This is April Jones sitting in a circle of tipsy kids, next to Becca, the best swimmer on their team. This is Becca: radiant, loud, loves documentaries, spends her babysitting money on CDs for the team’s long bus rides. This is April who swims in the last lane with kids whose bodies aren’t assembled right for, as Coach likes to say, slicing through the water like a knife through the belly of a fish.
This is April Jones wishing her whole team wasn’t watching. This is Becca drunk on schnapps, smiling at cheering boys, pressing her lips to April’s, swirling her sour tongue inside April’s mouth. Living out in the boonies like they do, all the kids have seen a fish gutted. Or held the knife. They know it’s not a clean slice, but a struggle, cracking through scales and cartilage before the stinking mess spills out.
This is April Jones standing in the snow without her parka, sucking deep breaths of cold air because Coach says, when a muscle aches, you ice it down.
Notes from Guest Reader Sherrie Flick
I selected this story years ago when I was guest editor for SLQ. As I read through the slush it popped up like a plastic tub toy–fresh and shiny and new. What I like most is the succinct characterization. We come to know April Jones and Becca almost immediately and we understand the world where they both live: ‘Living out in the boonies like they do, all the kids have seen a fish gutted. Or held the knife. They know it’s not a clean slice, but a struggle…’ And it’s with this knowledge of the fish and its guts that we come to know the tension of the story, the resistance–the struggle to be April and Becca, surrounded by water, immersed, in it. But this is really a story about April and that last zing of a paragraph brings it all home–away from the heat of summer and fishing to standing in snow and sucking in heartache.