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February 2020

JLM MORTON



Tenching


She took the Spine Road to the lake, hunched against drenching squalls of camper vans and gravel trucks. Through a latched gate at the southern end. She found the mud and writhed in it with a pocket full of worms gathered from the verge. Any sign of movement, the book said, and the tench will make inquiries. Physician of fishes. Lover of foul water. Unwholesome meat. Bare willow cords hung from the branches and brushed her unblinking eyes.

Nothing.

New Year, new you, she’d thought and washed her hair. She blow dried it and, for once, left it down. Tucked a lock behind her ear. Even so he said she was a munter, bottom feeder, hair shit coloured anyway. Then he tore the Nordmann Fir from its stand, still hung with coloured baubles, threw it out front where even the bricks smelt bad and a St. George hung limp from the fencepost.

Floodwaters made the approach impassable in places, but she waded along the crest of the road’s camber, past hedgerows where Police tape snagged on blackthorn and a heron’s wings beat overhead. She bought all the bait she could afford - a loaf of brown bread and a jar of honey – squatted by the reedbeds and margins where the silt weed grew, moulding sticky balls with her fingers. At last light she woke from a dream of pale children calling and chasing her off with notes from the future -

the quarry surfaced,

a moonrise of gold, black, red

slithered to her chest.

Image: Illustration of a tench (tinca tinca) by Sarah Bowdich c.1828 (Natural History Museum