Trash Fish

By Jeremy Broyles

Molly couldn’t choose a cryptid to conjure from myth if she’d been asked to. She didn’t play favorites. Not toward the skunk ape stalking the swamplands of Florida nor the goat sucker of the Southwest. She felt no affinity for Champ swimming Lake Champlain, and the Amazonian mapinguary—the roaring animal itself—stirred in her nothing at all. She did not love the unfound fanciful fauna of the world; she loved the flesh and blood man attempting to find them. What did it matter if she didn’t believe in deep-water sea monsters swallowing wayward ships? She believed in Tuffy, and that was enough for her. But for him? He needed to hold the miraculous in his hands, and, just as much, he needed the validation such a miracle would bring. 

That was why she had lied to him.

“Consider the impossibility of the coelacanth,” Tuffy’s digital voice said from the podcast he sat listening to over and over again. “Written out of this world’s story entirely and chalked up amongst the extinct, it was discovered right under our very noses. It wasn’t hiding. It wasn’t dead. It was just going about its ancient fishy business as it had for eons. Isn’t there something inherently short-sighted, even pompous about we as a species refusing to acknowledge even the possibility that maybe, just maybe, we haven’t found every last creature on this planet? We were wrong about the coelacanth. I can’t help but believe we’ve made other mistakes along the way. We haven’t found all the weird and wonderful things yet. There are too many hiding places and too few of us willing to do the seeking.”

“I thought that was an excellent point,” Molly said to him as she ran her fingers through the loose curls of his hair. “Probably your best of the night.” He didn’t move at her touch, as if her words landed somewhere far off. He watched the screen as the interview played on.

“It’s a lovely sentiment, Mr. Spectacular,” said the voice of biologist Dr. Rachael Wood-Singer, host of Terra Firma. “Unfortunately, it fails to substantiate your claim. You’re attempting to sell a black-or-white fallacy where either, A, there’s nothing left on Earth to find or, B, we simply haven’t yet stumbled over the waiting examples of evolutionary mutations that defy all accepted biological science.”

“Dr. Wood-Singer, I am merely pointing out that there is precedence. An animal that shouldn’t have existed did, in fact, exist. Surely there were some within the school of accepted science at the time who resisted the discovery precisely because it flew in the face of accepted science. I see parallels with my own discovery.”

“To be fair, Mr. Spectacular—”

“Please, call me Tuffy.”

“—the rediscovery of the coelacanth had incontrovertible evidence. A specimen. You do not have that. You have an incomplete skull you are claiming proves the existence of a new species mutated to a new ecosystem created by the Pacific garbage patch. And, perhaps not coincidentally, you have not allowed anyone within any school of science, accepted or otherwise, to examine that skull. I have to point out, this all makes the authenticity of your claim dubious at best.”

Molly hurried her words into the brief pause she knew to be there before the recorded voice of Tuffy Spectacular responded to what he perceived to be a slight. “You should come to bed,” she said. The right-now Tuffy—the one sitting at the breakfast nook of his boat, Martha, the one into whom she tried to pour her protective affection through urgent, massaging fingertips—stared into the screen of his laptop, awaiting the response they both knew was coming.

“Here it is,” Tuffy’s voice said. “The point where the tenured academic talks down to the lowly cryptozoologist and accuses him of being nothing more than a snake oil salesman.”

“Not at all, Mr. Spectacular.”

“It’s Tuffy.”

“I am not interested in calling you names. I am interested in holding you accountable because of the very speech you gave earlier. If this discovery of yours is what you say it is, then it would necessitate a tectonic shift in our collective understanding of the natural world. It is precisely because of this that I refuse to push such a shift without undeniable, irrefutable evidence. A body. Not a few pictures of a partial skull. Not your personal assurances of veracity.”

“What happened to your sense of wonder, Dr. Wood-Singer? Did the institution that owns this building beat it out of you after all these years?”

“You misread me, sir. My skepticism is not bitterness, and my wonder is far from dead. You see, I want to believe. But it is exactly because I want to believe you, Mr. Spectacular, that I and the rest of the scientific community must not take such fanciful claims on faith alone. How many times have we been baited? How many Bigfoot sighting claims have been lodged? How many European ghost cats have been spotted? How many witnesses in Tasmania have spun captivating tales around the thylacines they saw but could not capture? Still, we have no corporeal proof. No Bigfeet. Not ghost cats. No Tasmanian tigers. You want to make a believer out of me, Mr. Spectacular? Bring me a specimen of this trash fish of yours.”

