OF WALRUSES AND QUEENS – Kathryn McMahon

studies-of-a-bewalking

My girlfriend has tusks that she thrusts up and down every time a polar bear comes near. If you’re ever confronted by a polar bear, do the same thing with a stick. The polar bear will imagine a walrus and flee. Never mind that you are made of soft, crushable flesh. Just please don’t break someone’s heart in the process. I don’t fear polar bears, but I do love my girlfriend and her walrus constituents. She doesn’t have bristles or flippers or a husky hide, though her skin is velveteen and she is good at catching crabs and shrimp. All she wears is an ancient walrus fur tied at her throat. Me, I am naked and cherish how my fine hairs are growing in thick and luxurious. It is very cold, wherever we are. She found me out here on the rocky shore crystalled with ice. My forehead was bleeding, my white legs the luminous blue of a glacier. Maybe my boat capsized—or perhaps I was exiled to sea. It doesn’t matter. I lost my memory, but got her.
The others go fishing for clams and sea cucumbers, and I ask how she came to be here. She looks at me with dark ocean eyes and answers as if something has caught in her teeth. “I too washed up not knowing who I had been before. I too was once without ivory tusks. One day yours will come in.” The rubbery bodies wriggle onto the sand, and she beckons two over and stands on the back of one and tells me to mount the other. She barks “Go!” in walrus, and they take off into the waves. We circle her queendom. It is larger than I knew. “What is that land beneath the midnight sun?” I ask, and she says, “It is the land of our enemies: the Island of the Polar Bears.” Which I have been longing for. Because polar bears don’t have to eat walruses. And the soft hairs on my legs are growing in white, not brown, and when I scrape my fingernails across my girlfriend’s back and she shivers, really I am scraping with long, black claws.
The midnight sun of summer finally sets and my girlfriend is asleep among the snoring lumps. I kiss her and whisper that I’ll see her soon. Then I throw myself at the waves and swim towards my crown—and hope when I return her tusks will only hover above the ground.

 

 

 

Kathryn McMahon is a queer American writer living abroad with her British wife and dog. Her stories have appeared in places such as FLAPPERHOUSE, Third Point Press, Atticus Review, Booth, Passages North, The Cincinnati Review, Jellyfish Review, and Split Lip. Her work has received various nominations and has been selected for Wigleaf’s Top 50. Recently, she was a finalist for the SmokeLong Quarterly Award for Flash Fiction. She tweets as @katoscope. Find more of her writing at darkandsparklystories.com.

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