The Fish by Shya Scanlon


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The Fish by Shya Scanlon


Shya sat in the cab of his brother-in-law’s idling pickup and eyed his small house set back behind twin rhododendrons. The rhodies were going through a rare second bloom, and Shya had taken it as a good sign until his neighbor Barry told him it only happened when the plants were under considerable stress. “What do plants have to be stressed out about?” Shya had said. Barry had only shaken his head, let down once again by the impoverished spirit of our times. Now Shya couldn’t wait for the last white flower to fall. What a terrible thing it was, he thought, to anticipate the death of beauty. He’d been feeling dramatic lately. In fact, Doug had brought him fishing that morning to help him “shake that funk,” as though depression were a dance floor.
     Doug pressed down the parking brake, and sat hunched over his chocolate pudding cup, working his finger around the bottom. Shya was almost certain Doug had not washed his hands since cleaning the trout. He looked away: someone had mown the lawn while they were gone, he noticed. This was Shya’s job. It was strange, he thought, how the fewer responsibilities one had, the harder it was to get around to them. The fish he’d caught was curled like a comma in the bottom of a faded red bucket by his feet. He peered down between his legs.
     “The real Fisherman’s Dilemma,” Doug said, “happens when you get home. After communing with the wild, do you really want to re-enter your life?” He tossed the empty pudding cup to the floor and sucked his brown, fishy finger.
     “I’m just exhausted,” Shya said, opening the door.
     “Don’t forget your catch.”
     Shya grabbed the bucket, careful not to slosh the water, and closed the door behind him, then watched Doug accelerate back onto the road and blow bits of gravel against the mailbox with his spinning tires. It was late afternoon; Doug had picked him up at three AM, and they’d hiked an hour to get to Doug’s secret fishing hole on Scituate Reservoir—“secret” in this case meaning illegal. As long as he didn’t move them, Shya’s legs just felt strangely warm. If he moved them they hurt. Shya would have exactly no trouble re-entering his life.
     As he walked toward the house, he heard the sharp, abrupt barks of Brenda Sue, the small black terrier they’d adopted at the beginning of the summer. Brenda Sue was, as they’d begun saying apologetically at the dog park, eyes lowered, “very vocal.” Then another bark, too, accompanied Brenda’s, and for a moment Shya thought Dora, his wife, had rescued another dog. He felt a fury rise within him, but before it took shape he realized that it wasn’t a dog barking at all. It was Dora.
     “Good girl,” she said, and let out her own loud yip.
     Brenda Sue followed suit.
     Shya opened the door and looked at Dora with a mixture of relief and concern.
     “Watch this,” she said. “Bark, Bren! Bark! Yip, yip, yip, yip!”
     Brenda Sue, momentarily distracted by the powerful smell of fish, turned her head toward Dora but kept her eyes trained on the bucket. She barked.
     “Good girl! Good bark!”
     “I thought she already knew how to bark,” Shya said.
     “I’m teaching her when to bark, so I can teach her when not to bark,” Dora explained. “It’s a technique I read about online.”
     Shya looked at Brenda Sue. She was sitting very still in the way she only sat when expecting to be fed. She let out another bark for good measure.
     “Let’s not forget about the second part of the training,” Shya said, and went to the kitchen in the back of the house.
     “You’ll see,” Dora called after him. “You must have faith in the counterintuitive!”
     Following Doug’s instructions, Shya spread some newspaper on the counter, laying the fish down on top of a Best-of-Providence article for incoming students. It was a rainbow trout, but the iridescent greens and pinks that gave the fish its name had already begun to fade. Shya poured the fish water into the sink, and Brenda Sue trotted into the kitchen and sat at his feet.
     “Dora,” he called, “do you remember what the Fisherman’s Dilemma is?”
     She popped her head in from the hall. “The Fisherman’s what?”
     “Is it ‘Fish or cut bait’?”
     “That’s what I keep thinking too,” Shya said. “But I’m pretty sure that’s a Far Side comic.”
     “Oh my God, I love the Far Side.”
     “I’ll just look it up online.”
     “Internet’s down,” Dora said, then disappeared down the hall.
     Shya bent to give Brenda a pat, then changed his mind, remembering his hands were still slick with fish.
     “You’d like that, wouldn’t you,” he said.
     He returned to his trout, folded it between the Best Head Shops and the Best Cheap Eats, and put it in the fridge.
