To wish

Skies are the color of blue slate, waters the tint of a camphor jar when the fisherman pulls out his coldly gleaming catch. This is the moment that divides before and after: What is your greatest wish? We know that even as he takes out the barb and throws back the fish, the edge of the sky recedes and grows more distant. His wife will make him go back more than once to ask for a boon. The stucco on their walls is a flaked and dirty white; the floor, littered with poultry droppings, the smell of things that don’t fly very far. The story never says much about her, or why she can’t seem to keep a clean house, though it has only one room and a window overlooking the outhouse. Technically they don’t own the land, but it’s at the edge of town and so far no one has made any trouble. Who can blame her for wanting a little more room? She’s had her eye on the adjacent lot, wants to plant vegetables, fruit, and flowers, sell them in the market. Whereas the scope of his ambition has always fallen across that surface of the water where he can stand, knee-deep, no further— whatever doesn’t escape through the holes in the net, he gets to keep. He doesn’t question this arrangement, believing it builds character. The fish catches both of them by surprise. Or rather, not the fish, but the possibility that it could be something more than itself. Like anything that might be equated with fate, it either changes them forever, or fixes them even more firmly in place. Overhead, millions of tiny lights adrift in that inverted bowl.

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