They Lived Again

by Christina Thatcher

In his young life he gut fish for family. Sliced their silvery gills, spread their freckled skin, and cracked their fragile spines. He did it by the sea. Threw the entrails to the gulls and sucked the sea salt air with gulping sounds until his lungs pressed against the rest of him. Then he’d amble, flat-footed, back to his home in the village, stinking like the shore. The windows, warm lit, swelled with the thick scent of dough and flour. He was welcomed with shoulder pats and hair rustling, before his fish were crumbed and thrown into the pan: Pescado Frito with love.

She spent her youth harvesting cork from the cork tree forests of Cádiz. Stripped thick sections by machete, opened them up like hearts, and peeled them off by hand. Her fingers left the inner skin to nourish the tree she left behind. Then she’d walk, leaving her harvest to weather, back to her home in the village. She’d wipe her ripe rough hands on her linen dress, bare legs sweating in the sun. While others sang deep forest songs and laughed the bonded laughs of harvesters: Quercus Suber in friendship.

They lived again in Madrid years later. Passed each other, day by day, faces forward on The Gran Via. She didn’t smell the stench of fish on him. He didn’t notice any corked calluses. They simply walked alone, gray streets thudding under morning feet.

Their hands were quiet; no sea or earth hung on them.

It was said, in the villages, they had made something of themselves.

Christina Thatcher holds an MA in Creative Writing from Cardiff University. Her non-compressed poetry has recently been published in The London Magazine, the Neon Literary Magazine, and Inkspill. She is currently working on her first collection of short stories and attempting to order her latest poems into a respectable chapbook. Follow Christina @writetoempower.

There is, to this reader, a fable-like quality to this piece, and there also, in general, is (to this reader) a strong connection between the fable and compressed fiction. How do you see the “fable” or fabulist fiction influencing this piece in particular and your work in general? I suppose this piece, like much of my other work, could be considered a modern fable. It acts as a compressed morality tale which highlights, in a small but I hope significant way, the consequences of living a simple life versus living the life that is expected of us.


Check out the write-up of the journal in The Writer.

Matter Press recently released titles from Meg Boscov, Abby Frucht, Robert McBrearty, Tori Bond, Kathy Fish, and Christopher Allen. Click here.

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Poetry, creative nonfiction, and fiction/prose poetry submissions are now closed. The reading period for standard submissions opens again March 15, 2023. Submit here.


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