     “Who mowed the lawn?” he shouted, not knowing where Dora was.
     “Barry!” she shouted back. “Wasn’t that nice?”
     Clearly, Barry now thought Shya incapable of plant care at even the most basic level. He washed his hands, then took out his wallet. It was empty. He found Dora’s purse in the living room, stole a ten dollar bill, then found a piece of paper and an envelope and wrote a little note: Thanks for doing the lawn, Barry. Any good with gutters? He read it over a couple times, then scribbled over the second line before folding both it and the cash into the envelope.
     Shya walked over to Barry’s house and dropped the letter in his mailbox, then hurried back, realizing he’d left the door open. Sure enough, Brenda Sue was standing halfway out, sniffing around at freedom. They hadn’t had her long enough to trust her off-leash, and Dora would leave him if the dog went missing on his watch.
     “Woof,” Shya said. “I mean, bark!”
     The dog looked up at him, sniffed.
     “I think it’s working!” he called into the darkening house.

Dora flipped through a cookbook while Shya studied the trout which, by eight o’clock, was primarily shades of gray. They’d looked up “trout” in the index, but it went straight from “tripe” to “tuna,” so they’d taken to discussing which fish it most resembled. Shya said it looked like salmon, because of the color, but Dora was sure they’d be better off following a recipe for another freshwater fish. This was fine with Shya, who was at this point primarily interested in gently petting the trout’s delicate scales. Amazingly, between the two of them, they couldn’t think of another freshwater fish.
     “This is ridiculous,” Dora said, putting the backside of her wrist against her forehead. “There are millions of freshwater fish.”
     “Maybe we’re experiencing some glitch in the space time continuum,” said Shya.
     In June, Shya had received a Master’s degree in printmaking, making him now officially useless in most practical matters. He’d made himself a t-shirt that said “Don’t ask me, I have an MFA,” and wore it nonstop until Dora confided in him that it wasn’t funny, it was just sad.
     “I’m calling my brother,” said Dora.
     Dora had moved to Providence while Shya was in school, and halfway through his arts degree had been accepted into a Masters program in Geology. This led to another kind of impracticality altogether, one ironically rooted in a kind of hyper-contextuality. All of a sudden, she’d begun to say things like, “In five million years, this conversation won’t matter,” and lose her keys.
     Shya dragged his fingers from head to tail—around thirteen inches—and back up, the scales slimy but catching slightly on the ridges of his fingertips all the same. He wondered how old the fish was. Was it male or female? He looked at Dora’s flat stomach. Shya still wasn’t used to the fact that she was pregnant.
     He watched her pace around the room as she always did when on the phone. She was slender, and had an ex-dancer’s grace. He had trouble considering her “with child,” because, he supposed, she wasn’t showing yet, and her behavior hadn’t changed, though perhaps she ate more and drank less. Still, she drank. She was seeing a holistic doctor—“the Hippy,” she called him—who was a big advocate of moderation. He’d actually said “A drink isn’t going to kill it,” during their first visit. Shya had looked to Dora before reacting, half-thinking she’d be disgusted. But she’d only nodded gravely, and jotted it down in her notebook. Later, the word “it” had echoed through Shya’s head on the way home, along with images of elaborate medical equipment, but he’d only asked, “Are you sure you like this guy?” Dora, driving, had slowed down for a stoplight and said, “What, you don’t like moderation?”
     Shya turned the fish over, and in the process got a good look at the dark pink flesh inside. Its semi-transparency made him think of those polished, semi-precious stones you can buy in bins at truck stops throughout the Southwest, and he considered telling Dora this, but decided to keep it to himself. It was his semi-precious fish flesh, and he didn’t want Dora to lose it in geological context.
     “Congratulations,” she said, “Doug says we’re supposed to cook it like Salmon.”
     She stood beside Shya, leaning on him gently. She’d never been too close with her brother, who was 40 now, older by six years. He was always in and out of trouble, in and out of marriage. But when he offered to drop everything and move to Providence to “help with the baby,” Shya could tell she’d been thrilled. He’d been here for little more than two weeks now, and he was already helping them cook.
     “You know what?” Shya said. “I don’t feel like fish.”
     He rolled the fish back up in the newspaper and returned it to its shelf in the fridge, then closed the door and stood against it, looking defiantly into Dora’s bewildered face. Then, before she could say a word, he turned back around, got the fish out and put it in the freezer.
