The Crab
Matthew Dexter

The man sat on the edge of the dock smoking his only possession, dripping the chest x-rays into the waves in hopes of removing the tumor. The salt corrosion was the only thing he had to hold onto, besides the fishing rod that was turning his knuckles blue. His son was an OxyContin addict, his wife was demanded money from the well, but he was sick, and there was nothing holding him back, no bucket attached to the end of a rope. His hope was floating in the mouths of creatures with five second memories. The children built sand castles and their fathers helped mold the buttresses and turrets. The fish jumped from the sea and splashed his toes, which he curled over the edge like a serpent searching for a soft fragment of corral. He knotted the shrimp net and wrapped it around the neck as a manta ray somersaulted into the horizon and the man dropped the glossy image of his disease into the sea and punched a crab that was crawling underneath the rotting wood of the pier. He cracked the shell, but one of the claws snapped around his pinky and everything turned purple. The surgeon wanted to shoot some laser toward it, try to put up one last fight, but like a fish which has spent all its energy, there is nothing left to do but wait for the hammer. He spit up blood, the smell of his bile nothing new, but this time it was filled with something more: eternal blackness speckled with the satisfaction of a cancer that has won its battle. No time for death to run its course, the man sits in the puddle of defeat, the rusty frayed netting, burning like a meteorite into his retinas, the salt water and bloodshot eyes, nothing but comets falling from the sky. The marlins can smell his blood dripping into the ocean, the motion of the currents propels them into the past, and millions of years have taught them the importance of blood. The crab is an appendage of man, nothing more than a growth that will never be cut off, not while the man is alive anyway. Beside him is a bottle of tequila and a wallet and a letter to the wife. There is no need for a bank statement; she will discover his debts soon enough. The marine life is circling; the man increases the pressure on the net and drops the fishing rod on top of a school of tropical angels. He clutches that shotgun, finger on the trigger, crab on his pinky, no need for the moment to linger, the metathesis to continue.