Molly came around to sit at his side and closed his screen. The voices went mute, and it was again just the two of them in the guts of Martha moored in this marina where California became Pacific Ocean. “That’s enough now,” she said to him, and her hands held a face inert and empty. He was switched off. His eyes cracked with red like spidering glass. Slow blinks along with her coaxing thumb stroking the scratchy surface of his cheek brought him back.

“Did you notice how she insisted on calling me Mr. Spectacular no matter how many times I asked her not to?” he said to her. “That was petty, don’t you think?”

“You never let it bother you, and you never stooped to her level,” Molly said. “I was proud of you for that.”

“And she snuck in that thylacine comment too. Even called it a Tasmanian tiger. Tell me that wasn’t premeditated.”

“Let’s go to bed. Tomorrow we can start again.” 

“But you know what the worst part is?” he asked, though it wasn’t a question meant for her. He had the answer waiting and ready. “She’s right. I need proof. No one is ever going to believe me otherwise.”

“You have the skull though,” she said. She moved her hand to his chest and fit her thumb into the hollow of his throat. 

“It’s not enough. It never will be. Not with all the times I’ve screwed up before. I need to find this fish.”

He shifted his weight into her and scooted them both out of the nook. She didn’t resist and wouldn’t have even if she’d wanted to. Tuffy, the son of two extraordinary athletes, had the physicality to move her however he pleased. His broad shoulders stacked atop a wide, thick chest that swelled under a thicket of spun hair. The strength in his hands outshined all other clusters of muscle. Those hands had been made hard as hooves through the labor driven by his fathoms of wonder. She remembered the way they gripped braided rope and pulled length after length from the waters below. If he could find the fish, he’d need nothing more than those hands to haul it from the ocean.

But those hands would never get that chance because the trash fish, the one he believed swam somewhere out near the manmade garbage flotilla of the Pacific, was the very snake oil he assured Dr. Wood-Singer he wasn’t peddling this time around. The fish was a hoax. A lie.

Her lie.

She dreamt the fish out of myth, and she constructed the partially formed skull—with the distinctive teeth—to give to him. To reward that wonder the rest of the world only laughed at. She gave him the trash fish because she loved him. Why should it matter that it was a lie?

Tuffy wanted to go back to the trash patch to find what did not exist. He wanted to go fishing for ghosts. But he needed money for another expedition. Or rather, he needed to convince his parents to let him use the funds they safeguarded on his behalf. As she waited with Tuffy for his parents to answer the door, she played out a scenario that ended with Tuffy denied the money he needed without being demoralized by the outcome—while her secret remained unexposed. 

“Tuffy!” The elder Spectacular bellowed, pulling his son into a shameless embrace. The man may have built his empire on bombast and pomp, but his affection was genuine. “Molly!” he said in the same quaking baritone as he split from Tuffy and hugged her instead. She was swallowed by the embrace, but, like his son, for all his bunching muscles spread across the acreage of his wide, strong body, the restraint in his gentle touch felt every bit as warming as the unembarrassed audacity of his physical affection. 

“It’s good to see the both of you again. Come on. Your mother is waiting for us.” 

Mr. Spectacular, well into his fifties now but still the shining hero of the professional wrestling industry, held the door for her. His skin was like walnut from the tanning and oiling, and he still insisted on tying his thinning hair into a knot at the nape of his neck. Molly liked him all the same.

She knew Tuffy loved him too, but he struggled under the name given to him by his father. She wondered how he might have grown as a Duckworth, but Keith Duckworth was not the name of a champion. Mr. Spectacular could embody patriotism, perseverance, and physical power while wearing nothing more than a pair of glitzy underwear and slapping skins with whatever hackneyed heel shared the ring with him. The name was such a smash that Keith Duckworth signed all necessary documents to become first name Mr. and last name Spectacular. When Mr. Spectacular and Bonnie Bodacious (birth name Gina Tortella) married, their wrestling royalty progeny was, from every legal standpoint, Spectacular. That name both served and haunted Tuffy. With such a pedigree, who in the scientific community would dare risk the embarrassment of listening to what he had to say? But the clout the name provided gave him the voice to say anything in the first place. 

They sat at the intimate dining table—seating for no more than the four of them. 

“Why isn’t the game set up?” Tuffy asked. “You haven’t chosen yet?” 

Keith, who was sensible enough to welcome being called by his defunct given name, held up a finger, then scurried out of the kitchen. 