     Dora looked at him kindly, as if she understood his motivation more than he did. As if she sympathized. She reached out and gave his arm a light squeeze.
     “Are you sure we should freeze it, honey?”
     Shya grinned largely. “Big mouth bass!” he said.
     Dora frowned.
     “Isn’t that freshwater?”

Dora left for class early in the morning after walking Brenda Sue. The dog served as Shya’s alarm clock most days, jumping into bed after her walk and licking his face until he threw back the covers, and this morning she did, and this morning he did, and coffee was already brewed. Shya shuffled to the kitchen. It was still somewhat novel, this student life, though it had been more than two years and he was no longer technically a student. But because Dora had gone back to school too, the household maintained that air of academia: textbooks lying around, graded papers, chores ignored. On the counter beside the coffee maker was a note Dora had left: Don’t forget to call about the Internet.
     Shya took a mug and the coffee pot with him into the back yard, where there was a small tool shed he’d emptied out and had been using as a studio over the summer. He had another month before it would become too cold for him to work in there, so he’d promised himself to make as much use of that time as possible, since he didn’t have adequate space in the house, and as a consequence, he probably wouldn’t get much work done until spring. When the baby would be born.
     Shya entered the shed, poured himself a cup of coffee, and stood before the matrix he was working on. He’d been working in linoleum, because of the precision and clarity of line the material allowed, and the image before him was of a baseball field, little league really. The field itself was done in painstaking detail, work that had caused his hand to cramp and swell, and the parents in the audience displayed the minor tragedies and tensions each brought with them to the game. One couple in particular interested him: they sat apart from most of the other families, as though strangers to the scene. At first, Shya had suspected them of having no child on the field. He realized as the scene developed, however, that they were the parents of the entire work’s focus: a young boy in left field with his glove open in front of his face. Shya was stuck on a couple of places, and the child’s face was one of them. The ball was in the air, clearly coming down toward the kid, but was he ready? He kept looking to the parents for guidance, but they just sat there and stared, impregnable. He wanted to leave the face blank, uncut, but the longer he left it without expression, the more he felt obliged to choose one. He blew across the surface of his coffee, and watched ripples on the surface form and disperse.
     Throughout college, Shya assumed he’d enter a graduate painting program—painting had been his medium since third grade, when a pretty substitute teacher had given his self-portrait a gold star—but in the years after college his work had grown strange, dimensional, often involving more collage than brushstroke. When he finally felt ready to re-enter school, it was the printmaking programs that spoke to him. They generally had a far more open attitude toward medium and end products, and likewise attracted artists similarly innovative and interested in experimentation. Shya had felt that without constraints, he’d expand. He’d mature.
     As he’d increasingly been doing when stumped by his work, Shya shifted his attention to a small stack of canvasses in the corner of the room. They were still-lifes. Oil. He picked up the top one, a shovel, and looked at it admiringly. Others beneath it included a hoe, a bag of fertilizer, three lawn darts, and a broken folding chair. These he’d done in private; he’d never shown them to anyone. He’d considered giving one to Dora for her birthday in August—she understood the value of artifacts—but imagined that she’d want to put it on the wall, so decided against the idea. He didn’t want it to be seen by those classmates who, like him, had remained in town after graduating. Why was he doing mimesis? Why backtrack? He didn’t want to have that conversation.
     Brenda began to vocalize maniacally in the yard, and Shya put the paintings down and left the shed. Doug was on the other side of the fence leading to the front yard, laughing and shaking his head.
     “She sure is a scrappy little bitch,” he said.
     “Sorry,” said Shya. “It’s not like she doesn’t know you.”
     “Hey, it’s better than the opposite. I knew a dog once who, well, nevermind.”
     Shya pulled Brenda back from the gate. “What,” he said.
     Doug crept in, giving her a wide berth. He chuckled. “Aw, hell. I was going to say a dog that saw someone breaking into its house, and just went over and started licking his hand.”
     “But what.”
     “Well, I was the burglar.”
     Doug knelt down for Brenda, who’d rolled over on her back to let Doug scratch her belly. “In the end,” he said, “I didn’t have the heart to finish the job. Anyone who treats a dog so good she loves all people deserves more than that.”
     Shya considered this. “Want some coffee?”
     Doug didn’t work, and he had a little money left over from something he spoke about only in abstract terms, so he’d been showing up nearly every day. Perhaps because he’d always choose a different time, it always took Shya by surprise, though he couldn’t say he minded the interruptions. Doug was a calm and deliberate man. All big picture.
