A Certain Type of Decisive

United States

Just your unfriendly neighborhood disaster, bringing you bi-weekly updates from the bottom of my own shoe!

Message to Readers

Oh ho! You think you can contain the great magician of Madagascar? Inventor of the contemporary microwave oven? Try again, buckaroo.
(Title suggestions?)

A Death, an Orange Tree, and an Empty-Eyed Sentimentalist

December 1, 2020

    I found his corpse on the stairs. In books, they always talk about bodies being stiff, empty-- but I guess it was hard to tell with a fish. Clifford's eyes didn't look any different. They were just as distant as they always were, but the dull grey color of his scales were enough to activate some long inactivate instinct in my brain-- death
    I almost vomited when I picked him up. The dust that had settled around his small form had tricked me into thinking he was stale-- fish are still squishy after they die. I didn't dare use my hands. I lifted him in the same paper towel I folded him up and buried him in. Maybe it's religion, maybe it's fear, maybe it's selfish disgust, but he lived and died without touching the hand that loved him.
    And I did love him.
    In a sick, twisted sense of the word.
    Clifford lived so much longer than any of my other fish. He was too smart, too strong. I like to think I trained him-- my good boy, my good good boy-- to follow my finger when I tried to direct him to his food. Betta fish live for 3-5 years, but he lasted half a year. Half a year of swimming around the same tank, of running his head against the glass, of being stuck.
    If that ain't a mood--
    I guess I loved him because I understood him. We were going through the same thing-- even if mine was a duty bound choice and his was the only way he'd ever lived. It's pathetic. Swimming in circles, looking pretty, banging your head against the glass-- is that all there is in this life? Is that all we were meant for?
    Maybe that's why he jumped.
    Because I didn't find his corpse floating belly up, I found it on the stairs. He jumped-- Clifford jumped. In the middle of the night-- into the dark-- and for one glorious moment, he was alive. He had something more, something so much more. Maybe it's religion, maybe it's fear, maybe it's selfish desire for something better, but he died the way he never lived: free.
    You want me to make meaning? Try this one on: I cried over that goddamn fish. Real tears, right onto his little body like it might bring him back.
    You make meaning with what you have.
    And you cry when it's gone.
    I scrubbed his tank like I was scrubbing my mind. Hand against clear plastic, against rushing water, against my own mortality-- I would say the repetitive motion was calming, but it wasn't. It was violent. It was painful and angry. Soap screamed into my palms and under my nails like I had a thousand cuts, but there was nothing there.
    There was never anything there.
    I was Pontius Pilate, I was Lupe Hernandez, I was clean. I had to be clean. I had to be safe, he only way I knew how to in this dumpster fire world. I assure you, it's not religion, just fear. Plain and simple. I could still feel his tiny body squish when I closed my hands. I could still see the black earth cling to my hands. I could still hear my own, shaky breath.
    There was no other sound.
    I was all alone in the house that morning. 
    Even when he sun rose over the mountains and the walls were spilling over with pink light-- even when I blasted music, trying to leave this world into one that never existed-- even when I ate and ate, anything that might fill me with warmth-- I felt empty. Somewhere deep inside me, it was still cold and quiet and empty.
    I was still cold and quiet and empty.

    I've always said love isn't gravity, it's not affected by distance. But I've learned something else-- it's not effected by size either. It's not changed by time. I loved that fish even though I knew I would outlive him. Maybe it's religion, maybe it's courage, maybe it's the most selfish thing I've ever done, but he lived and died with my love. Not because of, not in spite of, but with my love right beside him. A remora hanging onto forever.
    It's funny-- I like to think I'll see him again soon. Wrist-deep in potting soil, I buried him underneath the winter-fruiting orange tree. Dark black soil over bright white towel-- I hoped that was enough to commemorate his last moments. A light in the dark and a dark in the light. Maybe I'll eat his bones this coming January. Maybe I'll see those empty little eyes again, in the seeds that get stuck between my teeth. Maybe his blood will be in the sweet juice. Maybe I'll find a way to jump from my tank, to be, for one shining moment, alive. Maybe it's religion, or fear, or selfishness, but maybe, just maybe, it's life.
    Maybe it's love.

Login or Signup to provide a comment.

  • Starlitskies

    Woah! Just woah! This is so deep and meaningful! And your start was great, it pulled me into your story and kept me until the very last sentence. I'm sorry about your fish, but I think you have a great chance at winning! Good luck! :)

    10 months ago
  • WishfulKittyKat1

    Oh my god. This is so so good. I'm with Anne Blackwood, if this doesn't win...

    I absolutely love the way you draw the parallel between yourself and your fish, and the historical references you make while scrubbing the bowl are so cool!! Good job :)

    10 months ago
  • Cosmogyral

    re: re: No way! I love Dane Terry's compositions! I never thought I'd find someone who actually knew his name! I find his works are intentionally tonal and have a certain skeptecism about them. They truly are surreal. I guess 'dreamboy' is kind of a reference to the podcast. I only listened to the seventh episode and the homunculus album. Dream boy is meant to be an image of all that isn't. Thanks, again, I'm so happy you got to see him live!

    10 months ago
  • Anne Blackwood

    You've moved me. Somehow you've placed a pit in my stomach and a somber cloud around my head... over a fish. Things like this are what remind me of how unbelievably talented you are. A fish tank became quarantine and the fish a thousand metaphors. But there's no poetry in it. Just life and truth and gray scales in your backyard. If this doesn't win...

    10 months ago