jeudi 11 juin 2009

Fish overboard!

Frog eyes

It was terrifying. Positively terrifying to think of the tiniest baby fish getting to close to the edge of the basin and finding themselves washed onto the brick ledge, only to be left there as the waters of the storm receded, struggling in vain to get back into the safety of the deeper waters. I struggled in vain against going out into "the weather" to see if any required saving.

I grabbed a rain jacket and ran out into the driving rain. The plastic basins and trash cans we have placed under the disconnected downspout to catch the water tumbling off the roofs had long since seen their capacity to contain the water that could fall from the roofs exceeded. They sat in several inches of water at the edge of the slab on which the house rests. I hardly noticed the sound of the water crashing onto their overflowing surface; it has become a background noise in the last days, like the tumult of the turtle doves in the trees overhead. Something like C-5's in love. We have all grown used to their thrashing about in the limbs, wings beating like elephants' ears swatting flies in the breeze. I crouched down to examine the sheet of water on the bricks that make the sloped border.

This, it has not failed to escape me in moments like this, when the basin is overflowing, was one of the very few smart things our predecessors here did. Sloping the bricks that make the ledge down into the basin, very slightly, causes the water that accumulates on them, and everything it contains, tend to flow back into the basin when the deluge is over. Not that no one is lost overboard.

I found a single, tiny fish, twitching about in the shallows on the brick. Very gently, with the tip of my finger, I pushed the water alongside him back into the high seas. He blinked and looked around in the middle of the swells between rain drops. I lost sight of him. There weren't any others, but my rain jacket was already soaked through to my sweater. Whoever else would be so unfortunate as to get to close to the edge would likely perish. There's nothing to be done for it, when the rain falls like it did yesterday and in the days previous.

Only a couple hours before, I had gone to Truffaut to pick something up that had been on order. I went to see the shubunkins and the carp koi. I knew I was going to take more home. Not like I needed more fish, with all the babies, any more than I needed another hole in my head.

I think I have a fish problem.

The thing is that they all come over to the side of the tank to look at you when you approach. They want to come home with you, and when you have such a wonderful fish-pond-in-a-fountain to offer them, how can you resist?

Besides, the two little carp koi seem lonely. They are often in their own corners; the comets and the shubunkins, closely related, are having a perpetual party, to which the little koi seem reluctant to accept the invitation. I needed more carp koi, and a couple more shubunkins wouldn't be a bad thing, either. The babies are some mix of shubunkin and comet, mostly grey, some orange, others clearly calico and spotted, perhaps some mostly blue, like the two larger ones I bought at Florosny, just before they stopped selling their fish, for "sanitary reasons", meaning that the fish were catching a flesh-eating disease from a source of infection: one of the larger carp koi, who was missing large chunks of his own flesh along the dorsal area.

"Ca ne lui fait pas mal?" I'd asked Cyril.


"Et les autres, ils ne vont pas l'attraper de lui?"

"Non," he shook his head, looking at the fish swimming around the leper with me. I didn't believe him. He was spinning to control damage. I understood. "Je vais chercher le traitement ce week-end." He explained that he had learned at a seminar on aquarium fish he had attended with his parents that the way to treat this disease is to dunk the poor fish in water and rock salt.

"Ca ne leur fait pas mal non plus?"

"Ils ne l'apprécient pas, mais --"

"Il faut le faire."

"Il faut le faire," he nodded again. Poor fish!

Ours appear to have escaped the terrible microbe. When I went to Florosny the day before yesterday, I checked to see if the fish were available for purchase. Their shubunkin are more exceptional. There was no sign, but there was one fish dining on a large, dead carp koi at the bottom of the tank. I know this is normal, but.


I am hopelessly in love with the life in the basin, and most of all, perhaps, with the frogs.

Sam came out last evening and stood on the other side of the basin from where I was observing the fry during a momentary lull in the downpour.

"Oh!" he exclaimed, "I thought it was a fish, but it was a frog! It swam from here across the basin." I followed where his finger pointed. "They're fast," he added, after a pause, with unconcealed admiration. I know what he means.

They stretch out their bodies, from head to the point of their hind-end, and then they draw up their long, powerful legs and push them to their furthest reach, again and again, propelling themselves through the water in a sort of perfection of body and movement. If we say Michael Phelps is a fish, I say he is a frog.

This was the Sam who I asked the other day what he thought of the baby fish.

"I don't watch the fish," he said, imperial, with the greatest possible expression of lack of interest in such things as fish, anywhere.

But the cuecueya, that's a whole other something. That they agree, even chose, to live in our basin is a wonderful thing. I would like to swim like a cuiatl, although I am not sure that I wish to become one. I might appreciate them less by being one of them.

Meanwhile, get this guy a cocktail. I climbed out the kitchen window to get this picture so as to least disturb him and miss it.
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