     “No thanks,” he said.
     They stood for a moment, Shya looking through his shed’s open door, Doug looking down at the grass, Brenda running around them in circles.
     “I heard you were having trouble with your catch,” Doug said.
     “Jeez, Dora told you that?”
     “Look,” Doug said, “it’s no big deal.”
     “No, it isn’t. I don’t know why she’d say anything.”
     “It happens to a lot of people.”
     “Wait a second. What exactly is ‘it’ here? We were going to eat the fish, then we didn’t eat the fish.”
     Doug smiled too broadly, like his sister did sometimes, and stuffed his hands into his pockets. “I want to share something with you,” he said.
     “Okay, but I’m going to get more coffee. Sure you don’t want some?”
     Shya ducked into the shed again and stole a glance at his faceless child while refilling his mug. Doug didn’t wait until Shya had come back out before starting, so his voice was raised, and seemed amplified even further by the thin wooden walls.
     “I joined an online dating service,” Doug said, “called Positive Singles.”
     It occurred to Shya that he might simply be scared to have the child catch the ball. What kind of message would it send? Was he the kind of artist that sought to capture such a plain moment of success?
     “Okay,” Shya said.
     He tried to envision the print complete, a simple, happy boy catching a ball, and his heart sank.
     “It’s an outfit for people with STDs.”
     Shya heard this, but he didn’t quite understand at first. He looked at the parents for comfort. There they were, the work’s sole element of pathos, stolidly protecting it against imminent melodrama. Was it possible they permitted him to let the boy catch the ball? Perhaps he was wrong about the subject of the scene. He left the shed.
     “With what?”
     “Sexually Transmitted Disease,” Doug said.
     “I heard you.”
     “But here’s the thing…”
     “What do you have?”
     “Here’s the thing: I don’t have an STD.”
     Sunlight was pooling in the lawn at their feet, but a large oak shaded their faces. Shya looked up at the turning leaves.
     “You should see these women,” Doug continued. “A lot of them are knock-outs. But there’s also this amazing damaged quality to them. They’re hurt, and they’ve lost faith in themselves. It makes them more beautiful, but it also means they’re seeking something absolutely vital in a relationship: trust. I’m betting that any dating situation with any one of them is going to be deeper than average right out of the gate.”
     “So you’re, what, lying to them?”
     “I’m not being entirely forthright.”
     “What happens if you really fall in love with one of these women?”
     “I’ll let myself contract her STD. As a sign of commitment.”
     “A sign to whom?”
     “To myself.”
     Dora would not approve of this, Shya thought. He looked at Doug, trying to determine what he’d hoped to convey with this story. It would do no good, he knew, to ask him directly. Doug liked to play the sage, letting those around him try to solve the anecdotal koans he’d utter at unlikely times. Not too long ago, Shya and Dora had been kept up late trying to decipher a line he’d spoken at dinner after witnessing a tense exchange about whose turn it was to do the dishes. “When I was in the service,” he’d said, “I used to gamble my checks back and forth with another soldier. Private Webber was his name. We didn’t have anything to spend the money on, so we’d just gamble these checks, back and forth, back and forth. Sometimes he’d be up, and sometimes I would.” “So,” they said, “What happened?” Doug had only shrugged. “He fell out of a truck and broke his neck during a training exercise, and later that month I was deployed.”
     “Hey,” Doug said, “speaking of Positive Singles, can I use your computer? I want to check my profile.”
     “Internet’s down.”
     “Damn. I’m still waiting for those bastards to come hook me up. Doesn’t it make you feel isolated?”
     “I guess.”
     “Well, I’m off to the library then. If you need anything, give me a call, okay?”
     Shya nodded, and watched Doug pass through the gate. He walked back to his studio and looked again at the child in left field. He looked not only alone out there, but a little stupid. Glove in front of his face like that. There was no way he was going to catch the ball, Shya thought. He wasn’t even looking!

That evening, Dora came home just minutes before the midwife showed up at their door. She’d been kept late by a professor who must have had similar suspicions about units of time lesser than the eon, and as a result was slightly cranky, quite hungry, and overheated. Shya had forgotten about the midwife. He put the dog in the backyard, and took a seat in the living room as Dora let her in. He was having a beer, and felt slightly uneasy about drinking in front of this person. Hopefully, he thought, Dora wouldn’t join him.