From some distant room, he called back to them. “Since it’s Molly’s first time, I thought we might go retro. Something properly analogue like Sorry or Sequence.” Molly made out the crinkling of plastic bags and the shifting of boxes being restacked. “But then I found this,” Keith sat back down at the dining table, “and I couldn’t resist.” The game’s cardboard lid was adorned in red-orange scales striped with sharp hooks of jagged black like a tiger and iguana had somehow bred and the resulting offspring had been skinned. The title, Apex, had been slashed into place by claws, and a reptilian eye marbled with yellow and green stared out from the loop created by the capital P.

Apex?” Tuffy said. “I haven’t heard of this one.”

“I think you’re going to be a big fan,” Keith said. “You control evolution with the idea being to create the most successful apex predator in a given environment.”

“This won’t be fair. You’re practically trained for this,” Molly said to Tuffy.

“Not so fast, young lady,” Keith said. She couldn’t tell if he intended to insult her or not, so she chose to say nothing. She relaxed the clenched muscles in her back and hoped Tuffy hadn’t noticed her tensing. “You should ask who the board game king is before you go handing away the crown.”

“He’s talking about himself,” Gina said. Molly tried to match her mischievous smile.

The age difference between herself and Tuffy bothered her. She hated that it did, but it did all the same. Molly had nineteen years on Tuffy but was shy of his mother by only four. Neither Gina nor Keith had ever flinched at the gap between their son and the woman who loved him. Even the “young lady” quip, Molly had to admit, may have been Keith’s clumsy attempt at flattery. When she and Tuffy dined out at a restaurant or shopped at a grocery store, she never caught anyone in a judgmental stare. Even the scattered friends she managed to keep were supportive to the point of celebratory. They made easy jokes about Molly’s predatory tendencies and how that surely translated to the bedroom. The world in which she existed—one grown richer in the possibilities of what creatures may have called it home too—had given her no reason, none at all, to feel bothered by something so arbitrary as when he or she had been born. 

But she could not reason away the self-consciousness and worming doubt. All of it stayed with her whether warranted or not. Because she loved him. She had not intended to, but she did. The age difference between them widened the hole made by the question she could not quiet.

How can he love me back?

She excused herself to go to the bathroom, though she only sat on the edge of the bathtub for what she thought was an appropriate duration. She flushed the toilet for show then ran water from the sink until it warmed and washed her hands. She considered herself in the mirror without pride or prejudice. Her dishwater hair was limp, but none if had gone gray. Her eyes were still stony blue and clear too, though they were now framed by wrinkled skin. Nose still straight, lips still midway between supple and thin. Adequate as a forty-seven-year-old woman, all in all, but not extraordinary. For her age or otherwise. 

The three of them had taken their seats around the board while she was in the bathroom. She sat down and attempted to make sense of the game spread out before her. “All right,” she said. “Someone teach me how to create the perfect apex predator.”

“First things first,” Tuffy said. “Let’s get your phone connected.”

“Phone?” she said. “On board game night?” Keith held up the lid and pointed to the side where a printed message from Fine and Dandy urged players to Enhance the fun! Play using the Papyrus add-on! “I see,” Molly said. “Enhanced is my very favorite kind of fun.”

They settled on rainforest as their environment, though Keith had lobbied for arctic. Then each of them started as a vaguely hairless rat-like creature within an evolutionary arms race. The science behind it was suspect; Molly needed no formal education to recognize that. But it was fun. The digital mini-game centered on stringing together a DNA helix by putting nucleotide bases in their proper sequence to unlock new adaptations. Molly was good at that part, and her predator was the first to evolve thermal sensory capabilities that allowed for effective nocturnal hunting. The physical forms the creatures took, however, provided the greatest entertainment of the evening. Ambulocattus, the walking cat, had a meat-roll body atop a sloth’s legs standing it twelve feet in the air. It could snack on tree-going critters foolish enough to enter its eating radius, or it could walk up a trunk and posture with one of its forelegs while the other reached for the peskier meals. Gina had birthed that particular abomination, which elicited horror and laughter alike from the table. But the star of the night was Molly’s final primordial concoction. Rugaturcia, the puckering turkey. Though flightless, its featherless membranous wings smothered prey using its four hundred-pound girth. It was, in shape and form, the apex predator.

A simple animation of the Rugaturcia stalking its quarry looped on each of their Papyrus’ screens. She couldn’t remember a time when Tuffy had laughed this hard. He would compose himself, only to laugh himself into fits again when her portly jungle turkey hopped onto an unsuspecting goat-monkey, squashing it. She delighted in how he knew the punchline yet still laughed when it punched. She felt most satisfied, however, when on the fourth go-round he sat her in front of his Papyrus—even though she could have watched on her own—and said to her, “Watch this. Watch. Watchwatchwatch,” then wrapped his strong arm around her from behind so she felt the convulsions of his laughter through her own body.

