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The Extinction Museum: Exhibit # 914 (tank of anoxic water from Gulf of Mexico near the mouth of the Mississippi River)

The bloom of your skin as the river thickens around us. Constellations of algae exhale. We eat the fish that bob to the surface. Suffocated. The flesh tastes of mud and cumin. Our campfire flares in the night, a signal no one is close enough to answer. Three elements to build a fire, you tell me. You used to wear a costume of khaki. Adults embroidered your accomplishments onto your torso. Heat, fuel, oxygen. The air here is thin. We sip it from each other’s mouths. The large animals have died, but we are small. The fever comes at nightfall and everything hisses. There used to be teakettles and family dogs, limited-edition sneakers kept clean in their boxes, spun sugar on a paper cone. More fish lie atop the water, gifts from cold gods, fragile bones to pluck. You make a harmonica of yours. I whittle needles to stitch the sky.

Tina May Hall is a fiction writer and Professor of Literature and Creative Writing at Hamilton College in upstate New York. Her collection of short stories, The Physics of Imaginary Objects, won the 2010 Drue Heinz Literature Prize. Her novel, The Snow Collectors, was published by Dzanc Books in 2020. She was awarded an NEA literature fellowship in 2014 and has done residencies at Yaddo and Vermont Studio Center. Her stories have appeared in Smokelong Quarterly, Quarterly West, Black Warrior Review, Descant, The Collagist, and other journals.

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