Odd Mammal Out

by Jessica Klimesh

She tells me it’s not a problem, the roughness of my skin. 

“It’s new,” I say.

“I like it,” she says, stroking my cheek, caressing my arm. “It’s nice.”

For our first Valentine’s Day, though, she gets me Aveeno, says, “I hope you don’t mind. Maybe it’ll help?” I give her a scented candle. Ocean Breeze.

“You miss home, don’t you?” she says, lighting the candle.


She tells me it’s not a problem, the scaly surface, the shiny lime-green hue, or how my limbs seem to be shrinking, shortening, slowly disappearing. 

“But it’s a little weird, don’t you think?” she says. 

I don’t tell her how surprised I am that I actually made it this far on land. Why my body waited until now, I don’t know.


She tells me it’s not a problem, how my body effervesces in the cold bath or how she has to lift me out with a net, now that I no longer have limbs. Or a human epidermis. My scales have become recognizable, obvious, and under them there is a slick softness, ductile.

At night, I hear her whispering in her sleep, saying, “It’s okay, it’s okay, it’s okay.” The words come to me in pale watery echoes.

I suck in my gills, blow soft bubbles.


She tells me it’s not a problem, the fact that I’ve become a fish. She talks all the time now, as if I were an invalid, saying that she loves me no matter what. Warm-blooded rationalization. I just swim in the silver water like an apparition, barely there. 

“You’re really quite beautiful, Chaz,” she says. “Exquisite.” She touches me, says it feels transcendent, like we’re one. She says she wants to be as beautiful as I am.

I see the brazen longing in her eyes and want to tell her she’ll be turning soon, too. 

But she won’t.


She tells me it’s not a problem that I live and breathe underwater and she can’t. She says she’s known fish before, that her best friends have always been fish. “And birds, too,” she says, recounting stories of school recesses, jumping rope, and tetherball. She says she’s used to it, being the only mammal, the odd mammal out. 

But this isn’t a game of tag or a slumber party that she can walk away from. I skim the surface, trying to relay meaning, intent. 

“It’s okay,” she says. “It’s okay, it’s okay, it’s okay.”

Jessica Klimesh is a US-based writer and editor whose flash fiction has been published or is forthcoming in Cleaver, Atticus Review, FlashFlood Journal, trampset, Ghost Parachute, HAD, Microfiction Monday Magazine, and TheDribble Drabble Review, among others. She is currently working on a collection of linked flash stories.