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Diana Clark is an elephant enthusiast and an MFA fiction candidate at UNCW, with special love for LGBTQIA+ literature, magical realism, and sci-fi. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in Broad! (a gentleperson's magazine), Persephone's Daughters, Cease, Cows, Crab Fat Magazine, and more. In 2015, her piece "Singed" was nominated for the Pushcart Prize.

1 flash fiction piece

by Diana Clark

Ten Things Jonah Did While Stuck in the Belly of a Whale for Three Days

  1. Played the harmonica.

  2. Sang “The Sound of Silence,” by Simon & Garfunkel. Well, sort of. He actually sang a cover of the song. You know, the one by The Disturbed? The one David Draiman sang on Conan O’Brien back on March 28th, 2016? Yeah, that one. The perfect cover of a perfect cover: Jonah son of Amittai, 746 B.C.

  3. Found a fish—like, a smaller fish, not another whale—swimming in the bile. Named him Dave. Dave the Capelin. “How are you this morning, Dave?” Jonah would ask, and one time (Jonah would swear by this years later) one time Dave the Capelin winked, and it was then Jonah knew he would never forget Dave the Capelin, and Dave the Capelin would never forget Jonah and his stay in the belly of the whale.

  4. Tried to order breakfast.

  5. Painted. Jonah removed a small brush from his tunic, dipped it in the sea of red and worse, painted the whale’s ribs, painted up and down those great white bones. He thought this would last him one whole day, but after he was done and still not weary, body not yet ready for sleep, Jonah peeled off his clothes, damp with stomach acid, and painted along his own rib cage—already five pounds lighter since being swallowed—painted up and down his left and right ribs. The soles of his feet. The insides of his wrists. Rubbed them together like ointment. Like Mama’s perfume. Imagined himself a painting one would hang on their living room wall. Jonah son of Amittai, 746 B.C.

  6. Stargazed. Jonah lay on his back on the raft he had built, pieces of lumber from ships destroyed by the sea or the whale or both, and lay looking up at the whale’s infinite back. No, not infinite. In the dark, if he squinted, Jonah could make out where the whale stopped, the thick insides of his back—layer of rubber and bone—and Jonah closed his eyes, squeezed them shut, dug the palms of his hands into their sockets until he really did see stars.

  7. Taught himself to breakdance.

  8. Finally mastered The Scorpion Pose. Jonah had been practicing yoga for a long time before the whale. Years as a matter of fact. He had originally started for his mental health. Something to help center him when the panic attacks came or the anxiety was just too much. It’d been serving him pretty well, had reduced his episodes by a solid 35%, and yet he had never mastered The Scorpion Pose until now. See? It was good, his being thrown overboard. Good that he was here now, inside the massive fish. Everything happens for a reason!

  9. Prayed. Jonah stood on his raft, still floating along the muck and grime of the whale, around and around like a lazy river ride, Jonah’s favorite water park attraction when he was just a boy. Jonah stood with his hands deep in his pockets, stared up at the fish’s insides and breathed. “Was doing really good with all that, you know.” Voice soft at first, barely an echo against the whale’s insides. “Was doing really well with the anxiety, the panic, all of that. Gotta hand it to you, God, you sure know how to set a man back.” Jonah was pacing now, carving circles into the wooden raft with his soles. “Nothing like a good old fashioned relapse, a good old fashioned let-‘im-get-hopeful. Makes the setback so much sweeter, doesn’t it, God?” Jonah bent, reached down deep into the muck of the whale, withdrew plankton and algae, the feeling like mucus against his palm, fused it together like a ball of snow and threw it against the whale’s ribs, still painted red from yesterday’s exhibit. “I conceded!” Jonah shouted. “Accountability. That’s the biggest part of an apology, isn’t it, my Lord? Did I not admit to it on the boat, my having run away? Did I not offer myself up to those men, let them throw me over in order to save their lives?” Jonah bent again, withdrew from the insides of the belly a spear, a net, a plastic ring of six—all entangled with the next—threw it from his algae stained hands against the whale’s wheezing insides. “There is nothing behind this,” Jonah said. “Nothing behind this decision. Only humiliation, only torture. You could have just killed me. And this is your sickness, God, not mine. I will have my panic, but you will always have this. You will always be this. Torture artist.” And then Jonah collapsed heavy onto the raft, deep in the center at the belly of the whale.

  10. Promised. Jonah sat on the raft, head in his hands, skin clinging to his ribs as he drew in deep, tight breaths, nose curling at the smell of him, rotten entrails, curdled fish beneath the sun. Said sorry again. Sorry about Nineveh. Sorry about running away. Sorry about the tantrum he had earlier. Winced at the sudden sound of regurgitation. Turned to the violent act of light, the whale opening its mouth, the swamp of the mammal’s insides rippling until the waves pushed and pulled and sucked him down, threw him out, Jonah taking in the many rows of teeth before he was thrown up, scattered onto the beach’s turf, promised in his freedom that he would never get angry with the Lord his God again. 

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