When Aisha was younger her father used to take her out to sea.
Her mother had been beset with pains and, Aisha suspected, rather sick with the sight of her, so her father, bereft of sons, would heave Aisha up onto his shoulders and leap onto the boat.
Pay attention, he said, guiding her hands into the stomach of a red-edged changu. Feathered filaments torn, raggedly inflating within blood-speckled gills. Ali laughing a bright summer laugh, crooking his finger in the tuck, hooking from the inside. His little finger gleaming and wriggling like a worm.
He had looked into her face and what he saw there stopped his smile, his mirth fading. She would remember this ever after, sensing that she had failed not just at a task, but at possessing some important instinct. That she had both disappointed her father and yet done no more than expected the first time. It was not unforgivable. There were lessons here.
Ali snatched the struggling fish up by the tail and motioned to the sea with it bristling in his fist. The command need not be spoken this time but she heard it all the same. Pay attention, Aisha.
He flung the mutilated thing over the side, and just as the cold cord of its guts began to cloud the water pink, a black fin cleaved the wave, quick as a scythe, and vanished. A light white froth, milky as boiling rice, bubbled up in a fizz before it too dissolved.
Pay attention, Aisha. Everyone must have their share.
Aisha guts the fish her father brings, scales glittering under the saw of the old blade. The dull side scrapes, the sharp slant angled toward her body. They fly off the fish, these scales, like sparks off a whetstone. They stick to the dark skin of her arms, glitter hotly on her neck and cheek.