out there, and I did, but I am old and see too much. My daughter told me once, “I cannot look at the water anymore.” She meant, I think, I cannot look at the boy anymore. He is empty as the water.
     “So then we’ll catch the cod, right?” said the boy. “Make a lotta money.” But he is joking again and he looks at me as if he knows that I and he are part of a joke and the joke is much older than us. “We will bleed the biggest cod,” he said. “We will sell it and be done and somebody else can go hunting.”
     If we were done this day, if this were to be the first and last day on the water, it would hurt more than it would hurt to drag for mud and to know that the water is too hot and the salmon rivers are gone and that the tides poison the quahogs and the way of my life that was the way of all the lives before me is dead.

I did not cry when I set the net out into the water. The net reels are taller than the boy by five feet. They are taller than me too, but I and the net reels have rusted together. The net reels spun out the half mile of webbing. The webbing is new and government bought and, yes, what a joke of a game this is. What a game it has always been, to live in a lottery, named or not. The sound of the winches running and the net reel turning were the sound of the muscles of an old friend settling into a chair at the end of a life. This year is one more conversation.
     Net and webbing stretched out far behind our stern and sank like they should on the leads. And as though it were in my jawbone, I felt the cod end touch the floor. I had not felt these things for a long time. I would have my heart break like this every day, to feel what I had felt when I was young.
     The boy watched low cloud pass beneath high cloud. He hummed.
     We dragged the bottom. Rollers rolled across where likely the Rogersons’ net had crossed, where the Moseses’ net had gone, where all the rest before have gone, where is by now a series of smoothed seafloor runnels through which nothing living would flow, as if we were nothing but great worms marking our tracks through the mud. Rocks from the beginning of time have been dislodged. What else but submarine torpedoes and fishing nets and earthquakes ever shifted seafloor? A spawning fish does not. It is a quiet thing to start a life. The sun rose through a white cloud. Happily, the boy did not talk. The swells grew but came at the bow and so we rode them high. At the end of three bad miles, we hauled back the net.
     “Haul back,” I called out across the deck to the boy. “Haul back.”
     In came the cable wrapped on the fists of the winches. In came the webbing flapping on the net reel. There was our bag, bright blue with newness in the gray spread of water. A limp and empty bag. When the bag rose, two gray gulls came to see what we had caught. But their coming did not mean a thing.
     The cod end chased our stern, the gulls dipped and explored and then the cod end crawled up onto the deck, the boat was shifting, but not enough, not as it once did with a fat bag, and the blue clay and gravel that had been once crushed by glacier poured from the net, bled into the water a milkiness. I could see that I had not fished well. I had not read the tug of the webbing well and I fished too deep. I cut the floor’s clay. Or perhaps catching clay is all there is to catch anymore. The smell of the clay was from a different time of this planet and of my life.
     There were one hundred some pounds of living things in that cod end. I could not add up the one-tenth tonnes and one-eighth tonnes for that would have felt like begging and I would not beg in front of the boy. Perhaps it was less honest to count the bags by the poundage instead. But there was one hundred pounds and that was all, mostly jellyfish. We drifted in the early winter water and a wind came from the east, following the sun’s arrow. We spilled the small catch into the trawl alley. It spread, and the fish we had pulled away from the pressure of water fought and continued to die. The boy watched the fish. Perhaps this is how I know he is his mother’s son. I could see what she thought too. Sorrow and meanness and joy.
     A wave caught us then portside and we rolled. It was a bad roll, but not so bad, I wanted to tell the boy. The dying fish we now briefly owned slid. The boy made no sound but fell sideways. As though his tendons had never been anything but make-believe, and if one did not believe, one would fall. I did not run to the wheel. We keeled hard now starboard and another wave came to meet us. The skin between this world and the next is much thinner on the water. It felt good to feel this thinness. I had forgotten what it was to live between water and air. I did not move from the deck to the wheel, though we were hard over. I do not know that I wanted to.
     “Get us straight,” I called.
     The boy slid on the deck, looked at me, and in his small chin and brow and childish eyes I saw the child face of my daughter, but it was gone again in a moment. The boat righted herself and rolled again, and another wave rose above us.
