“The Last Will and Testament of Andre the Mackerel” by Zack Graham
Akashic Books is proud to introduce a new flash fiction series, Duppy Thursday. Though we’re based in Brooklyn, our location envy of the Caribbean is evident throughout our catalog. One aspect of Caribbean literature that appeals to us is the integration of folklore into contemporary stories—a perfect example being Jamaican author Marlon James’s debut novel John Crow’s Devil, which we published to great critical acclaim in 2005. Whether it be the spider Anansi, the devil woman La Diablesse, the Soucouyant, Mama Dlo, or Papa Bois, these mythical beings have injected life (and death) into the literature of the region. As with our other flash fiction series, we challenge you to tell your story in 750 words or less.
This week, Zack Graham proves that good deeds get good consequences.
The Last Will and Testament of Andre the Mackerel
by Zack Graham
Runaway Bay, Jamaica; Mama Dlo
Marlon and Shawn spend every Saturday of their retirement fishing together out on Runaway Bay.
One Sunday they’re fishing in Shawn’s boat when Marlon gets a bite—a big one. It curls his rod toward the water, and he has to stand up to reel it in. Marlon finally yanks it out of the water—it’s a beautiful mackerel as big as a shoe. It lands between them on the deck, wriggling around so much that neither of them can snatch it up and toss it in the water bucket to keep it alive. It wriggles and flops until it dies.
Marlon and Shawn stoop over it. With one last flip of its tail, the mackerel’s mouth falls open, and it coughs up a tiny piece of parchment tied up with string.
Marlon picks up the little scroll and unties the string with trembling fingers. He takes out his spectacles and reads:
The Last Will and Testament of Andre the Mackerel:
Drop some food over by the big palm tree near the reef for my family.
Find the bright yellow boat down by the dock and put a hole in the bottom. That fisherman killed my brother and my sister.
Deliver my body to Mama Dlo, the mother of the water.
“Ignore that silly piece of paper,” Shawn says. “Let’s toss him in the cooler and cook him for dinner.”
“We’re gonna do his bidding,” Marlon says.
“He would have done the same for me.”
Marlon steers the boat toward the palm tree by the reef and pours some fish food into the water, then steers the boat over to the dock where the yellow boat sits unattended.
“I know that boat—it’s Cal’s from down at the bar!” Shawn says.
Marlon ignores Shawn. He steps onto the yellow boat, hammer in hand, and pounds a hole in the bottom. He leaps out as Shawn steers their boat away, screaming at Marlon all the while.
“If anyone saw you, we’re going to jail!” Shawn is beside himself.
“Where can we find Mama Dlo?” Marlon says aloud, paying Shawn no mind.
Neither of them have any idea how to find her. Shawn drives the boat around and around as they both think and think. Marlon takes the little scroll out of his pocket and reads the third request over and over, but nothing comes to him.
“Hey, look!” Shawn says, pointing at the opposite side of the scroll. Marlon turns it over, and sure enough, Andre hasn’t let them down.
PS—You can find Mama Dlo in the cave near the point.
Shawn turns the boat around and heads for the point. Marlon watches the coastline streak by them—on any other day, they would be sipping cool beers and sitting on their crates waiting for bites that would never come. But, despite Shawn’s protest, today they’re not sitting and relaxing, waiting to die. They’re having an adventure.
Shawn steers the boat into the narrow cave near the point. Marlon pushes the cave wall so the hull doesn’t hit the rocks.
The cave opens into a cavern, and a piercing blue glow rises from the center of the pool. A half-fish, half-woman creature emerges from the water. Her nose is flat, and each strand of her hair is alive.
“Who goes?” says Mama Dlo.
“It’s Shawn and Marlon,” Marlon says. “We bring you the body of Andre the Mackerel.”
Marlon scoops Andre up and holds him out to Mama Dlo, who grabs the dead fish and swallows it whole.
“You are good men,” Mama Dlo says. “You get one wish from the sea in return for your good deed.”
Marlon thinks for a minute.
“Is there any way you can rid the world of sadness?”
“I don’t know about sadness. But I can give the world beautiful sunsets for the rest of eternity.”
“Even when it’s raining?”
“Even when it’s raining.”
Mama Dlo smiles at Marlon as she descends back into the water.
Marlon steers the boat out of the cave and drifts it along the glistening shore. They each open a beer from the cooler, and for the first time they feel like they’ve earned it.
They clink their bottles and turn to watch the setting sun spill lemon and orange and blood all over them.
ZACK GRAHAM’s writing has appeared in The National Book Review, English Kills Review, The Review Review, and elsewhere. He is at work on a collection of short fiction and a novel.
—We are not offering payment, and are asking for first digital rights. The rights to the story revert to the author immediately upon publication.
—Your story should be set in a Caribbean location and incorporate some aspect of folklore, whether centrally or tangentially.
—Include the location and the referenced folk tale or figure of the story with your byline.
—Your story should not exceed 750 words.
—Please include a short bio with your submission.
—Accepted submissions to Duppy Thursday are typically posted 2–4 months after the notification date, and will be edited for cohesion and to conform to our house style.
—E-mail your submission to [email protected]. Please paste the story into the body of the email, and also attach it as a PDF file.
Posted: Feb 4, 2016
Category: Duppy Thursday | Tags: Jamaica, Caribbean, flash fiction, short story, Caribbean Literature, short fiction, Duppy Thursday, Zack Graham, The Last Will and Testament of Andre the Mackerel, Mama Dlo, Runaway Bay