The game had allowed her to forget why they were here. As they all helped pack away Apex, however, she remembered. She sensed Tuffy gathering himself for the pitch, and her own anxieties about any of the potential outcomes dried the saliva from her mouth. Keith provided her second reprieve of the night when he poured each of them his latest attempt at home-brewed beer. 

“What do you think?” he asked the table.

“I’ve never licked a chimney flue before,” his wife said, “but I imagine it probably tastes like this.” 

Keith laughed from his core. “That means it’s good. You’re supposed to get an ashy note with a bit of horse blanket at the finish.”

“Horse blanket?” Tuffy said. Again came the elder Spectacular’s barbaric, yawping laughter.

“Why would anyone want to taste ash and horse blanket in a beer?” Molly asked. She herself didn’t taste either. The only thing she could identify was something bready and burnt like scorched sourdough.

“Improperly prepared fugu will kill you, but we still consider it a delicacy,” Keith said.

“Eating and drinking should be more than just eating and drinking. Those things should be an adventure.” He reached for his wife’s mug and swallowed its contents too. He wiped his mouth with the back of his hand and slapped his belly.

“I’m glad you mentioned adventures, Dad,” Tuffy said.

“You have an idea for another one.” Keith’s smile diminished into a grin that covered his teeth. He stretched out his hand and his wife took it into her own with a squeeze insistent enough to white her knuckles. “I didn’t imagine you came here just for the conversation and company. Tell me about this adventure.” 

There was nothing left for Molly to do. The distractions were done. She sat in silence while Tuffy said what he had come to say. “I want to go back out to the trash patch.”

“Didn’t you just get back from there?”

“I did. But I found something out there, Dad. Technically, Molly found it. Tell them.”

She hadn’t expected her lie to be so successful. Tuffy had been overjoyed at the find. Once they got back to the mainland, he uploaded photos of the skull fragment he claimed provided tangible evidence of a fish species that had mutated to survive, even thrive, in the new ecosystem created by the manmade island of plastic garbage. The detritus continent and the trash fish that called it home. She had underestimated Tuffy’s power to attract attention. The famous childhood. The numerous infamous failures from Loch Ness to the Tasman Sea. The world was paying attention to Tuffy Spectacular’s discovery. Her discovery. Her lie.

Molly knew the antidote to be truth. Nothing else would suck the venom from the wound she hadn’t meant to create. But she also remembered the quiver at the corner of Tuffy’s mouth when she handed him the skull. Even now she could hear his water-thin voice asking her “What is it?” as he held it in his strong, gentle hands. “You’re the scientist. You tell me,” she’d said. The truth now would stitch up all the lie had let spill, but it would also take away all the places in their shared history where wonder won out.

“Have you ever seen pictures of a pacu fish?” Molly said to Tuffy’s parents holding hands at the dinner table, and she spun out her lie longer like spools of line ending in a baited hook. “It has teeth eerily similar to a human being. Those teeth, however, are in the front. The skull we found has wide, flat teeth at the back almost like molars. They’re the kind of teeth you’d expect to find on a large, cud-chewing mammal like a cow.”

“My hypothesis,” Tuffy said, taking over the tale with an exuberance that made Molly smile, “is that this fish has evolved to grind up plastics using its molars, and its system has figured out how to metabolize and derive energy from those materials.”

“It eats plastic,” Keith said. “How can anything survive off that?”

“It may not be as far-fetched as it sounds,” Tuffy said. “There are polymers that aren’t terribly different, chemically speaking, from fats like margarine. And there’s always been a learning curve. When grass showed up for the first time, some creature had to be the first to figure out how to eat it. What if what we’re looking at with this fish is nothing short of a genetic mutation that has jumped evolution forward by thousands, maybe millions of years?”

Keith and Gina shared a look from their side of the table, and Molly knew what was to come and that she could do nothing to change it. Beneath the table, she placed her hand on Tuffy’s leg just above the kneecap and held him there.

“Tuffy,” Keith said, “your mother and I are happy you’re doing the work that makes you happy. I don’t understand it, but I don’t need to. It matters to you, so it matters to me. But I won’t lie to you, son. You keep coming up snake eyes. Your sonar project up at Loch Ness turned up nothing. You were in the Amazon for a month and came back with nothing but trench foot. Hell, that Daisy disaster? I don’t want you reliving any of that. Why don’t you lay low for a bit? Just take some time with this one. Think it through.”

