Uki Survives on Scraps from the Fish Market
Crushed ice glitters on her slap-pink hands like diamonds tossed onto a leg of ham. Twelve discarded fish heads, each stinking one wearing the cave-mouthed expression of someone who’s received unbearable news, will keep her going until tomorrow.
“Hey Tank’s, planning a dinner party!”
Her co-worker's laughter echoes off of crabs’ backs, ripples the dead eyes of Makeral, slides down her ship-broad shoulders in the same casual way that rotten eggs had slunk down the dirt on the outside of her bedroom window. Uki ate some raw Goose eggs once. Funny how somethings can leave you feeling so empty.
There’s a way of balancing a crate of Pacific herring high on your shoulders that makes you look like a Hollywood hero carrying a rescued child. Ivan, who drives one of the fish trucks, admires this look. He watches Uki hefting the day’s catch from one end of the warehouse to the other and thinks about what she might wear outside of work, and whether if he asked her she might go for dinner with him some time. He would like to get to know her better. He would like to buy her gifts and watch her down a tumbler of Bourbon. On a good day she’ll grunt dismissively in his direction. This sound vibrates up through his rubber boots, makes his bones feel brittle and his limbs dangerous lose.
During breaks the drivers, porters and gutters of fish stop for coffee or a cigarette. They don’t stand alone in the centre of the warehouse gazing at the wet floor watching the fluorescent lights make patterns like sea foam, never imagine smashing through the concrete to uncover a hidden ocean populated with plump seal pups.
The flaking emulsion in Uki’s apartment clings lightly to the walls, a swarm of ghostly butterflies who forgot to migrate. Lumbering from the kitchen to the living room, from the bedroom to the bathroom Uki knocks brittle fragments of ‘Winter’s Drift’ to the floor. Loosened bits of paint get broken into smaller and smaller pieces until they’re nothing but dust caught in the fibres of a balding beige carpet. The mildew in the bathroom has a firmer hold.
Undressing is a slow, uncomfortable process, an unpeeling, removal of a distasteful uniform. Uki’s human suit snags her thick white fur, leaves a bitter taste on her hot grey tongue.
© Anika Carpenter