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Fiction

Short Swims From Great Heights

Davvit was six years old the first time he saw a shark kill a man on the beach.

It came up, looked the guy’s wife straight in the eye, then stabbed him in the throat, right there next to the cotton candy stand beneath the hoverboard rental hut.

During trial, prosecutors discovered that the man had sold the shark’s egg clutch to a trafficker in Jersey some weeks prior to the assault, and so promptly rested, confident in this undeniably homicidal motive. The eggs were never recovered to prove the case definitively, but the shark was executed and sold for parts just the same.

The alleged mother was not identified, but during the course of 326 media opportunities conducted throughout the trial, police speculated (with baseless regularity) that she may have been insinuated in the bordellos of the Flemington inland sushi markets, which were barely ten years established at the time, and still considered quite exotic by readers of the Post and their ilk. Meanwhile, the Post’s editors treated the entire suburb as their most lucrative beat; a wellspring importing fear to the city on a reliable and easily forecast basis. “This stream’s got legs, boys!” they would say to one another with gaping grins after reading the latest quarterly advertising report.

Though they only said such things behind closed doors.

Davvit was ten the next time it happened, but by then the Benthic Riots were in full swing and both he and city authorities barely noticed the loss of life. He would never know the motive of this particular assault, since the shark vanished without a trace. He’d barely even had time to see the victim, after a swarm of hagfish pulled the body into a storm drain almost immediately, leaving nothing but empty sidewalk behind.

Despite Davvit’s scant attention on this latter occasion, NY1 still found it useful to interview both him and a Staten Island legislator about the purported hagfish menace lurking in the sewers. The legislator in question had been nowhere near the scene of the attack, but had very strong feelings about its occurrence just the same.

Clips from this broadcast were repeatedly aired in tristate news reports for several months afterward. Recorded rates of violence against the Cyclostomi community increased forty-five percent during the subsequent annum, but this was not reported on by anybody.

When Davvit was eighteen, he was arrested during protests against the Arctic Resettlement Treaty, then accused of bathing in caviar to throw police off his scent while being pursued through the Garment District. Though he was promptly found innocent in court, the sturgeon in question was not, and was deported to Peru after an abbreviated immigration hearing. It was later realized that the sturgeon’s green card application had been in-progress during the trial, and would have been scheduled for approval two months after its verdict.

It was the injustice of this event which led Davvit to law school, and eventually to a promising career as public defender in the Floral Park Municipal Judicial District.

Life in the FPMJD was good to Davvit, but rarely to his clients.

Though he achieved national renown with the acquittal of The Chitin Three during that first sweltering summer, he was still haunted by the smaller failures, which quietly stacked ever higher in the background, casting a growing shadow over each day spent at his desk. Eventually even his dreams were filled with the soft and scaly rustling of those he’d failed, lurking in wait.

The turn came at 38 with his temporary assignment to the Gravesend Gravlax case, which had riveted the tristate even before Davvit’s infamous and globally spectated courtroom performance. The network cameras followed his face in close-up holo-definition, jostling for position as he revealed incontrovertible proof that the arresting officers (whose testimony was pivotal to the prosecution) had been caught dipping bullets in tartar sauce the night before they’d served the warrants.

But the howling headlines of the uniformed classes eventually won out, and the verdict was Guilty, despite public sentiment. Even still, Kraftgate had nearly brought the department down, and Davvit knew he’d pay a price accordingly.

The box on the doorstep was addressed to him in a hasty scrawl, but the message painted around its sides was neat and deliberate. It read, “GO HOME GILLSUCKER” in bright red lettering.

Inside the box was a single, extra-large patrol hat, dripping with brine.

Ten days later he was passing a sentry officer on the 4th-Ave train platform when the woman nudged her partner, then sneered at him and ordered, “Move along, slit licker.” That night a parking meter was thrown through his front window, with a blank police citation attached to the pole via braided blue fishing twine.

The subsequently hired Betta security detail was fully tax deductible, given his ranking office, but Davvit still found it disquieting to spend all week surrounded by their flashing dazzle camouflage. He mourned for the days when he could open a door by himself, without an enormous iridescent fin beating him to the knob and gently pushing him aside to step through first.

Still, he was glad for their presence on the day he sat in his brownstone and watched, rapt with horror alongside the rest of the country, as the Anti-Piscine terrorist who’d traveled overnight from Michigan turned that poor urchin into uni during a Today Show remote, then detonated a ghost market fission device in her bag, destroying the Seaport in full view of the wide-angle cutaway.

Despite consistent increases in YOY funding for the entire four decades prior, city police used this occasion to successfully advocate for a doubling of their budgets, including the creation of an entirely new “passive surveillance” program that they promised would sift out specist radicals.

Long-haul nets were soon installed in every avenue intersection, and Davvit found his caseload exploding as tristate detention rates spiked by 500 percent, while the gutters ran red with bycatch.

The mayor’s approval rating hit eighty percent six months later, even with the Reef Diaspora already raging in the outer boroughs.

All hope abandoned in such a political climate, Davvit was secretly contemplating an early retirement when one of his junior investigators received a tip about the Benevolent Blue Brotherhood’s president. Conducting cross-borough affairs under the controversial auspices of “general legal backgrounding,” Davvit dedicated his entire discretionary budget to the pursuit of any information about the police union leader’s recently acquired real estate hobby in Jamaica Bay.

Soon it was apparent that the entire boom in offshore underwater development, spurred by the Diaspora, was fueled in large part by Brotherhood members engaged in “off-duty, private civilian transactions.” None were larger or more lucrative than those of the Benevolent president himself.

However, the ensuing cases were referred to city courts for trial, and on the eve of the expected guilty verdicts, Davvit received a frantic call from his aides. They informed him that the mayor had just overseen an emergency City Council meeting, in which legislation had been passed to immediately decriminalize all real estate violations in the city, so long as developers claimed an urgent humanitarian purpose to their work.

In response, Davvit threw his phone out the window and screamed, “I won’t be beat by a mayor who takes his salary in fucking Luna Park tokens, godammit!

He resigned his office two weeks later.

By the time news came down that a single junior lieutenant was going to plead guilty in federal court following dismissal of all related cases (including the union president’s), Davvit had not left his brownstone for many months.

When his sitting room door burst open in the middle of the night, he caught just a glimpse of a thin blue scarf on the assassin, before the masked figure plunged a six-inch aluminum ichthys into his chest and ran out the building.

Davvit’s security net silently observed as he bled out on the floor, contemplating the bookends of his professional life.

One fish to the next.

It was this rumination which led to his infamous final words, soon replayed in memes around the nation.

In each, his brow crinkled in slight confusion just as the last color drained from his face, while the rising pool of his own life lapped at his cheeks, and his lips parted gently to utter the immortal phrase:

“But I can’t even swim?”

Stephen M.A.

Stephen M.A. A close-up black and white headshot of a fair-skinned, mixed-race man with dark hair, dark eyes, and a full beard.

Stephen M.A. is a gay he/him first generation tribal descendant originating on a federal reservation in big sky country. He now lives and writes in the Northeastern United States. His prior works, including the satirical space opera Tiny Planet Filled With Liars, can be discovered at smapublishing.com.