The women who clean fish are all named Rose or Grace. They wake up close to the water, damp and dreamy beneath white sheets, thinking of white beaches. It is always humid where they work. Under plastic aprons, their breasts foam and bubble. They wear old clothes because the smell will never go. On the floor, chlorine. On the window, dry streams left by gulls. When tourists come to watch them working over belts of cod and hake, they don't look up. They stand above the gutter. When the belt starts they pack the bodies in, ten per box, their tales crisscrossed as if in sacrament. The dead fish fall compliantly. It is the iridescent scales that stick, clinging to cheek and wrist, lighting up hours later in a dark room. The packers say they feel orange spawn between their fingers, the smell of themselves more like salt than peach.
Last night the animals beneath her window crept out of hiding to comb the dirt from each other's fur. Rising to watch, she discovered the lilacs lit from below by ivory vinca. The street on the other side of the trees continued to contain its passing cars; tenderly her teeth let her tongue rest against their curving backs. Tonight when she lies in bed again, she will remember the one kind thing her grown daughter said today after weeks of scrutiny, and the moment at work just now, when a stack of Day-Glo folders cascaded over her desk, thrilling the white cubicle with their descent.