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The Lesson

by Ana Pugatch


It was a clean catch—no games

this time. My uncle held down

the thrashing bass for us to see:


never had I beheld anything

so full of life. “She’s still a girl,”

he explained. “Young and small.


She might change into a boy fish

this year.” His grin turned into

a frown as he tightened


his hold; the sharp spines

of her headdress had cut open

his fingers. Her red gills pumped


furiously, her scales throwing off

the sun. She looked past us,

at nothing, her lips mutilated


from the pull. In a few moments

she’d be dead: flesh splayed,

her regal head tossed in the sand.


The greenheads would gather

on the saucers of her eyes—

they would eat with us that night.