This is my story for Round 3 of the NYC Midnight fiction competition. The assignment:
Story Element: Jealousy
Character: A Fisherman
Synopsis: Two couples go out for a day of recreational fishing. But the Captain of the boat has a beautiful wife, and, when she comes along for the ride, she causes more trouble than any of the characters could possibly have imagined.
The boat we chartered was called The Lulu-Belle. She was a fishing vessel that could, the advertisement claimed, accommodate up to six passengers in total comfort. Well, there would only be the four of us – me, my husband Randall, Martha, and Martha’s husband Sam- so that sounded more than adequate. And it would have been, too- if Lulu hadn’t insisted on coming along.
Frank Vander, the captain, seemed surprised when Lulu came down the dock, yoo-hooing at him. And Dick Carlton, his first mate, turned red when he saw her, and looked away.
“Yoo-hoo,” said Lulu. She wore a tight red dress and high heels, which was an oddly inappropriate choice of attire for a Captain’s wife; her black hair was long and loose and whipping around in the rising wind; her lips were red as blood. “Frankie! Wait for little Lulu!” And he did, smiling fatuously as he watched her mince up the dock.
“This is my wife Lulu,” he told us. “She’s gonna come out with us today, if that’s ok with you all.” Well, Martha and I exchanged looks, but we said it was ok with us. Randall and Sam were less hesitant.
“The more the merrier!” Cried Randall, as he got an eyeful.
“More! Merrier! Ha!” Cried Sam, smiling idiotically.
Lulu ran her eyes over our husbands. Martha and I do have handsome husbands. She noticed this. She took her time noticing. And then, contemptuously, Lulu looked at Martha and myself- and, just as contemptuously, looked away. Then she smiled up at Frank.
“I will help with the lunch!” She said, and scurried into the cabin.
And we headed out into the ocean for a day’s fishing.
It was hours later, and I’d almost forgotten about Lulu. I had a fairly substantial cod on my line, and he was keeping me busy. Martha, Sam, and Randall were all shouting incomprehensible advice at me. We were all, I think, happy.
When Lulu emerged from the cabin, the first thing I noticed was that suddenly all the shouting and encouragement stopped. When I turned to see what was happening, there was Lulu, wearing an incredibly minimal bikini. Startled, I must have let go of my rod, because suddenly it was out of my hands and scudding across the surface of the ocean.
Lulu laughed. “So sad!” She said. “That rod looked expensive.” She spoke to Randall. And I saw that Randall was responding to her, to her contempt, to her power, to her near-nakedness. He looked at me darkly.
“Yeah, that was a pricy rod,” he agreed, traitorously. “Rachel, I thought you said you could handle a rod.” He knew that I could handle a rod. I’d taught the man to fish.
Lulu smiled knowingly at Randall. “Yes, women do say that sort of thing,” she murmured. “They lie,” she whispered into Randall’s ear.
“Here, Mrs. Arbuthnot,” Frank said, handing me a spare rod. “Try not to lose this one, ok? I’ll have to charge ya.”
I took the rod in grim silence.
“Randall,” Lulu purred, “Come and help me with the vegetables. They need cutting.” She made it sound like a proposition, and ‘cutting’ somehow came out like the promise of consummation. Randall followed her into the cabin.
I fished like a woman possessed, ignoring all the pitying looks Martha shot at me.
Randall was still in the cabin when I landed my cod. At 40 pounds, it was my biggest fishing triumph ever, and Randall hadn’t been there to see it. He’d been less than ten feet away from me, behind a closed door, with another woman.
As I prepared to deliver the coup-de-grace to my catch, I heard Lulu laugh. Her laugh sounded, I thought, extremely intimate. I brought the spike down, savagely, on my cod’s head.
I was covered in fish blood when Lulu came out, swinging her hips, leading Randall by the hand.
“That,” said Randall, regarding me with a sort of blank wonder, “is a very big fish.”
“Yes,” I said, coldly. “I just landed it.”
We stared at each other, baffled and miserable.
Lulu abandoned Randall and moved towards Sam. There was a liquid grace in her walk now that had not been there before.
“Randall is no good at chopping vegetables,” Lulu confided to Sam. “Why don’t you come and help me?”
“Sam Withers, if you dare…” Martha began.
“Does she remind you of your mother?” Lulu asked, as if she really wanted to know. Sam smiled down at her.
“Sam!” Martha wailed.
Sam and Lulu vanished into the cabin.
Frank and Dick had watched all of this in silence. But now that Lulu was out of sight behind the closed door of the cabin, Dick stirred.
“You shouldn’t let that woman loose around men,” Dick said, and the fury in him made his body shake. “And she’s got no place on a boat. She can’t work the boat. She don’t fish. She don’t even cook. She just threatens vegetables with men.”
“You used to like having her around,” Frank said, quietly.
Meanwhile, I was still kneeling in fish-blood, and Martha was huddled on a bench, sobbing. She cried like a child: it was simultaneously mechanical and heart-wrenching. And Randall was just standing there, looking oddly blank.
We seemed to stay like that, frozen in our individual miseries, for a very long time.
And then Lulu moaned, lustfully, from inside the cabin.
Martha, who a second before had looked incapable of movement or even thought, hurled herself wildly towards the door of the cabin and flung the door open, in an ecstasy of jealous rage.
Sam was on the ground, and Lulu straddled him, moving up and down, in time with the rhythm that is as old as death. Her long black hair glided across her back, and for a moment all I could see in the scene was pain. I have sometimes wished that I could have died in that moment, when I thought it was just sex, and when I was full of pity. Sex and pain and pity and even death- these are all human and can be borne.
But then Lulu’s hair rippled- and not in time with her movement. Through the shifting veil of hair, I saw Lulu’s flesh form into ridges, ripple away into nothing. And as her movements grew more rapid, the shapes and shadows flickered more wildly behind the screen of her dark hair. I thought I caught a glimpse, once, of a jutting bone, and, once, of an eye, opening suddenly where Lulu’s spine should have been. It was as if Lulu’s flesh were trying to form itself into shapes that it could not comprehend. As if it were seeking a shape that it could hold and sustain.
Sam, who had been lying quite still, suddenly shuddered all over and let out a moan that was like a howl of pain. And Lulu’s flesh twisted, in an agony to become, thrashed a final time, subsided, and was still against her heavily breathing frame.
“No,” she said, looking down at Sam, and speaking almost sadly, “you’re no good to me either. But perhaps if I-” and steel flashed in Lulu’s hand.
Lulu rose off of Sam and spun to face us in a single, graceful movement. She and Martha locked eyes… and Lula smiled. She raised the shining blade.
And suddenly, silently, Dick was upon her; he had a landing gaff in his hand, and he lashed out wildly. She moved like lightning, and the knife was in Dick’s throat before I’d realized that we were all now in a fight to the death. Something about Dick’s stare, and the thump of his body as he fell on top of Sam, wakened me to urgency. I still had the spike in my hand.
Lulu, ignoring me completely, rushed at Randall, with a horrible speed.
I swung my spike up, and Lulu rushed upon it.
It sank into the center of her forehead. Lulu slumped, twitching, to the deck.
And then Frank stepped out from the shadow of the cabin with the gaff and delivered the coup-de-grace.
She lay still.
Everyone else thinks it is over. And maybe it is.
But I watched when everyone else looked away. And it may have been a trick of the light, but it seemed to me that a shadow drifted up out of Lulu’s body, a shadow so essentially feminine in outline that it had to be Lulu herself. And I watched as the shadow moved away from us over the darkening water, growing larger instead of smaller as she got farther away, until Lulu was utterly indistinguishable from the vastness of the sky.