PodCastle 354: The Sea of Wives

by Nathaniel Lee
Read by Graeme Dunlop
Hosted by Kitty Niclaian
A PodCastle Original!

The seas are full of wives, and our nets strain to hold them.  The Greyling is the largest of the fleet, and our catch the greatest.  The wives are the source of our great wealth.

When the wives are pulled up in the steely silver nets, they are poured in a shimmering stream onto the deck.  Vikos and Broun work the crane, and they sit up high in the control booths, rocking and swaying with the motion of the ship.  I couldn’t do that job.  I’m a knife man; I cut the skins away and put them in the holding tanks, wives in one and skins in the other.  It’s very important that the skins be kept separate.  It’s a simple rhythm, once the catch is coming in.  The wives are disoriented, confused, sometimes dead.  It’s a long haul up from the deeps, and some of them drown or smother on the way in.  I throw the dead ones overboard, skin and all.  The skins are no good once they’re dead.

The ones that stay alive, I slit open.  One stroke along the belly.  Two strokes at the forelimbs, two strokes at the rear.  There’s a trick to shucking the skin then, and more than once I’ve seen a new knife-man get it wrong in the unfamiliar wet and the noise of a ship at sea.  There’s squalling and crying, then, and the whole mess has to go to feed the sharks.  I try to slit their throats first, to be merciful.  You can tell right away who’s not fit to be a knife-man by the way they handle a ruined skin.

Rated R. Contains graphic violence.

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