     “Get us straight,” I called. Perhaps we would capsize. I felt my old thighs, the ankles, and the cords of my hips remember how to do the work to keep me upright. This memory in my body was sharp and good. Perhaps we would go down. “Get us straight,” I said. And still I did not move toward the wheel. I do not know if I will mind dying. Perhaps you cannot know until the moment just before and then there is only room for regret or satisfaction. The fish slid, and the boy, who had begun to stand, fell again. He crawled for the wheel. The next wave was a gentle hill high above, shadowing us greenly from the sun. The boat was little again, as it always was in strange weather. “Get us straight,” I called.
     It was gravity’s habit that brought the wave down and kept us stuck to the water. Only this could sink us. Perhaps the next can do it, I thought.
     Hope is an old habit. I was surprised to feel it as it had been gone a long time.
     The boy was at the wheel then. He turned us painfully, slowly east and on the next swell, our bow pointed high.

We sorted the catch. The lion’s mane jellyfish was the red of a sumac that grows beside my house. The boy knew enough not to touch them with his bare hand. They sloshed across the deck. I gave the boy the hose and told him to clean the fish of gravel and clay, but gently, to make them seem like fish from nowhere, so that we might sell them as something that had never struggled.
     He looked at me and there was again something new in his face and perhaps it was dislike. Perhaps it was knowledge. Sometimes those two go hand in hand. He sprayed the few fish down. The trawl deck became bright with pink anemones, the fragile and broken arms of crinoids, sea squirts and whistles, bull kelp’s gentle yellow. I had not seen these colors in a long time. I am full of them. Pale crabs hauled themselves away. Sculpin always live longer than other fish. Perhaps their wide jaws protect their small brains for a little while. Their bodies thrashed in the dirty water. They were suffocating. Dogfish flipped in silence, crushed green urchins, they spread the bright orange roe, smelling of the sweet ocean eggs. But there was no coral. The slow-growing fans and sponges and forests have long been scraped gone.
     Everything living thrashed in the sudden air and sought the ocean. Bodies clogged the scuppers. Empty mud, it seemed, had been a good place for sand lances and the deck was silver with them.
     The boy stooped and caught some and he threw them into the cabin in a pile on the floor, and when he saw that I saw, he said, “Mom told me they’re pretty good. You and her fried them up for toast and eggs and she said she’d stay home late for school.”
     The gulls dipped the water and rose away with silver bodies in their bills.
     “Get the urchins,” I told him. “Get them if they’re whole.”
     We set the net again and dragged and hauled. Then twice more. There was less in each set. In the last bag, there was one cod.
     I was not, at first, surprised to see her. I was a cod fisherman. Of course there was a cod.
     She was alive. She was alive in the way dying things are alive, she fought with the death in her body. She was a thin cod. No meat to her. Once, there were ancient cod the size of a fat, tall child and enough to catch with closed eyes anywhere in this water. This cod was the length of the boy’s forearm.
     My organs went cold then as if I had been sunk and drowned. I do not think that I stopped in my limbs to watch the cod, for work has a current that pulls the worker through it, but I had stopped in my mind.
     It has never made sense to me how the fish persist as they do. Lumpsuckers dig holes in the meat of their bodies and yet the bodies continue to live. We drown them in air and their swim bladders rip from their chests and still they believe there is life to be had. They would not fight so hard if the fighting had not, in all the history of their ancestors, proved to save them. Perhaps if the fish could talk I would understand. I once wished they could. I am glad now they cannot. Her swim bladder was pink and, yes, the weak pressure of air had popped it from her mouth. She had kept the organ in her chest her whole life, and now there it was, escaping her.
     I watched the boy but it seemed he had not seen her.
     When I was a child, it was as though I slept and ate and grew inside the ribs of a cod, and that the island was raised from bedrock on cod blood and that the fuel of our boats was in fact cod oil and I knew the smell of a cod’s life and meat like I knew the smell of the jack pines in the yard.
     I understood then that he did not know what a cod was.
     “You, boy,” I called across the deck. The whole catch rocked back and forth on the metal of the deck and the jumping of everything slowed as dying became death. I felt like I had been beaten. “Who is this fish, boy?” I called. “Who is this fish by you?”
     He and I stood on opposite sides of the trawl deck while the scrawny codfish thrashed between us. We looked for a long time. The smell of blood and fish scales caught in my throat like I had laid down for a sweet nap in the certainty of my own childhood.
     He looked and saw and I saw him understand. He nodded as though he too was old and at the tired, violent end of things. He swept his small arm to the water and then to the land.
