Over the years they had had many similar meals. The starter
was a chilled pea soup, its oddity just enough to hold the
attention; that unexpected cold, spreading in waves over teeth
and tongue. At that moment, the blunt end of his spoon
connected softly with the table. The evening light skewed
down from the high-up windows and glittered off a hundred
knives poised to cut. Maybe she was thinking how quickly
the summer would go from now on. He feared that she would
leave him and said so too often when they were alone. She
looked down at her napkin, then up; in that second, when
no eyes met, it seemed perfectly right that words should be
things you have to digest. Why had she had to say it? He
imagined all the conversations in the room pouring from
their unknown protagonists as though from the excised
stomach of a hulking and battle-scarred crocodile, an
eighteen-footer dragged straight from the Cretaceous. When
the triumphant fisherman tipped up that membranous sac,
out would gush an uncontrollable bilge of fluorescent green
goo: he watched it swilling across the restaurant’s parquet,
chuckled as the tray-poised waiters skidded on their
windmilling hams, so many Michael Flatleys. As the reeking
ooze receded, the diners became aware of diverse objects
beached between their corroded chair legs: asymmetrically
polished stones, the barb-stripped calami of ibis or other
broad-quilled waders, one rifled musket’s intact silver
flintlock, a small girl’s hand, an acid-dinted comb.

from Loop of Jade (Chatto & WIndus, 2015) © Sarah Howe 2015, used by permission of the author and the publisher.

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