     It was their second interview. The first one, a young woman with strong hands and fierce, darting eyes, had shown up late and twice answered her cell phone during their meeting—a bad sign, thought Dora. Shya had agreed, rubbing his hand as they watched her ride off on a small green moped, helmetless.
     Dora led a smiling Hindu woman into the room, and as Shya stood to shake her hand he looked directly at the bindi between her eyes. It was a dark pink jewel beneath a wisp of metal that resembled a snake or dragon. Her name was Aruni. He liked her immediately.
     After offering Aruni a glass of water, which she refused, Dora got right to the questions. She wanted to know how long she’d been practicing (six years), whether she was certified as a nurse (no), and if not, whether she had a working relationship with one (she knew a good obstetrician). She wanted to know whether her religion had any impact on her practice (only in positive ways). As she asked questions and took notes about Aruni’s answers, Dora kept looking over at Shya and bulging her eyes. After the third time, Shya put his beer down by the side of his chair, but she continued to do it until the soft-spoken woman left.
     They both stood at the door and watched Aruni climb into the passenger seat of a minivan driven, if the long colorful wraps were any indication, by a woman more traditional than herself. Then Dora stormed inside.
     “She’s not the one,” she said, “and you’re an asshole.”
     “Dor,” Shya said, closing the door, “I’m sorry, I didn’t know what you were trying to… signal to me in there.”
     Dora had gone to the kitchen to let Brenda Sue back inside, and the little dog ran through the house, making sure it was all as she left it. She stood for a moment at Shya’s legs, sniffing his pants. Had he picked up any alien smells? Perhaps from Aruni, he thought. Aruni the alien.
     When he got to the kitchen, his wife was standing before the open fridge, eating a piece of string cheese with a thin pink line of hot sauce down the shaft.
     “I know that you can’t help me bring this baby to term, Shya. But gee, it sure would be great if you’d take an active interest.”
     “I’m sorry.”
     “You were supposed to prepare—”
     “Prepare some questions. Fuck, I know. I was going to do that today, but the Internet was down. Your brother stopped by this morning.”
     “When can they fix the Internet?”
     Shya watched Dora finish her cheese, then peel the plastic off another one.
     “I think I know what’s wrong,” he said. Most of the time, all you had to do was unplug the router for a minute and it would reset. Shya’s phone rang in the other room, but he remained motionless. It was not a good time to walk away.
     “You didn’t call the guys.”
     “I didn’t call the guys.”
     Dora turned her attention to the cheese, which she decorated with another thin pink stripe. She bit off the end. Then she opened the freezer, looked at the fish, sighing, and closed it again.
     “I’ll make the fish tomorrow,” Shya said. “I promise.”
     “Don’t promise,” Dora said. “Do. I’m ordering a pizza.”
     Shya walked down the hall for his phone, and took it back through the kitchen and into the yard. It was nearly dark out, and a light wind had picked up, bringing down leaves from their oak and a neighboring maple. The leaves spun down like paratroopers onto enemy soil. Shya picked one up and brought it into his studio.
     He put the leaf down among other potential still life subjects, flipped on the light, and stood before the baseball field while listening to his voicemail. It was his mother.
     “Sorry I missed you, Shya,” she said. “I just had a nice chat with my friend Susan, and she asked me how you were, so I told her about all the great things you’ve been doing, and how you just got your Master’s degree, and that Dora is pregnant, and that I’m so proud of you, so I just wanted to call and say that I was thinking of you, and that I’m so proud of you and that I love you very much. So, yeah, that’s it! I hope you’re having a beautiful, New England autumn. Call me when you have a chance. Love to Dora. Bye bye.”
     Shya hung up the phone, and did something he’d never considered before. He imagined his own face on the child in left field, behind the glove. It seemed like an embarrassingly obvious thing to do, so embarrassing, in fact, that his cheeks flushed right there in the shed. It would be nearly impossible, he knew, to avoid the facile symbolism and self-indulgence that recursive art always exemplified. Putting his own face in the piece would literally obliterate all the more nuanced readings the work might otherwise inspire. It would become, all of a sudden, about him, his life, his concrete problems and fears and psychological needs. It was the antithesis of everything he’d learned in grad school about what art can do when freed, as it should be, from the trappings of autobiography and direct reference. As a consequence it seemed self-destructive, irresponsible. His classmates would have hated it. It would not have survived workshop. The more he thought about it, however, the more difficult it became to seriously consider any other option.