     And then he called back to me, “I do not blame you, you know, for how it’s all changed.”
     He said, “But you saw it when there were fish, didn’t you?”
     I said nothing.
     “I was raised knowing the end of things,” he went on. Blame stiffened his words.
     We sorted the catch. I took the cod in my fist with my thumb in her hard gill arches and brought her to the boy. “Bleed her then,” I said. “There might not be another.”
     He did drop her but she was dead now and did not slip far. He bled her poorly, but he is a small boy. We put her to wait then in the tank through which this boat pumps cold ocean. Though we had not been talking, we were even quieter now.
     We set once more and dragged again and caught jellyfish and sculpin and gravel. Then it was the end of the afternoon, when the sun yellows toward Massachusetts. We turned the boat for land and I passed the boy the hose to wash the clay and blood from the deck. We had caught a cod.
     “Nobody catches a cod, do they?” he called, as though he knew my thoughts.
     “Nobody does seem to catch a cod,” I said.
     I felt strange inside of myself. When we lost fishing, when this piece of ocean was finally empty of all the things we might eat, I grieved and was angry in my grief. As the dead cod swayed in our cold tank, and with the fear that if this day were to end this fishing year and I would never in my life fish again, I felt I was grieving the persistent shadow of that loss.
     “We are lucky, lucky fishermen then, aren’t we,” the boy said.
     He is my daughter’s son. He has in him her capacity for brutality, though it is of a quieter form in him. A wave came and the way the low sun hit it, I saw again all around the thick orbs of jellies and wrack fronds, silent and dispersed on unseen currents.
     “We won’t sell this cod,” I told him.
     The boy hosed the gutting table. Water sprayed off in fine arcs, pink in the sun and with blood and scales then running clear and then the table was whitish again. “Why don’t we just huck it then,” he said, but did not look at me; he watched the mess of fishing erased from the boat’s deck. He had cod blood down his oilskins.
     I did not answer. Did not think he meant what he said. I did not have an answer except that to discard her would be wrong, it would hurt me. I told him again that we would not sell this one cod. A dark strip rose from the Fata Morgana and became land. “We will not sell her,” I said. “We will off-load everything else, you will not take this cod out.” Perhaps I was begging him.
     He looked at me and did not agree. “So you would like to be hated a whole year then,” he said. There was curiosity in how he said it.
     I told him that I would like for a lot of things. Then we did not speak. He sat in the warm cabin with me and we thought of this cod we had caught and together killed. He pulled from his bag a book and disappeared into it. He read until the reading and the rocking of the boat were too much and I heard him sigh with seasickness. He closed the book on his lap. Way off, a cargo ship slipped over the curve of the water. “In this book,” he finally said, “this guy isn’t happy so he goes on all these made-up adventures because he’s been told by books and everybody that’s what he’s supposed to, to be a real man.” He scratched inside his nostril. “Do you think you would have quit fishing if not everybody you knew did it? Mom didn’t want to, you know. I guess she’s not a man.” A high swell passed underneath us. The bow pitched toward Jupiter. “Last fall I got tested and they said I read like a high schooler. Or even higher.” The swell moved on and we nosed down into a green valley. The boy sighed a deep dog-sick sigh.
     “If you look at the horizon,” I said, “it will help with the seasickness. You can’t pretend to be on land when you’re on the water. Your body knows you are not. I’ve fished because it’s what I know.” When the words came out I felt in them a whining. I hoped the boy did not hear it too. “That used to be good enough.”
     He turned on his knees on the bench and watched out the cabin window for a long time, breathing the good air. I could have forgotten he was there, given a moment. But then he looked back at me. “I’ve got to keep living here a long time on this earth. And I don’t know how. You know what I mean,” he asked. “Do you know?”
     We watched each other across this small cabin. It was not cold enough to have the stove on but the air was still too close.
     Before land, I told him to get the cod from the tank and to find a bucket for her and to hide her in the fo’c’sle under blankets. He rose and did it. I would have threatened him if I thought it would have kept him from telling the catch man that we had a cod.
