The Fisher Queen fished her parents out of the sea one evening. The waves were flat as paint, stretching out toward the horizon. Dead fish curled drying on the sand, scenting the air. It was the dog days of summer, windless. Far out past the sand bar, the sea shaded green, then brown.
She felt one of them lip the bait and the tender fumbling as they pushed it back and forth, mouthing it in inquiry. Then they both struck on the double hook, a rush as sudden as a punch, and the tip of the pole dipped in acquiescence to the water.
She pulled them in using long slow pulls, bringing the rod’s tip back towards her shoulder, reeling in swiftly as it lowered again towards the horizon.
She remembered scraps of childhood as she reeled. Hanging upside from the jungle gym, feeling her head throb with onrushing blood while a cat stalked by in the unmown grass, tail high and stiff. Sneaking off to be with a boyfriend for the weekend, her mother finding out, shouting at her. College graduation, their heads among the crowd. Calling her in her first apartment to make sure she was okay, didn’t need anything. Her father’s funeral, her mother’s only a few weeks later, like a swan than has lost its mate, and so lies down to die.
Now they were fish, as long and muscular as sharks, but toothless, living on plankton and the spawn of crustaceans. Now they thought slower, deeper thoughts than when they were human, and if they included thoughts of the Fisher Queen, they betrayed no sign of it.
She waded hip deep into the tepid water, holding a North Carolina summer’s heat still here in the final days of the season. The fish came to her, floated alongside her legs. She bent to each one in turn to coax away the hook piercing their lips. But free, the fish remained there, their scaly sides rasping along her legs. They were all muscle – she could feel it when they flexed a tail in over to stay in place.
She rested her fingers on their brows and let them move in tiny, hypnotic circles. The fish floated in the water. She could see their great golden eyes underneath the surface, staring up at her.