about the author

Kim Hagerich is a writer, English teacher, and intermittent bookmaker. Her stories have appeared in KYSO Flash, CutBank, and NANO Fiction. She won the 2015 Montana Prize in Fiction and the 5th Annual Gigantic Sequins Flash Fiction Contest.

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Kim Hagerich

There is a deboned catfish on the table and we are here to eat it. You say there is no such thing as a deboned fish because there are always a few bones left behind. Nonetheless, we have eaten from it. We have carved out the sides of its body leaving a spine, a gaping mouth, a crisp tail. It still has all its whiskers, sage-like. It is a primary character on our tabletop. It is even the hero of the story. Everything depends on the way we look at it and we take turns spinning it on its silver tray. We spin it like a bright light. We spin it like a shiny stopwatch. It is a method of interrogation. If one of us were to fail at speaking while looking the fish in its glassy eyes, the other would know we were keeping secrets. You excuse yourself to the bathroom and I am allowed a few minutes alone with the fish. I stick the tines of my fork in its mouth. I ask it to keep what I say between us but it has sharp teeth. It is judge of both of us and claims no allegiances. You return and take my hands into yours and I think maybe we can fight off the fish together. But I am hollowed out like the fish. My body has its own pierced logic, a tapestry of omissions. And you will not investigate this because you are degutted like the fish, stripped of bone. And I turn to you and I say, look at it. In it you will see parts of me, parts of you, but only parts. In its brittle, peeling state, the fish is a picture of a body which has ruined itself and we have ruined ourselves like the fish. You, fish, me—we are an amalgamation of scars. We are a piecing together and a breaking open. The fish was delivered to our table—we don’t know by whom—and we thought that it would feed us but there is always a price. It is a cursed fish and will only bring us harm. And now we are sick on the thought that we have taken the fish inside of us and it is affixing its flesh to our flesh, assimilating itself within our membranes. And I say, isn’t there a way we could put it back together? Find something soft like maraschino cherries to stick on the sharp ends of its ribs? And this is when you appear most brave to me because you have no answer. You know it can’t be done.

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