HCE received a lot of high-quality submissions for The Brutal Issue – sadly, too many to fit inside the magazine! So we offered some of our shortlisted contributors the chance to be published on our website.
Keep an eye on our social media for more great writing like this, in the run up to the release of The Brutal Issue…
Michael A. Ferro
No one knew the peculiar-looking man who placed the winning bid to take home the most expensive fish in the world. The familiar faces around the Tsukiji fish market watched one another in disbelief, shouting blasphemies as they were continually outbid by this foreign, white-skinned stranger. Once the bidding had reached 80 million yen they fell silent, one by one, and rested their hands in their laps, careful now only to peek over at the unusual man through furtive glances.
The foreigner was immense in both height and girth. As he stood to claim his prize, he straightened the lapels of his grey pinstripe suit and buttoned it closed over his enormous stomach. He lumbered toward the stage as the news media and cameras surrounded him, bright flashes ricocheting off his greasy face, though he did not blink. Onlookers studied his movements with a suspicious eye. Who was this man? Why had he come across the ocean to ruin this time-honored festivity? And, most interestingly, why was he now approaching the auctioneer’s microphone stand?
The man stepped onto the stage and stood next to the great 496-pound bluefin resting motionless on its side upon a large wooden table. The fish had been cleaned to a spotless shine and glimmered tantalisingly under the show lights. He walked the length of the table and ran his plump fingers across the tuna’s loins. He returned to the head of the fish and slapped it across the face. The crowd gasped and the room fell silent. The man grinned and posed for a photo.
A local journalist approached the man.
“Why have you bought the fish?” he asked.
“I wanted to,” the man replied.
“Is it for a sushi restaurant in America?”
“Why did you buy such a large fish from our country?”
“Because I wanted to.”
“What will you do with the fish?”
The man beamed at the reporter, exposing a row of tiny teeth coated in urine-colored film, and clicked his tongue. The crowd gathered around the bluefin and gawked at its sheer size. The man spread his arms out over the fish and the crowd leaned back in astonishment, as if he were brandishing a blade.
“Get away from my fish,” the man said to the horde.
Back at his estate across the sea, the obese man sat in his tanned leather chair at the corner of a large den with high oak walls and vaulted ceiling. The room was lit in the center by a large circular fireplace that sat underneath an enormous limestone chimney. On a small, elegant table next to the man was a china plate littered with the stripped T-bones of two porterhouses. There was no silverware in sight. The man unbuttoned his trousers, slipped off his loafers, and belched, listening with glee as the sound carried around the room much like the boom from a stadium’s sound system.
On the wall above him was the massive bluefin, stuffed and frozen in wild ecstasy. The man fell asleep.
Born and bred in Detroit, MICHAEL A. FERRO was awarded the Jim Cash Creative Writing Award for Fiction. His debut novel, TITLE 13, will be published by Harvard Square Editions in 2018. His work has appeared in numerous journals in both print and online, including Crack the Spine, Chicago Literati, Splitsider, Random Sample Review, The Avalon Literary Review, The Corvus Review, Viewfinder Literary Magazine, Points in Case, and is forthcoming in the IBPA’s Independent Magazine, Linden Avenue Literary Journal, Jersey Devil Press, and elsewhere. Michael has lived, worked, and written throughout the Midwest; he currently resides in rural Ann Arbor, Michigan. Additional publications can be found at: www.michaelaferro.com.