Albatross

A piece of flash fiction originally published Fractured West Magazine

They held him aloft in a sail suspended by chains, with his arms flopping out on either side and the tips of his feet observable above everyone’s heads.
He was built like a swimmer, everyone had said so, but I saw him with his clothes off and thought helooked more like a great bird, with an immense hollow ribcage pushing out at his breast and showing its contours at his sides when he had breathed, and the huge long arms, the great wingspan. He had been shot in the water as he tried to make his escape; they left him there until the morning when a fishing boat picked him up for a small finder’s fee.
All of the moisture he had picked up, like a sponge, during the night, steeped out of him and onto the waxed cloth of the sail, which held it up in a puddle for a little while before its fibres darkened with his flaccid shape. They winched him up, a canopy over the square, as an example to us all, but I was grateful to have him up there, because all I could see of him were those arms, spread out in poignant invitation to the sky, and his blue feet. On the other side of that cloth he might have looked like anything, like an angel maybe. I imagined that the spread of his arms and the look on his face was set in such a way as I knew well, and loved, although I knew that the bullet had come through the back
of his head and out of the middle of the face. He was taken by a crack shot, and his nose had been broken, exploded from the inside.
The corners of the sail begin to rust where briny weave meets chain threaded and bolted to it. I think that in time the rust will come to make a shape, perhaps of his body, the silhouette of which I can dimly see, on sunny days. I look forward to such a time as the rust will reveal the intentions of itself and compose its final form around his body. There was no blood left in him to make a blot, it had all leaked out.
And still I don’t wish that I had married him. What would have been the point of marrying a man like that? No, I married the man who broke his nose, who shoots as well as the dead man swims, and has arms of a normal length. The points of his shoulders dig in under my chin when he takes hold of me, and sometimes presses down on my windpipe, but I don’t mind.
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