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Tail of the Fisherman's Wife

--by Oleandre


"Was years ago now. People don't talk about it much any more, but it was quite the gossip at the time. That's what most people round here do, you know? Gossip. But old Liza? I was there, honey, I remember it. The truth of it too. So its as I said, years ago, and there was a boy by the name of Slim.

"Slim was a card player. A good one. Some thought Slim didn't play cards straight, but that ain't true neither. Slim just had the devil's own luck. He could pull an ace from the river whenever he needed it. You know what that means, boy? Don't suppose you do, but in the world of poker, it's all a player really wants. Slim, he made a cleaning in the houses all up an down the Bay. Course he could lose all that money the next day, but Slim, he had no worries, see? Cause he knew, the boy just knew, it won't be long afore he make it back again and in spades, yes sir.

"Slim also loved the ladies. And the ladies? Oh, they loved that boy Slim. It's not the sort of thing an old lady should talk about, but Slim was a looker. Dark haired boy with these intense eyes, look right through you and come out the other side, knowing all there is about you that needs knowing. Ladies like that sort of thing, I'll tell you right now. You look at a lady that way and she'll melt, just puddle right there where she's standing. But a looker like him, I couldn't tell you it came as a surprise to anyone here in the Bay that Slim wasn't the faithful sort. That man loved a lot of women. All the prettiest girls had a ball of a time with Slim and of course they'd fall for him and think they would finally be the one to settle Slim out. But the world's going to keep on spinning and the sun's going to keep on rising and Slim was never, ever going to settle down with no backwater girl in the Bay.

"After time, Slim ran out of pretty backwater girls that didn't know he was up to no good. Some might've thought about given him a second chance, but even our girls down here know better than inviting that sort of heartbreak back to their door again. No sir.

"That's how She came down into the Bay. Slim brought her down from Stormwind and in those days? Why, she was the prettiest girl I'd ever laid eyes on. She was sweeter than sin, had this light in her no one could have put down, and her smile...

"...Sorry, son, but just remembering that smile, ah, still melts my heart to this very day. And she didn't have eyes for nothing but Slim. Follow him around like a puppy and what no one had the heart to tell her about Slim's way with womenfolk. Even his old flames couldn't bring it in themselves to hate her, the big city girl, because she far, far too sweet a thing. She'd hang off his arm in the houses, watch him play his cards, bet off all his money, she ate it all up. Bless her heart.

"Early on? Graced times. They was a glorious couple, everyone thought so. Even during the monsoons, its like the rains never even touched them. Well, I'm not going to be the first to tell you that ain't nothing so fine going to last forever. We got a saying down here in the Bay, you see son, and it goes to say that the sweeter the honey, the bigger the bees.

"Slim's girl? She started attracting some of the biggest and the meanest of them bees. Charming and pretty as she was, you can't help but expect folk to take notice. Some of those folk lost a right parcel of money to Slim. Others still he owed old debts to. Fellas that roll around them houses can get right mean when they're envying something as fierce as they envied Slim, both for his girl and his devil luck. Not that anyone would lay a hand on the girl that she didn't want them to. We're an upstanding lot, for the most part, and for the less part there's the bruisers and they keep things in line. Not a soul, even those envying Slim and partial to his girl, wanted that sort of thing spread about the Bay. No, no, but still men drink and men talk and make damn fools of themselves and while these men were doing all these things, they came up with a plan. They say to themselves, they say, 'You know, if old Slim was out of the picture...' and let their imaginations take them from there.

"That's all it took. Suddenly, Slim found himself unwelcome at all the houses in the Bay. His money ain't no good, they told him. They weren't interested in his business. You ever see a gambling man who found he had no place to gamble? Not a pretty sight, not at all. Slim got tetchy over it. Tetchy and mean. Got to drinking.

"Now, I ain't one to claim that a man's true nature can be found at the bottom of a bottle. My Davie swore off the stuff years ago, and it ain't changed one lick of his disposition. Still says to me, 'Liza, never can decide how you tricked me into marrying you,' he says. As though he's the damn catch of the day I stole off a stand! Why, if I even began telling you about how he...