     Shya looked into a mirror, and went to work.

The next morning, Shya found the note Dora had left for him the day before. She’d found it in the trash, uncrumpled it and returned it to its spot beside the coffee maker. Coffee had emphatically not been made. As he poured grounds into the machine, Shya imagined Dora deciding whether to make just enough coffee for herself, or to forgo coffee altogether until she’d left the house and could pick it up on the way to class. He was glad she hadn’t just made it for herself, because that would have seemed nasty. On the other hand, he knew how important it was to her to drink a cup before leaving the house, so really, what she’d done was probably worse. Now that they were going to have a child, of course, they could fight more. With a child in the foreground, the selfish horizon of divorce receded quickly into the distance.
     Shya and Dora knew a couple who’d had a kid in their early twenties. The child’s name was Charlie—actually, her name was Charlotte, but they called her Charlie—and she was eight now. The last time they’d seen them, the couple had explained how Charlie had begun to cut pictures out of magazines like Living of posed, happy families, and tape them to her bedroom walls. The girl knew, apparently, that the pictures were fake, that the people in them were models. She also didn’t admit to having any problem with her own family life, which was, as far as Shya and Dora could see, perfectly safe and comfortable. Both her parents were casual, smart, sane people. But it was obviously weird behavior. And it was clearly bothering the couple. They spoke about it in hushed tones over dinner, after Charlie had finished her food and disappeared into her room. They seemed both guilty and eerily suspicious of one another, as though the whole thing pointed to some secret mistreatment one of them wasn’t aware of. Over the course of the visit it had become pretty intense, and on the way home neither Dora nor Shya had spoken, both feeling lonely and scared.
     Shya crumpled back up the note and threw it away, then went into the study and unplugged the router. On his way back to the kitchen he noticed an envelope on the floor by the front door. It was the one he’d put in Barry’s mailbox. He opened it to find two five-dollar bills. Hadn’t he put a ten in there? He felt certain he had, but how strange it would be if Barry had swapped it for the fives. Maybe he’d needed the ten for something, Shya thought. He put the bills in his pocket. Or maybe he’d decided to take half the money, then decided at the last minute to return the whole amount. It was a mystery. No matter, though: two fives would do the trick.
     Shya stood in the kitchen and looked out the back window toward the shed. He thrilled a little at the thought of what he’d done there last night. He wanted to show someone, but he couldn’t think of whom. He could call one of his classmates, or better yet, maybe he should bring it to his former advisor, to gloat in his baffled stare. Brenda Sue chewed a piece of rawhide at his feet, her ass in the air as she crouched down to find the perfect angle. Shya poured himself some coffee and returned to the study.
     Not surprisingly, the Internet worked after being reset. He checked his email, and found that all day yesterday Dora had been sending him links to salmon recipes, with simple little notes like “This looks promising!” and “Should I pick up some dill on the way home?” He thought about Doug, and what he’d said about feeling isolated without the Internet. Is it still isolation if you don’t actually feel it? He looked up Positive Singles and searched for Doug’s name. He couldn’t see the entire profile without joining the site, but there was a picture of Doug he recognized. It was actually cropped from one Shya had a copy of: Dora and Doug were standing together on a beach in Tulum, Mexico. It was the trip they made together two years ago, a month or so after their parents had died in a car crash, killed by a drunk driver on their way home from the Spanish lessons they were taking in preparation for their own Mexico vacation.
     Under the picture was a brief “teaser” about Doug, amid various ads for herpes treatment options and prophylactics, and Shya read it once, then put his cup down and read it again. He heard Brenda Sue scurry through the house, barking at someone walking up the front steps.
     Lonely man seeking real love, it said.
     “Good girl!” Shya called out. “Good bark!”
     You can be smart, dumb, pretty, ugly, short or tall. I just ask that you be true, and accept me for who I am.
     The doorbell rang. The doorbell rang again, and Brenda Sue continued to bark, filling the house with sharp darts of sound. A Cardinal lighted on the small fence just outside the window, and Shya thought of Aruni. She was sitting in a stark white room, wrapped in purples and greens. Her hands lay folded on her lap, and her feet were bare. A long strand of jet black hair wandered around the front of her bosom like a river at night, and seemed to shift and flicker as she breathed. Her skin shone in the humidity. Her breathing quickened. Her eyes closed.

"The Fish" is from a collection of linked stories entitled Look No Further. More information about these stories, and Shya's other work, may be found at