Issue Five:
A Box of Opal Fish

By Sarah Wallis

Clumsy, Western and terrified, I am the buyer. The jeweller’s workshop in Shanghai reeks of green tea and pink roses; incongruous and well past blown, clinging on, a death scent hangs about their skirts. Mr Wang, tall as a fir tree, is the maker. His dark eyes picked out by angry pinprick spots of light, much like the dots of colour in all the opalescent and broken shoal of fish now flooding the floor.

There is no apology I can make that will mend his anger and hurt pride. I have disrespected his trade. I am to be banished. But can he really mean it?

Each year, in the spring, I make the journey, hoping the maker might thaw with the snow, as he begins his task again. But I always find him the same, straight-backed and furious, refusing to see me or speak, carving minute, delicate fingernail shaped scales into the opal and finding the fish that wants no water to swim, only the light.

Seventeen years pass.

I had almost given up hope but one year I found him dressed head to toe in white, his face lined with sadness. His son had died. Without ceremony, tea or conversation, he motioned me to choose my fish and they, as open-mouthed as I, winked up from the boxes and boxes and boxes lined up on the shelves, the sum of these long years, filled to the brim with perfectly carved opal fishes. 


About the Contributor

Sarah Wallis is a writer based in Leeds, interested primarily in poetry and writing for the stage she has also recently had some flash fiction published by Flight Journal and the Bath Flash Fiction Anthology, To Carry Her Home. Recent poetry has been published in the Yorkshire Poetry Anthology from Valley Press and Watermarks; for Lido Lovers & Wild Swimmers by The Frogmore Press. She has held residencies at West Yorkshire Playhouse and Harrogate Theatre, which have supported and developed her plays Laridae and The Rain King.


Losslit canon

High Flight - John Gillespie Magee

A pilot tells of his time in the air and makes us feel what must be his earthbound loss of the skies. It was a favourite poem of my Great Uncle Bill, who was a navigator in Lancaster bombers during WW2, and I read it at his funeral so it is wrapped up with loss for me.

See all entries in the Losslit canon


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