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Seahorses

By Wes Lee

She couldn't remember the seahorses’ eyes. She had a vague memory of how miniscule they were, but when she tried to remember them it was like their eyes had been blotted out.

She remembered Baldrick’s eye—the huge carp was wedged so tightly between the glass panels he couldn't turn around. The one eye that faced her had slowly rolled toward her in its socket, appraising her from the muted gloom of his tank.

"He knows," her husband Peter had said.

"He knows what?"

"He knows what kind of people we are."

She’d heard the catch in his throat. When she'd turned to him she’d seen tears in his eyes.

"What kind of people are we?"

She’d suddenly felt scared of what he was going to say.

"Good people."

He’d taken her hand and squeezed it as they’d both watched Baldrick tread water. The huge fish hadn't moved away. He'd kept watching them. It did seem like he'd picked them out of the crowd, like they were somehow special. Blessed. There had been other people moving around them, walking past in the aisle, but his eye had never left them. It seemed like he knew them; that he could see through to some core of their being; that he was seeing goodness and was drawn toward it. It had been a nice moment, Peter squeezing her hand like that, the feeling of togetherness, the strange triumvirate of herself, Peter, and Baldrick.

They had gone to the pet store to buy a goldfish. It had been an idea that had sailed out of nowhere. They had never owned a pet together. She had never even been in a pet shop before. The idea had arrived like a piece of music, playing in the background on low volume until its familiar hum had seemed natural. Until they'd both wanted something to take care of. Something easy, like a fish.

The seahorses had attracted them at first. They were so exotic; a pair that mated for life. They'd had a solemnity about them, traveling together around the large tank like swans in a mating dance; a slow regal parade of identical gestures. They’d curled their tails around each other, tenderly, lovingly, then slowly ascended, the male enlarging his belly, splaying out, opening himself up for the female, showing her that he was empty—his signal to mate. As they'd risen toward the garish fluorescent strip that made the color of the weeds so alien, they had seemed to shimmer for a moment.

Had she looked at their eyes? She must have looked then, when they had both stared fascinated by the haunting symmetry of that intricate dance. She remembered now the jolt in her heart as she had leant in closer to the tank.

She remembered quickly turning away.

"I can't imagine owning seahorses…waking up one morning and finding them dead," she’d told Peter.

"It would be much worse than finding a fish floating," he’d said.

She imagined a small, unformed body spiraling out into the darkness, drifting down onto the sand. Settling. Receding. Moving away from them both in another kind of graceful dance.

Saying goodbye.

Their eyes had been too human, tiny versions that contained the vast reaches, the infinite spaces of the human eye.


Originally from the UK, Wes Lee currently resides in New Zealand. She directed her black comedy, "Woman with a Weapon" at the Maidment theater in Auckland. Her writing has appeared in various online and print publications: Stamp, Trout, PopMatters, Snorkel, Pleasures & Dangers, Turbine, Thieves Jargon, Blowback Magazine, Mannequin Envy, Misanthropists Anonymous and BuzzWords. She was an award-winner in the NZSA National Short Story contest. She has work forthcoming in The Ugly Tree, Libbon and Opium Magazine.

Photo "Carp In Water" courtesy of Marlon Bruin, Den Burg, Netherlands.

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