Hammerhead Shark

by | Feb 13, 2024 | Fiction, Issue Thirty-Seven

Every morning, Hammerhead Shark slipped out from the wrinkled waters of the Pacific. Even on land, Hammerhead seemed to float, “standing” according to the convention of land-walkers—vertically, tail-to-dry-land, head up.

Hammerhead, in this upright swim, ascended the steps of a stilted shack with weatherworn blue paint, chipped and cracked, but clearly loved. Allium and geranium filled the window boxes. A sign creaked, moved by the sea breeze. It read, “Spices with a Bite.” Inside, glass jars of various shapes and sizes enlivened the walls. Contents earthy and flavorful with promise. The scents, sharper than blood on water.

In the thick quiet of the Undersea, Hammerhead fed on catfish and squid, rich with salt broth and subtle sweetness. It was a sunken cargo ship that changed the course of Hammerhead’s life. When the black blood of the vessel’s demise finally dissipated, what remained, aside from its iron bones, was its haul—stores of spices, a variety of which Hammerhead had never seen nor tasted. Hammerhead tore into sacks and crates, releasing clouds of zest and tang, bitter and tasty, savoury and sharp.

Hammerhead rejected many unpalatable meals in their day, but with the correct spices, even a pilot fish tasted good. But the creatures of the sea are partial to salt. To live the destiny that Hammerhead knew was theirs, they must leave the ocean behind, and such doings were the province of mermaids alone. Hammerhead swam close to the coast, waiting and watching, curious and observant. At the edge of their known world and the world they longed to traverse, Hammerhead spotted a little place, wooden and blue, with a bell that announced regular customers sand-dusted in flip flops and wide brimmed hats.

The proprietor of that little shop enjoyed wading in the sea alone at such early morning hours that the ocean wasn’t even visible. It was only a sound with a very wet tongue, ready to swallow anything. One moonless, still-dark morning, the waves pulled at the proprietor’s ankles, conspiring with the fates. Unbalanced, they flopped into the water, not like a fish on land, but with weighted finality, only their arms moved, shapelessly, like long loose strips of seaweed, finding only a darkness they couldn’t hold, and finding, to their dismay, the darkness could hold them. Head bludgeoned, pinned down in the shallows, they gasped breaths full of saltwater that tasted of powdered mustard, thyme, oregano, and cumin.

By the time the ocean brightened, nothing remained to cloud the water, waves licked up the bloodied sand. Hammerhead climbed out of the ocean at last. Their new life tasted good, that day, and every day that followed.

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