     When we reached the harbor there were many sleek cars waiting. The buyers drive good cars. The light had all but gone. The air was a dark winter blue and the headlights broke on our wake, the light slunk out into the night across the bay, slipped onto the hulls of the boats who wait for their lottery year and the pleasure cruisers not yet taken out for the winter. When my daughter brought the boy to me to leave him, she stood looking out the kitchen window at this cove. “Do you know,” she said, “there’s money everywhere. Can’t outrun it. Eat it once, gets in your blood. The blood gets in the water.” She met my eye and jerked her head toward the bay. “All I see now is something owned out there, Dad.”
     The buyers stepped out of their cars. Forty or fifty of them. They walked as a crowd toward the dock and we met them there. They were experienced buyers. They did not race each other, they were as restrained as show horses. They are not hungry people, only very wealthy. And then we were at the dock. The sun was orange and soft. The air turned bitter.
     “Catch that line,” I told the boy, and he did. He gaffed it from the water where he dropped it this morning, calmly as though he had done it every day. The buyers crossed the wharf dock, murmuring like so many flies.
     He watched them. I saw him hate them as they walked but now he softened his face and it would seem looking at him like he was as pleased to see them as one is pleased to see tall grass in late light or the dash of a whale spout way out.
     The buyers smiled to see a boy so young with a man so old. Smiled as if they thought us dumb and innocent. And the boy laughed a little, as if he agreed. We stood close enough now to breathe the same air as the buyers. They wear expensive, rugged clothes, as if buying were an adventure in which they would exert themselves.
     Into the crowd this first winter evening, I cried, “I have ten cusk!”
     I heard my voice like I was hearing another’s, was ashamed for all the need I heard in it. The boy’s eyes were just slightly narrowed, though he was smiling. These were the narrowed eyes of my daughter, how she looked when she was herself a child, understanding something new. Early in her life, I believe, she understood too much, she got too wise to be happy.
     The briefest silence then, as if everyone had tried to take the same breath and found there was not enough air. The catch man, who counts the fish taken, who waits to see a cod sold, stood by and eyed the buyers and the boy and then finally he set his eye on me and when our eyes met, he nodded gently once. Behind him the homes of all the fishers were quiet on the dark ridge. The oak tree had lost all its last leaves. The Rogersons’ house lights were yellow. The three Moseses stood on their porch and watched from far away. The catch man will wait another year to see a cod.
     Then the first buyer cried back, answering me. He raised his money above his head. I heard a powerful voice, a voice that came from a body that knew how it fit in the world. He lives in a world of money and I live in a world of gone cod. His need is different from mine.
     Then all the buyers cried, crowding at the dock’s edge. Their hands waving like a clump of pine boughs in high wind. Any closer and they would scrape our faces with their money. I had seen this before, from a distance, from across the bay. I had heard of it, how it was shaped into a story by the other fishers. And I thought I knew how to sell, but their need was a type I could not read, was vicious in its purposelessness.
     The boy and I stood still, side by side at the rail, before this waving crowd. As if we watched the yelling faces through a water’s surface, as if they were in the wind and we lived just below. He turned to me just once, faltered, and I did not know if he would cry out our secret and I was hot with the angry fear of it. Night neared now. What snow was on the ground on the ridges had caught the pink in the sky. Water shimmered in the wharf light.
     Then he cried, in a high, fine, sharp voice that shocked me it was so sudden, “No cod! No cod! Ten cusk! Twenty-eight good-sized dogfish, two bucket urchin, skate wings! Skate wings!”
     The buyers smiled at this young boy. Their own chanting pitched higher. They were a howling pack, hysterical in the hunt.
     ​​​​​​​I watched the boy, heard his young voice stretching. I saw his mother again in the shape of his chin and in the way he formed his voice into a joke against the wealthy. If it is to be a choice between the wealthy and me, because he is his mother’s son, I knew then he would always choose to hate the wealthy more. And I found that because he is his mother’s son, I was glad for that. In the dark, passing the bodies across the rail of the Dogger, we sold everything to the buyers. He stood up and yelled and took their money with fast hands, a monger born and raised.
     ​​​​​​​The catch man said, after the buyers were gone, “No cod then.”
     ​​​​​​​The boy said, before I could, “No cod left.”
     ​​​​​​​And now in this house and in the silence of a secret, I have battered and fried the cod for him, so that he might know the taste of what we have done.

Former marine biologist Katherine Cart is a creative writing student at the University of Virginia. Her work is published or forthcoming in Post Road, Raritan, US Renew News, and elsewhere.