"...Sorry, an old lady's got an itch to ramble on, but this parts the hook, you just wait. So Slim, he starts drinking like he's trying to drown out his need for cards. Course it doesn't work, but he gets more fierce and more intense just about every day he's drowning hisself and his girl just wilts like you won't believe. I seen a girl shrivel up and die on account of a man, ain't pretty. Just about one of the ugliest things I ever saw and it was all the more sad coming from her, since she was so alive and so young and happy. I looked on and thought, There's a right tragedy if I ever seen one, and was about to mark it down as such. A damned sorry state.

"But what no one knew, no one had cause to know until that point, was that Slim's girl had a backbone in her as strong and straight as the nails keeping the docks from falling into the sea. God's own teeth, but you wouldn't believe it until finally, one day when Slim was feeling all sorry for himself and she pulled the bottle out of his hand, her eyes blazing like some untamed thing and lashed him out one, calling him a coward and a complying bastard that he wasn't even going to fight for something that he seemed to of cared for so much. (Some say she was talking about the cards, but Liza here knows better, the girl meant herself sure as the snake meant to eat the mouse.) Yes sir, she called him out right there in front of everyone, and folk was too stunned to do anything at first to see her yelling at Slim who had been the whole damn world to her. Silence didn't last too long though, never does, and soon you thought it must've been thundering outside everyone was laughing so hard. Laughing at Slim, of course.

"Then he hit her. Slapped her right cross her face, hard too, hard enough you could hear it over all the noise folk were making. But then folk didn't make any noise at all. You thought you heard quiet before, boy? You ain't heard nothing close to what noise wasn't happening in that bar room. Gods themselves stopped bickering for a moment to stare down in shock.

"Never seen nothing like it since.

"You ask any soul what happened after that and this is what they'll tell you. Slim left town just like them that conspired against him might hope. People say he went north up into the inland. Shamed straight out of his home that very night. No worse that what he'd deserve either, people agreed, slapping a girl like that. That's what people will say, son, but old Liza? I told you I'd tell you the truth of it, and not just what people might say. See, its the way of a fisherman's wife to spend most of her life waiting. Waiting and watching out at the water. That's exactly what I was doing that night. I was expecting my Davey's boat to make port, so I'm sitting out there at night, not any hour for reasonable folk, but a fisherman's wife ain't rightly going to be reasonable folk, now is she?

"It was dark that night, dark as the gods make them, but I spent many a night watching the sea and my eyes are two of the best. I can spot a gull land on Janeiro's Point from the docks, no lie. So I'm sitting there, quiet, thinking whatever thoughts might fill my head in them days as I'm watching the horizon, waiting for his ship. That's when I saw her. Slim's girl, clear enough, but she didn't look at all like the sweet, innocent thing I knew her to be, no sir. She was nothing but business, as she crept all slowlike, cross the docks, carrying a satchel bigger than she is like it wasn't no thing at all.

"Never seen nothing like that before, and I held my breath and I'll tell you now I was scared, thought she was possessed by something I can't even imagine, but I watched her all the same and she took her satchel down the the ramp. You know the one that leads into the water down there all out of the way? That's the very one. I saw her lay down that bag, lay it out long, and I saw her saying something to it, but I wasn't nearly close enough to know what that might've been. (I can guess though, an old woman can guess out nearly anything, but I said I was going to tell you the facts and the fact is I didn't hear what Slim's girl said to her bag what was longer than she was.) Then she just tapped it with her foot, just a tap was all it took, and that satchel rolled down the ramp and into the black water.

"Was the next day folk started talking about what happened and how Slim must've ran out of town fast as his legs could carry him afore some would be suitor took it upon hisself to punish Slim for what he did and, I don't doubt, curry some favor with his girl while he was at it, but not Liza here. I know what I saw. Slim didn't never leave town and if he did it wasn't on his legs, but in the bellies of the fish that swim down there all deep. Mmhmm, Liza knows what happened.

. . .

"Slim's girl? What you mean 'what of her?' She's in that pool hall, sure as salt, playing her hand at cards. Girl's a quick study, that's for damn sure. Might reckon to say that she's better than Slim at his game, stole his devil luck. Tell you one thing about her, she turned down all the old suitors until they just quit trying and now its said that she's a made Tiger. You believe that? Sweet girl like her. Pah! Sweet nothing, that girl there, she's hard as nails through and through. Wouldn't see no body in the Bay working against her if they been her long enough to know, no sir. And that's the truth of it. That's the truth."

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