Minnows by Stephen V. Ramey
We used to squat by the tub and scoop minnows from our bathwater by the dozens. Shelly liked to eat them whole, but I was strictly catch and release. She called it a cruel kindness to submit them to such treatment.
“You’re inflicting something much worse than digestion on those poor fish, Charlie.”
“And what might that be?”
Years later she asks if I remember that day.
Of course I remember. “You ate those fish and you told me how cruel it was to let them go.”
“Was I wrong? Did you do them any favors?”
The question makes me uncomfortable. I recall the minnows’ struggles as soap suds overcame them. Gills suck, torpedo bodies roll, ballast fails, spines arch. I feel their agony as they call out in that silent voice: It’s your fault, Charlie. Death is not painful, but hope? That hurts more than anything.
Shelly presses her hands to her stomach. “For all you know, Charlie, the fish I swallowed are still alive. Jonah and the whale in reverse.”
“It’s been years,” I say. “Do they even live this long?”
Shelly sinks onto her knees, tilts her chin. Her mouth opens wide. Her breath is dank.
Heart pounding, I lean in.
Robert Scotellaro has published short fiction and poetry in numerous print and online journals and anthologies. He is the author of six literary chapbooks, and another due out by White Knuckle Press (2014). His story “Fun House” is included in the forthcoming anthology Flash Fiction International by W.W. Norton. A collection of his flash fiction, Measuring the Distance, was published by Blue Light Press (2012). A full-length book of his micro fiction, Close As We Get Sometimes, is due out later this year. With Dale Wisely, he co-edits the online journal One Sentence Poems.