jeudi 8 octobre 2009

Goodbye to you my carp koi

Our fish


I love this photo. I love it even more because yesterday morning, I found one of the fish in it -- the gold-headed, black-backed carp koi just under the reddest of the goldfish to the right -- lying dead next to the basin. It was the fish that has amazed me by how quickly it grew from the same size as the other koi carp I bought in May at the garden store, the one I started going to once Florosny seemed to have dedicated itself to going out of business.

They were all about three inches long when I bought them, but different colors. There was the entirely golden one I bought first with some shubunkin, but it seemed lonely, so I returned with my stepdaughter -- one of the first outings I proposed, the day after a terrible scene; the day I asked if she wanted to learn to ride -- to get more. I was also hoping to increase the chances of the carp koi breeding by having more of them. I felt a little silly asking the salesperson if a single carp koi with lots of goldfish and their cousins, the multicolor shubunkins, can feel a little lonely. She said they could. Vindication! But, everyone did really seem happier once they had greater species representation and balance in the basin. Everyone got along swimmingly.

[I'm sorry, I couldn't help myself.]

Then, one of the two beautiful, fancy, large shubunkins I had bought first, after we repaired the leak in the basin, disappeared, and shortly after, about three other fish, including the smaller fancy black shubunkin with red markings that had come from someone else's filthy basin. An act of charity on the part of my stepdaughter brought him and a red goldfish to ours, newly rechristened in April. They all disappeared without a trace, without an explanation. Had a heron come to pick them from the basin in the gray early morning? Had a nimble cat succeeded in grabbing them with his claws?

Audouin favored the latter; he has it out for cats, who he believes are essentially cruel, killing for the pleasure of it, playing with their injured prey and not always eating it. He's not the only who thinks this. I argue it is in their nature. I am not sure this makes it less cruel. He adores Wisp, though. She is even allowed to sit by his elbow while he eats dinner. His elbow is on the table. I thought the heron was more plausible, since there was nothing left. Not a scale or a bone or a fin near the basin. Nothing. I also heard that they herons tend to do this in May, when we lost the fish.

Don't they eat in July?

Then, there were no more disappearances. Everyone grew and thrived, perhaps especially the gold and black koi carp. By his size, it was probably a she. Two of other three started to catch up to it, only the first one, the beautiful gold one, staying smaller. Now that the gold and black one is gone, I begin thinking that perhaps they would have had exquisite golden baby carp together.

I make myself touch the dead. Even if I am not close to them. I know they will feel cold, unyielding flesh under my fingers. I know I won't like it, but I feel like I owe them that much. A bridge between the dead and I, the living. A gesture to the spirit to say that I know it is there, only a difference of state exists. It is a form of respect more than affection. If I have loved the person, I will kiss him, like my grandmother, or my uncle, my husband's brother. It is a kiss to tell the spirit that I know it has gone on, become larger than the body that held it, present wherever it now chooses, and perhaps it has chosen to remain close to the body. I can't take the risk that it hasn't and not touch it.

I believed for an instant fighting belief that the fish was not ours, lying as it was just at the edge of the Santa Barbara Daisies the surround the basin. Sense won. It had not come here from somewhere else to die. From its size, it was also obvious which fish it was. The colors had started to fade. It was unmarked, no blood. Eyes open and fixed like the fish in the market. I went and got paper towel in which to wrap it. Turning it over, I searched the other signs for marks left by its killer, but there was nothing but slight indentations, depressions frozen in its flesh. They didn't necessarily come from teeth, or anything outside the fish itself.

"Peut-être," someone else suggested, my neighbor, wise in the ways of fish "il a sauté." Perhaps the drops of rain, overflowing the basin onto the inclined brick border at the top of the low wall had made it jump to meet them, and he had finished on the ground.

Or, perhaps he had tried to get to the two koi sticks I found lying in the bit of water on top of the border on that side of the basin, where it tends to overflow. Perhaps he -- or she -- thought that it he flopped a little in that water, he could get to them, and he flopped too hard, right out of the basin.

"Why," asked Sam, "do fish commit suicide?" He was perfectly serious.

"What do you mean?"

"Everyone hears how fish will suddenly jump from their bowls and die." I remembered Bubbles being found in the sink from time to time by my mother or my sister.

"I don't think," I answered, "that fish know that outside the water in the bowl awaits death." They are, I thought, probably thinking that it is the only thing they know that is also on the other side of that transparent divider, more water and the objects that interest them. I don't think that fish are existential enough to wish to die as a result of unbearable boredom or loneliness.

"Il est ici, le poisson mort," I said to my husband in the evening. I began to remove the paper towel wrapped body from the plastic bag in which I had placed him, noticing an unpleasant odor wafting up to my nose "Tu vois, il n'a y pas de marques --". He stopped me.

"Je n'ai vraiment besoin de le voir," he said. I supposed he didn't. I didn't really want to smell him without the benefit of the paper towel.

"Que fais-je de lui?" I wasn't expecting a real suggestion from Audouin, like "bury him under the dogwood, or anything.

"Jette-le." He meant in the garbage, and that is what I did. For the first time. He softened, "Tu peux acheter un autre." I felt very young, my husband as father telling the small girl that she could have another fish to replace her special one that died.

No, actually, it wasn't the first time that I threw away an animal that died in our garden -- I usually bury them --; that was when I threw the frog I found dead in the grass alongside the basin into the bin in which we put cuttings for the town to collect for compost.

I ought to have put the fish there, too, come to think of it.
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