by jonathan schneeweiss
Izam's fingers moved on their own. They found his sunken chest. And counted his ribs.
His father would have slapped his hand away. A stupid habit of a stupid boy. A stupid starving boy who counted his ribs when he was hungry even though it only made him hungrier. Izam knew it was stupid but he could not help it. He was so hungry.
The ocean was silent. The boat was still, the fishing line as motionless as ever. A few final rays of sunlight sparkled on the waves. There would be no fish today. No food. Izam's fingers brushed his chest and began counting his ribs again. No food for another day.
The line tugged and the rod tore from his hand.
Izam lunged and caught it. He braced himself against the gunnel. The boat quaked beneath him as he reeled in the monster at the end of the line. He gritted his teeth and pulled with his entire body. The surface rippled and broke, and the monster exploded from the waves.
Izam blinked. There was a splash, and it was gone.
The line went slack. Izam fell backwards into the boat.
But he had seen it. Seventeen pounds! Maybe even eighteen! Enough to eat for how long? Enough to sell for how much? Father would have been so happy. And now it was gone.
Izam scanned the surface of the water again, but all he saw was endless blue rippling gold and orange beneath the setting sun. Eighteen pounds. Enough to eat for how long? His fingers moved to his ribs again, but he caught himself. Eighteen pounds.
A splash came from behind him, but it was small, barely even a splash. More like something coming out of the water, only...