An Eel Can Produce its Own Body Weight in Slime to Wriggle out of a Tight Situation, by Rosie Garland
Over breakfast, we’re sipping coffee when an eel flops out of your mouth.
You try to poke it back in, but it looks me in the eye, wriggles off the table and out of the kitchen, greasy-fast. I think of that film where the alien bursts out of a man’s chest in an explosion of gore. Here, there’s not a drop.
No blood, you gargle, cheerful for someone who’s just thrown up an eel. And I’m not dead!
You always know what I’m thinking. You hawk, spit goo into a tissue, fingers dripping.
You promised this would never happen again, I say.
A year ago, it was pork products. You’d come home late from the office and spit up.
Mother told me it’d run its course and it did, after six months of incidents involving thin-sliced ham, sausages, and one time a gammon steak so huge I was dialling for an ambulance when you grabbed the phone and yelled stop being so sodding dramatic.
I shouldn’t have let it slide. Should have stared down your excuses: something you ate, probably that tapas bar you went to with the guys after work and never got home till after two, stinking of yeast and salt.
I should have been less understanding when you started sleeping on the couch so as not to disturb me.
You’re still coughing, mopping the puddle at your feet. You shove me away when I get too close.
Viscous fluid. Scent of yeast and salt.
Rockets to the moon, vaccines, quantum theory, and we still don’t know how eels have sex, you splutter, flashing the smile my mother calls winning.
I’m not thinking about eels, sex, rockets, or any of the other things you come up with, which proves you don’t know what’s on my mind. Never have done. A few lucky strikes and the rest is Houdini hooey, a grifter magician getting me to look the other way.
I’m thinking about how long I’ve known the truth, but kept hanging onto something that was slithering from my fingers.
I’m calculating your chances of wriggling out of this one.
ROSIE GARLAND writes long and short fiction, poetry and sings with post-punk band The March Violets. Her latest collection What Girls Do In The Dark was shortlisted for the Polari Prize 2021. Val McDermid has named her one of the most compelling LGBT+ writers in the UK today.