“Time, Dad? Let somebody else find my fish? I wish you’d at least be honest enough to tell me what’s really bothering you. I embarrass you. My name getting laughed at out there? That’s your name too.”


“The coelacanth’s scientific name is Latimeria menadoensis. Do you know why? Because it was rediscovered by a museum curator named Marjorie Courtenay-Latimer. Her discovery, Dad. Her name.”


“I want money to fund an expedition to prove the discovery of a new species. A simple yes or no will do.”

“No,” Keith said. The tensed quadricep muscle under Molly’s grip went slack.

She lay against him with her face pillowed by the hair on his chest. The odd twisted ends fluttered in her breath from time to time, tickling her nose. In these secreted, sacred moments—naked together in the bedroom quarters of his boat that buoyed in the pulsing water just enough to feel, just enough to know there was no solid land underfoot—her fears lost all claim. The wide world shrank until it felt knowable, and the places the cryptids called home revealed the marvels hiding within. They needed only look, the two of them together. 

“Tell me about Martha,” she said. “What made you choose that name?”

“The passenger pigeon,” Tuffy said. “There used to be billions of them. Pretty little bird. Nondescript. Nothing like a peacock or anything so audacious. Just a bird. Hunters and habitat destruction killed them off so fast they were gone before anyone realized there was a problem. The very last one died in a Cincinnati zoo in 1914. She’d been named after George Washington’s wife.”

“Martha,” Molly said.


“Tell me about Daisy,” she said, and his body bristled. His breath quickened.

“Why would you ask about that?” he said. “You know everything there is to know.”

And she did. She had watched it unfold over the course of weeks. Tuffy Spectacular embedding himself in the gum forests of Tasmania to capture a living thylacine—a species left for dead at extinction’s doorstep. Tracking the Tasmanian Tiger he’d called it, embracing the misnomer for the sake of alliteration. She watched, and in so doing fell in love with this wonder-filled man who believed and only wanted us to believe too. When the rest of the world sought him out to delight in his failure, she’d come to him to tell him he’d made a believer of her. Better than three years later, she found herself in his bed with his beating heart only inches from her face.

“I saw what everyone else saw. You’re the only one who lived it. Tell me that story.”

“It was a mistake from the start,” he said. “I was too eager—”

“No,” she said with bite in the word. She landed her hand flat against his mouth. “Not like that.” She drew her fingertips down his lips and neck until settling again into the warmth of his chest hair. “Tell me your story.”

“It’s not a tiger at all,” he said, and his voice was everything she wanted to hear just the way she wanted to hear it. “It’s a marsupial. I know that. But there’s just something about the name. Tasmanian tiger. I don’t know. I was just smitten. Something about it felt real. You’ll get the standard drunk tourist swearing up and down that he saw some monster in a lake from his campfire on the shore where he’d been drinking for twelve straight hours. But there are dozens of accounts from highly reputable figures, ranchers and rangers, people who’ve lived in Tasmania’s forests all their lives, who have seen something that could only be the tiger. That can’t be coincidence. It just can’t be.”

“So you went to find out,” Molly said.

“I went to find out.” His right hand folded over her own resting against his chest, and, in the pressure of his grip, she felt what was most vulnerable in him. “From the first day I could tell something was there. I don’t know how I knew. I just did. We looked for weeks. Set up live traps near water sources and known wombat hideaways. We were being outmaneuvered. It was like the tiger had an evolutionary head start of a few thousand years, and we were desperately trying to keep up. I was posting my video journals the whole time, of course, and we had twenty-four-hour live feeds of the traps casting too.

“That’s when we caught it. Live trap Echo just a click or two away at a bend in the Derwent. I remember the eyeshine more than anything else. All the accounts I had read stated the creature they had seen had purple eyeshine. The picture quality was terrible with those cameras, and it was the dead of night, but I swore the eyeshine looked purple to me. I practically sprinted to Echo. Ran a blister into my right heel that bled for two days afterwards, but it didn’t matter. I was about to find something fantastic.” 

His story wasn’t done, and she knew he needed to tell it all. She climbed up the bed to cradle his head against her own chest. “But it was just Daisy,” she said in the smallest, gentlest voice she could manage.

“Friendliest dog I’ve ever met in my life. She didn’t bark once even when we approached the trap. Tail wagging.” He laughed through his nose without opening his mouth. “Even had a red bandana tied around her neck.”

