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SmokeLong Quarterly

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Clouds, the Gills of Fish

Story by Myfanwy Collins (Read author interview) June 15, 2004

Polly captured a red squirrel by luring it into an old bird cage. First, she got the squirrel to trust her, letting it eat peanuts from her hand. Later she put nuts in the cage feeder and the squirrel entered and ate whatever it could get its mini hands on.

Clang. Polly shut the cage door.

The squirrel circled and circled, spitting out cheeps and chitters from its squirrelly lips. Then it calmed down, slumped over and curled itself up tight and just lay there breathing and breathing.

Polly poked it with a stick but it would not even move. Stupid squirrel. Do something squirrel.

She meant to keep it and train it. It would be a pet and she would bring it to school like that one kid had brought a tame raccoon. She would keep it in her pocket and it would climb out and run around on her shoulders and stand on her head and eat from her hand and all the other kids would be jealous.

Then the squirrel was gone.

Granny said that any idiot would know that the squirrel could squeeze out between the bars on the cage. Why in hell did she think they didn’t keep a bird in that cage? The damn thing was broken. Its bars twisted and gaping. Any fool could see that.

Polly searched for the squirrel, inside and out. Nothing. She sat down in the field out back with the cage next to her, willing the squirrel to come back home.

She stopped looking in the trees for its stupid red tail, and looked up higher instead and saw that some clouds looked like the gills of a fish. She thought of the way gills fluttered in and out and the way it felt to hold that live muscled fishy thing in her hand.

As she watched, a plane sliced through the clouds, leaving behind a white tail. Polly had seen hundreds of planes go over but she had never thought before about where they were going or who was on them. There were people on that plane.

She knew there must have been people.

She watched until the plane was out of sight. Then a squirrel of an ache curled up in her belly. She missed those people a lot.

About the Author

Myfanwy Collins has work published or forthcoming in Kenyon Review, AGNI, Cream City Review, Potomac Review, Saranac Review, Quick Fiction, FRiGG, Mississippi Review, Monkeybicycle, and Jabberwock Review. Please visit her at: http://www.myfanwycollins.com.

About the Artist

A native of Ohio, Marty D. Ison lives with his wife transplanted in the sands of the Gulf of Mexico. He studied fine arts at Saint Petersburg College. In addition to the visual arts, he writes poetry, short stories, and novels. See more of Ison’s work here.

This story appeared in Issue Four of SmokeLong Quarterly.
SmokeLong Quarterly Issue Four
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