Winner of the winter 2017 TSS International Flash Fiction Competition
I was washing salad when he returned with a fresh fish wrapped in newspaper. He dumped it in the sink with the discarded lettuce leaves and tomato stalks. He unpicked his laces and kicked his boots towards the back door.
– Couldn’t you wait? I said.
I stood there with the colander in my hands, water dripping onto the floor and onto my bare toes. There was still a trace of pink polish on my right toenail. I put my other foot on top of it.
– It’s only a fish, he said. Out of the way and I’ll gut it.
He set to work with a sharp knife.
I put the colander on the table with a tea towel over it. I knew I would come back to blood in the sink.
I went and sat on the bed. I liked to sit in the middle of it when it was freshly made and look out of the window. There was a storm coming. When it rains I think of my father.
I heard him finish in the kitchen and I lay down and closed my eyes. I didn’t move when he came in. I heard him stop for a moment then the sound of leather drawing against his waist as he took off his belt. When I didn’t move he went out again. I heard the television.
Last night I wrote a letter to get all the thoughts out of my head. I tore it up and put it on the fire.
I wanted to sleep then, but instead I got up. He was still watching television. From the hallway I could see his legs stretched out and his feet resting on the coffee table. I went into the kitchen and switched on the grill. The fish was laid out on a plate. He’d taken the head off and there was a clean slit all the way down its belly. I cleaned up the sink, threw the head and guts into the bin. I sprayed everything, the sink, the taps, the surfaces, and wiped it all down.
The rain needled on the glass.
I finished the salad. I put chips into the oven and I grilled the fish until the skin blackened. I sliced the bread and buttered it. Outside the wind had got up. My swimsuit flapped on the line. I always swim in the morning, but today it was too rough. There was a man throwing stones into the sea. I wouldn’t have wanted him to go in after me. When I got home I ran the swimsuit under the outside tap and hung it on the line. I didn’t want to explain that I was afraid.
I took a knife and addressed the toenail, scraping at the speck of remaining polish. They had been hot pink for the whole two days that he’d been away, just because I liked it.
I put everything on the table, ready.
Ren Watson is a scientist and short fiction writer. Her work has appeared in various publications including Brittle Star, The Fiction Desk, Tears in the Fence and The Pygmy Giant. She lives in Manchester where she is working on a collection of short stories.