“I remember that.”

“Nothing but a ranch mutt wandered off. Not a tiger at all. We packed up the next day after giving Daisy a ride home, and I came back to a country that thought I was nothing but a joke. How badly do you have to screw up for everyone to think your father who pretends to wrestle other men while wearing monogrammed, fur-cuffed capes is the sensible one in the family?” He draped his right arm over his face and hid his eyes in the crook of his elbow. “I got that one moment, though,” he said. “Running to that trap, certain of what I was going to find there. That moment was magic.”

She moved his arm from off his face and tilted his head to kiss him. His lips tasted of sea salt and a buttery artificiality from the lotion he used. She kept her voice small and gentle as she spoke.

“There is no trash fish,” she said.


“I made it up for you, Tuffy. I wanted you to have something real.”

“What are you talking about?” he said as he moved out from under her to sit up in bed. “We have the skull. Partial skull, but that’s still proof. Real, solid proof.” She smiled for him but couldn’t be sure he saw. She stood from the bed.

Her twenty-something self had walked away naked from lovers too. When her back had been taut and her breasts fuller and firmer. She carried herself with a vain confidence born of her body parts that she now recognized as shallow. Twenty years later, she knew she was not what she once had been, and that same vanity wished Tuffy could see—if only just once—that version of her. But she was better like this. Twenty years ago, she could not have loved as she did now. She had walked away from lovers as a seduction, and they returned to her hungrier. For a time anyhow. Such appetites were all too easily sated. She walked away from Tuffy now only because she knew she would return, and he would wait. She would show him the truth, and he would understand.

She picked up her Papyrus from where she’d left it on the table where Tuffy had earlier watched and rewatched his interview on Terra Firma. She called up the screen she needed and got back into bed. As she handed it to him, she positioned herself at his side to rest her head on his shoulder.

“What is this?” Tuffy asked. The screen lit his face.

“The final design a friend made for me.” She exhaled. “I know a guy,” she said. “That sounds stupid and cliché, but it’s the truth. He works in printed prosthetics. I told him what I wanted, and this is what he came up with.”

“But the discoloration,” Tuffy said. “The weathering we observed in the sample.”

“Chemical airbrushing,” she said. “It’s the same technique that allows them to match a patient’s skin tone when someone needs a new ear or nose.”

“It’s a hoax?”


“It’s a hoax,” he said again. 

“Tuffy, I am so, so sorry,” she said. She wrapped her arms around him and turned her left cheek onto the point of his shoulder so she spoke toward his back. She felt the blanket sink just a little with the weight of the Papyrus set down, and he brought both hands up to cling to her arm pressed against his chest. “I wasn’t trying to hurt you. I knew this would make you happier than I could by myself. I did it for you, and I know how irrational that sounds. I love you, and I’m sorry I did this to you.”

“It’s all right,” he said. “I love you too.”

“I know it,” she said and placed a hand behind either ear to pull him into a kiss. They came apart, and she made sure he could see her. “You and me, we’re going to go somewhere, and we’re going to find something together. We’re going to put your name on something that people will remember and admire forever. All right? I want you to believe me. Tell me you do.”

“I believe you,” he said.


He moved out from under her touch, but he did not move her. Careful. He was always so careful. He walked naked from the bedroom quarters and stopped at the door to the claustrophobic bathroom on the right, but he did not step inside. 

“There was nothing in Tasmania to find,” he said. “The thylacine is extinct, isn’t it?”

“I don’t know,” Molly said.

He turned from the bathroom door and climbed the stairs out of Martha’s guts. Then came the heavy tremors of running feet followed by the distinctive splash of a body gone overboard. She ran upstairs to the railing at Martha’s stern, screaming as she went. But he was there in the waters of the marina, floating on his back. His eyes were closed. His legs straight and still. Only his hands fluttered like tiny fins to keep his body afloat.

She thought of Marjorie Courtenay-Latimer’s coelacanth. A primitive, ancient thing conjuring such wonder in the world above. But the coelacanth felt no wonder. It felt nothing at all except the evolutionary instinct to swim, to feed, and to make little coelacanths until it no longer could.

Tuffy Spectacular, the man she loved, floated in the water like a brand-new species of fish waiting to be discovered, waiting to be given a name that was not his own so scientists and the public alike could know who deserved the credit for proving his existence. The sky above was a black water ocean speckled with a million lures glowing under bioluminescence, but he did not bother to open his eyes. He just floated, drifting no further away from the boat but never coming any closer.