Sea Shanties by Alicia Bones


Couple years ago, I bought a boiled crab off a man on the pier. I’d just started eating it when someone shouted, “Jerry’s fighting Bob!” Jesus, someone! I thought. Give me a frickin’ minute with this crab! All that talk about Jerry made me want to tell the sadsack story of my husband Jerry to the old woman next to me, but God knows I’ve never been married. I’m thinking about finding a salty fishwife to be my betrothed, but truly, I’m not sure I’ll ever be ready to take a lover.


Not too long ago I see a man riding an inflatable raft on a big wave, and not the good kind of raft, see, he’s only got the pink polka dot kind you’d use in a public pool. Nobody from the city takes things seriously. He’s having trouble, and soon that big wave eats him up, galumph. After that, I hear the drowned man yell from inside a whale, swear to Jesus. Hear him holler through blubber and baleen. But I’m not one-hundred percent positive about that. I get disoriented when the sea starts crashing, and I can’t stop dreaming that it will decide to take me too.


My mother shat me out in a desert, but I came out of the sea at one point or another, same as anyone. First time I went to the ocean, Mom bought me an oyster that I upchucked right back up. Eating that oyster felt like I was eating myself. Isn’t it Twilight Zone how your face becomes less like ooze and more like face every year? That’s one of life’s terrible tragedies, in my opinion.


My grandfather lived in a condo for seniors in Ocean Shores, Wash. We had to drive forever to get there, and Granddad just watched duck hunting programs even when we were around. Once, I drew a nasty picture of Granddad with slits for eyes and slits for a nose and a slit for a mouth, held it up to him, and said, “Guess who this is?” Granddad’s dead now, but I always loved his neighborhood full of gulls that squawked like they were drowned. My mother thinks my fascination with gulls is unnatural, but it’s hard not to obsess over things that are like you.


Once, bobbing along near the beach, I saw a dead body, all bloated and white, like a crash dummy or a cartoon mermaid. I wondered if the body was Jerry or the whale man or my grandfather. It might have been all three at once; the sea has different rules than we do on land. I wish that body had been mine. I want the sea to take me back, turn me back into ooze. I’m not sure what I did to upset her. I suspect she’ll be the only woman I’ll ever love.

Alicia Bones finished her MFA at the University of Montana in 2016. Her work has been published in Meat for Tea, Fairy Tale Review, Queen Mob’s Teahouse, Necessary Fiction, Entropy, Qu Literary Journal, and Maudlin House. She lives in Tacoma, Washington.

1 Comment on Sea Shanties by Alicia Bones

  1. Very Fine Writing by Alicia


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