Other Stories in this issue

Murder By The Sea

by Jennifer Steil

About the Author: Jennifer Steil is an award-winning author who lives in many countries (currently Uzbekistan/France/UK). Her most recent novel, Exile Music, won the Grand Prize in the international Eyelands 2020 Book Awards and is a finalist for the 2021 Lambda Literary Lesbian Fiction Award. Her previous novel, The Ambassador’s Wife, won the 2013 William Faulkner-William Wisdom Creative Writing Competition Best Novel award, the 2016 Phillip McMath Post Publication book award.


Marina stands looking at the patch of dawn flickering on the remaining sea. So small, so far. You couldn’t get too close to the water anymore or the sand would take you. It holds her sinking feet too tightly and she lets it. She deserves to be held here, at the scene of the crime. It’s only fair. They had taken the sea, piece by piece. They had turned it this way and that, strangled the rivers that fed it, poured it over the mouths of thirsty cotton.  

When she was a girl, she had thought it would crash to these Karakalpak shores her whole life, through her grandchildren’s lives. None of them had made plans for when it left and their town, their lively sea town, became a stretch of brown, stinking sand that now did no thing at all. The mushrooms she loved disappeared from riverbanks. Salted soil spoiled the cotton, withered the almond and apple trees behind their homes. Chemical dust filled the lungs of their children. The sun burned nearly every drop of pristine water into thin air.

She bends to curl her fingers around a plastic water bottle. A near lifetime ago, her fingers had cleaned scales from fish. When their bodies began turning up rotting and poisoned, and her husband Sergei had gone to work on the island and never returned, not even when the island was no longer an island but part of the shore, when the Russians in a panic razed it all to rubble, she had left, traveled far from Mo’ynoq, stayed away for years. In Tashkent, she cleaned a house that rarely needed cleaning, a house without crusted salt and mud. She washed clothing that still smelled of soap from the last wash.

Story Comments

Nov 7 - Tina

Excellent! Interesting and catching storyline with a wonderful twist of who done it! Lots of angles packed into this story! Loved the read.

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