Their Eyes Were Watching Cod by Kylie Grant
It was not a king, queen or media mogul who ate the last cod. It was a senator’s aide from New
England, a fair haired woman who as a child was frightened by the endlessness of the ocean, and
so had not eaten anything from it until the piece of flaky, bony fish had made its way down her
throat. This is the last piece of cod ever, she had thought. There are no more swimming urgently
in the sea, fucking and fleeing. There are no more crammed in farms, in tins sat on dusty
supermarket shelves, or lying flat in ice at markets being sold off by rasping men and indifferent
wives, and there are certainly no more carefully sealed in vacuum packs, their eyes looking out
on the world. There are simply no more.
It was the senator who made her eat it. He claimed he would fire her if she didn’t take just one
small bite and swallow. She thought of all the girls who wanted to be his aide so bad that she
regularly received death threats in the mail, and even once had eggs thrown at her. She
remembered that perfect yellow yolk dribbling down her neck and quickly put the fish in her
mouth, then let it sit on her tongue for a few seconds before she chewed. Now you will know
what it is like to know the end of things, he had said, now you will have freedom.
It did not feel like freedom to her. She began to feel faint and have panic attacks at the most
inconvenient times. She could no longer make love. She could no longer taste anything.
She went to spend Thanksgiving in Bath, New England with her grandparents in the house she
grew up in. Her room still smelt of rain and wood. Photographs of her as a child still lined the
walls, and her globe still sat on her desk, but it did not feel like she was home. She felt restless,
felt unsure of herself. Her grandfather took her to her favourite place, a covered bridge that
hung low over the river. They sat and smoked, her grandfather watching the tendrils of smoke
coming from his granddaughter’s nose. How long her breaths are, he thought. She told him that
she had eaten the last cod, that she had eradicated a species, that she had literally eaten death
itself. He watched as her hands began to shake and tears fall down her cheeks, he watched as
she closed her eyes and jumped.
Her grandfather watched on as she swam in the cold water, diving down into the dark to find
repentance. Who was he to tell her that this was never to be found, not in the depths of a river,
or even in the weightless sky that lay bare for them to see?
Kylie Grant has previously been published in the National Flash Fiction Day anthology (Jawbreakers), and have a story forthcoming in the For Books’ Sake and London Roller Girls anthology.
© 2013, Metazen.