Second prize winner of the 1st Annual Geist Literal Literary Postcard Story Contest.
She walked out on the low tide until her feet hurt and her skin was sunburnt. From the rock ledge of a sand-locked island she plucked an orange starfish and touched her tongue to its rough back. She held the starfish fast to her chest and said, you are the most startling thing I have ever seen. The starfish curled its arms in and imagined barbecues and pool parties. He imagined the symphony and heard Franz Schubert’s Serenade over the surf.
She took the starfish home and they ate sushi and green-tea ice cream and then made love on the living room floor in front of a crackling fire. At night the starfish rested on the pillow next to her and told stories about the great tsunami of 1964 until she fell asleep.
During the day she carried him in a jar of water and placed him beside her computer at work. Secretaries stopped by her desk and begged to look at her starfish. She would hold him up and say, look how brilliant my starfish is. His orange back glowed under the fluorescent lights. Sometimes she would say no, and lock the starfish away in the filing cabinet so he wouldn’t see how attractive the other secretaries were. Inside the filing cabinet the starfish would sing “The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald” over and over until she took him out and put him back on the desk.
Her friends asked what it was like to be with a starfish and she said, warm water, he’s like being in warm water.
In the evenings they watched Jeopardy. He gave her salty kisses and whispered, hold me, in her ear. She held the starfish close so he could hear the tick tock whir of her heart trapped in its rib cage. She never imagined the world could be so kind. Taste me, he said, keep me in your mouth, warm and moist like a womb. Inhale me, he said, like the smell of baking bread. There was the gentle rustle of tears in her eyes. Outside, cherry blossoms danced in the breeze. I will protect you, she said, like a bed of kelp. I will crush you like the ocean.