Ilsibill in the Night, Alone

This story is paired with “The Fisherman and His Wife” from Children’s and Household Tales by Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm. For best experience, download the LithoReader for your iPhone or iPad and get NonBinary Review for free. 


Her sleeping husband pitches and yaws beside her, salt and fish and ancient rope oozing from his skin. His breath folds into the sea sounds crackling at the window.

Her windpipe tightens as though squeezed by a hand. She distracts herself. She thinks of all the things she must remind her husband of in the morning: eat his soup, comb his hair, wipe his boots, take his wrapped lunch, haggle his prices, hand over the coin, don’t stop at the tavern, don’t laze with his friends, don’t dawdle, don’t scratch, don’t stay, don’t sleep, don’t spend, don’t pick, don’t drink, don’t cough, don’t say, don’t spend, don’t take, don’t look, don’t sit, don’t go, don’t spend. He may remember.

When she finally sleeps, an hour before dawn, her hands pull old wool blankets turned to nets. She hauls the blanket nets, now squirming with gold and silver fish, in time to the loll of her boat. Their scent rises around her, fresh. A great shiver rises through her feet to calves to thighs to belly, back, shoulders, neck, scalp.

She stretches arms to a cloudless sky.

She takes the tiller, turning the boat to home.


kelsie-hahnKelsie Hahn holds an MFA in fiction from New Mexico State University. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in Barrelhouse, 1/25, NANO Fiction, SpringGun, and others. She lives in Houston, TX with her husband, Stephen Cleboski.