Flash Fiction: Lifeline, by Marie Gethins

boats-on-the-shoreShrimp hearts are located inside their heads, behind the brains. A breeze blows my hair, strands snag on my outlandish nose. Nathan is negotiating on the docks. He turns to give me the thumbs up. On average, people have eighteen inches between their heart and brain. When Nathan lugs the bucket over to the pickup, he’ll whisper ‘Score!’ I’m a vegetarian. To swim, shrimp do a super crunch series pulling the torax and abdomen together. This motion sends them backwards. In the early days, Nathan would have bought their fleshy pink coils – shelled and pre-cooked – from the fresh-frozen section. An unwitnessed transformation from aquatic life to his consumption. Now, I lick salt off my lips, savour the sea. Shrimp are loners, out in the big blue, coming together to mate. Nathan is still bargaining. The rubber-booted shrimper shakes his head, draws on a cigarette, exhales towards ripples and a white horizon. The average human heart is the size of a fist. I lean on the tailgate and try to look away, but those grey bodies keep calling me back. Twitchy antenna, black-ball eyes, ten legs flailing in the air. In texts, Nathan’s homeboys call me ‘The Shrimp.’ I’m 5’10”. Took me awhile to get it – great body, too bad about the face. My heart rattles against my ribcage. Pound and bounce. Pound and bounce. It can’t escape upward. Nathan is twenty feet away, peeling off a few green bills. I rub my stomach. Deep inside there’s a tiny pulse, a rose-curl body floating – head-to-chest – about to lose its tail. He reaches for the bucket, but I’m already there. One push sends a pearly cascade off the dock. When the foam settles, they are gone.

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Marie Geth­ins won/placed in the Dorset Fiction Award, The Short Story, Words by Water, Tethered by Letters, Stroud Book Award, The New Writer, and Prick of the Spindle. Also listed in The London Magazine, Australian Book Review, Bridport, Bath, Bristol, Brighton, Fish Short Story/Flash/Memoir, and others. She is an editor for the Irish flash ezine Splonk. 


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