Fishing in Ketchikan by Samantha Peterson

Baranof casts its magic over us on a grey Friday morning in June. It starts with a cut, knife angled under its fin, fish still wriggling on the wooden table as he peels away the meat. Flop-flop, as he flips it over, mouth open in a big gaping O- like it might say something. But all we hear is the wind and the water lapping at the rocks and the boat near the shore. He tosses the bones, tail, head in a bucket by his feet. No more stirring, just scraps.

“Food for the eagles, later,” he says, his hands wet, clumps of guts glistening like jelly.

I’d had trouble reeling it in, my palms sore from their grip on the rod, forearms burning, the feel of its tiny teeth still on the tip of my finger from when I’d held it, thumb packed into its mouth.

“Yelloweye Rockfish,” he’d noted, and we’d admired the bright blood-orange of its body, head spines long like flames on its back, the golden color of its eyes wide-wide-open.

“That’s a good-sized catch” he’d said, tossing it into the hatch, and I listened to it bounce, the heavy thwack of its tail against the hard wood, wrestling for breath.

After, we eat our catch by the fire; potatoes, tomatoes, fresh aioli spread out onto our plates, hot coffee, flames thawing our feet still stuck firm in their boots. I scrape my dish clean, suppress the urge to lick it, tongue craving every last trace, mouth full with the taste of pepper, garlic, butter, wild. Across the beach, I watch the boat nod from the water, white meat swimming in my gut, full now, happy. Clouds wrap the sky in gray, but under the small wooden shelter we glow, warm bits of blueberry crumble still stuck on our lips.

When it’s time, he throws the bloody bucket in the boat, the gentle purr of the motor pulling us farther from shore. We watch him throw the carcass to the eagles, wings back, talons sharp, bowed like hooks. We sit like that-still, drifting- the white-brown body descending, the quick whoosh as it grabs at the small head sinking before soaring back up into the trees, carrying its catch deep out into the wild where it belongs.


 

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Samantha Peterson is a freelance writer and medical biller from Scottsdale, Arizona. She graduated from Arizona State University with a B.A. in English and Creative Writing and is currently in the process of relocating to Juneau, Alaska with her husband and their dog.

Ted Cruz Tries to Fight a Grackle Over a Single Tortilla Chip by E. Kristin Anderson

and loses, of course. Nobody ever wins a fight with a grackle. At least that’s what Ted is telling himself as he walks back to the picnic table where the rest of his family is pretending to not have been staring at him. Ted knows they were. Who wouldn’t stare at a man chasing a bird through a park? But there’s only so much Ted can take. After the week he’d had? This was a tortilla chip too far. Maybe (as his wife would later insist) it was just one tortilla chip. There are plenty more tortilla chips. Still. Just one can be powerful. Just one vote in the Senate. Just one Tweet. Just one loose button on Ted’s shirt. Just one camera recording when that button pops off. Sometimes just one thing sets everything else in motion. And sometimes that motion is Ted tripping on an old, rotted tennis ball and falling on his ass as a grackle gets away clean to a magnolia tree. It was a female grackle, his older daughter had informed him, shortly before the bird snapped her beak around that one tortilla chip Ted had been about to put in his mouth. He brushes off his grass-stained khakis in an act of futility as he sits back down next to his wife. At least the park isn’t crowded today. It’s almost too quiet and when someone finally crunches down on a pickle, Ted feels like he can breathe again. His younger daughter nudges the bag of chips toward him, but he refuses. Ted feels that bird watching, knows she’s waiting to swoop in again and take what’s his. And he’s never felt less hungry in his life.


 

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E. Kristin Anderson is a poet and glitter enthusiast living mostly at a Starbucks somewhere in Austin, Texas.  She is the editor of Come as You Are, an anthology of writing on 90s pop culture (Anomalous Press), and her work has been published worldwide in many magazines. She is the author of nine chapbooks of poetry including Pray, Pray, Pray: Poems I wrote to Prince in the middle of the night (Porkbelly Press), Fire in the Sky (Grey Book Press), 17 seventeen XVII (Grey Book Press), and Behind, All You’ve Got (Semiperfect Press, forthcoming). Kristin is a poetry reader at Cotton Xenomorph and an editorial assistant at Sugared WaterOnce upon a time she worked nights at The New Yorker. Find her online at EKristinAnderson.com and on twitter at @ek_anderson.

Honey by Leonora Desar

After my husband died I started drinking coffee. I drank it before but I never liked it, not that much, his death kicked something in me. It’s as if it turned on a secret gene, a gene for liking coffee. I drank it. Then I went out and got some more. There’s this place, like Trader Joe’s, you stand in line and the guy makes you the coffee. He stands behind the counter and wears a shirt, Trader Joe’s. Maybe that’s the name of this place. I forget things. It doesn’t seem important. Like clothes, sometimes you want to put them on and sometimes it feels like too much. Like making the bed, you have to unmake it anyway, so why bother, make it, unmake it, doesn’t it give you such a headache?

I stand in line like that, at this place. Without a stitch. Some people look at me but most don’t, it’s just the way these things go. There are things on line, candles and aromatherapy and cigarettes, the people look at them and not at me. Sometimes they look at a breast and then a cigarette, they look like hey, which is better. Then they choose the cigarette.

I stand here and think about my coffee. It’s hard to stay awake these days. I am falling asleep right now. Some guy has to scoop me up and he tries not to cop a feel, especially with this whole Weinstein thing. He doesn’t want to end up on the cover of Page Six. He smells like alfalfa beans and Brussels sprouts, he has a beard and there’s some gray in it, hiding, I want to pull it with my hands and feel it, I want to pull all that gray out, I want to feel it with my hands.

There are aromatherapy infusions, in little candles, I guess that’s to counter the weight of the cigarettes. The cancer.

The line it goes and goes. It never stops, I think I’m about to get somewhere when we bend the other way. And it reminds me of a car, like on the freeway, I sit back and let myself enjoy it, the ride of it, the bending back and forth. A man catches me, he says woah, and I say woah, and we woah like that together. It sounds like woe woe woe or row row row your boat, my breasts are getting tired, they want to lie down awhile, and then one of them does, it lies down in some honey. It just curls up there. The nipple is long and droopy, it wants someone to suck on it, a person or even a kitten, that will do.

One walks by. There is some white on it, it looks like a little hat, like something my son would wear, if we had one. The cat stops and sniffs. Then he walks away.


 

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Leonora Desar’s writing has appeared or is forthcoming in River Styx, Passages North, Black Warrior Review Online, Mid-American Review, SmokeLong Quarterly, Wigleaf, Quarter After Eight, and elsewhere. She won third place in River Styx’s microfiction contest and was a runner-up/finalist in Quarter After Eight’s Robert J. DeMott Short Prose contest, judged by Stuart Dybek. She was recently nominated for the Pushcart Prize, is a three-time nominee for Best Small Fictions 2019, and has three stories forthcoming in the Best Microfiction anthology.