The thing about being a girl in a ballad is you can’t die, because you’re already dead.

Alive, alive-o: imagine being stuck singing that shite for the rest of your days.

The thing about the ghosts of dead fish is they still smell like dead fish.

I was a fishmonger. And so were my father and mother before—go on, sing it. You know the words. Everybody does.

It’s not as if fishmongering was the life I chose. Nobody gave me a choice. They gave me an oyster knife.

I don’t even like the filthy things. My brother was a fisherman; his boat went down in the Irish Sea, and that’s another reason I won’t eat fish. And now I spend eternity hawking them, because of that lovestruck fool.

Don’t let him cozen you with whatever romantic story he tries to tell. I barely knew the man. He’d stare at me with his mouth open as I walked by. Not a penny to buy a cockle.

I never feared him or any man. I had my oyster knife to protect me.

Only it couldn’t protect me from Typhus. Nothing could.

Too moony to even smile at me ever, but he cried buckets, that young man. And then he wrote his fecking song. And then it stuck, because he was a bard. Thinned down like the chalk milk old Meg used to sell down Hairpin Lane, vowing it came straight from her cow’s teats, but he still had enough of the old magic in him to keep me pinned to the world.

Wheeling my wheelbarrow through streets broad and narrow. Not even a day off to put my feet up. Alive, alive-o! The cheek of that man, thinking he could give me heaven.

I’ll find him one of these days. I’ll give him something else.

Kathryn Kulpa is the author of Girls on Film (Paper Nautilus), a flash fiction chapbook. She has stories published or forthcoming in Atticus Review, Jellyfish Review, and Fiction Southeast.

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