FISH-FILLED SEA • by Tania Hershman

She hears the shower running and she stands outside the door until he emerges, tea tree and lemon on his skin, flowers and fruit conditioning his hair. She presses hands over mouth to stop herself retching as he bends to kiss her goodbye, a look of patient resignation on his face. He whistles down the stairs, the door bangs, and she stumbles into the kitchen, opens the rubbish bin and inhales. Her dizziness begins to subside as the evil stench is diluted by the old tea bags, coffee grounds, plastic wrappers with remnants of ancient sandwiches.

She feels better.

She gets dressed, switches on her computer, and begins her workday.

At six she switches it off again and waits for him. This is her time. If the morning is confrontation, and she loses daily, the evening is victory. He has submitted to her arguments about the wastefulness of two showers a day; she appealed to his sense of energy injustice with pleas for water conservation, and to his love of animals with tales of horror caused by synthetic confections making their way down the pipes and out towards the fish-filled sea.

Fine, he wouldn’t bathe at night. She beamed.

She sits on the sofa, drinking tea, and strains for the sound of his car returning. The key turns in the lock and she is up and towards him, grabs him by the arms, pulls him to her, gulps in his scent, and he grins. She wrestles him out of his jacket and drags him up the stairs, clothes peeling off as they go. On the bed, she pushes him down and slides along his body until her face reaches the sacred trough where arm and body meet, and she buries herself inside it. There, no trace of tea tree and lemon has survived; there, all the day’s bodily products thrive, greeting her, the musk of his exertions, and she sniffs long and deep, drinking him in. He lies back, looking up at the ceiling, feeling her warm breath against his sticky skin, and he stretches his other arm towards her, stroking her hair and listening to the small snuffling sounds coming from his armpit.

Tania Hershman is a former science journalist who lives in Jerusalem. Her stories have been published in print and online and broadcast on BBC Radio. Tania’s first collection, The White Road and Other Stories, will be published by Salt Publishing in 2008.

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