The neighbour's Siamese cat was poised over the bowl again. Its stalking face peering at its swimming prey as its paw rippled the water's calm surface as if to say, 'What a nice day we're having trying to catch little goldfishes.' So intent was he that he didn't see the resident coming through to his conservatory to relax amongst his potted plants with that morning's paper.
cat!” He whacked the table with the rolled-up Daily telegraph. "Get
outta here, scat!"
water in the fish bowl dangerously swayed like a huge wave which
upset the goldfishes' leisurely stroke and made the Siamese cat leap
in the air with an arched back and all its claws extracted as if it
had only just realised it had been napping on a hot tin roof. A
natural gymnast, it landed neatly and squeezed through the wedged
open door and out into the jungle.
with his plump, soft hands, which his wife, God rest her soul, called
her winter warmers, steadied the fish bowl. His blue eyes were
magnified in the sturdy glass as he carefully inspected each
goldfish, “Swim my pretties and let me study you,” he encouraged
them, but apart from some stressful gasps there didn't appear to be
he lowered himself into the white wicker chair alongside them and
tried to return to his usual routine: the perusal of the Telegraph,
followed by a spot of amateur painting, but found all he wanted to do
was dream. About life before old age and retirement.
goldfish, now graceful and calm, blew air bubbles at him and enabled
his mind to drift... They turned into hazy gold flashes as his mind's
scummy anchor was hoisted up. Eroded metal, crusty barnacles and
slimy seaweed dredged unwanted memories from the ocean bed.
wife's last uttered words stung him like a stinging nettle, instead
of as he had expected a sharp puncture, and in a memory sea there are
no waving dock leaves to rub away the irritation. He knew why he had
placed those words of hers in an underwater castle - because like
her, they had puzzled him; he hadn't known what to make of them then
and he still didn't, and so like Bluebeard he had let those words of
hers rot in a locked chamber. Crumble, decompose, disintegrate letter
by letter. Or at least that's what he thought, but it seems they had
outstayed his wife's parting. That rib of his was bone dust.
been a faithful wife and did everything he asked of her. Eventually.
Sometimes caving in for a quiet life, but oh, she had a mind of her
own, so that when he assumed he had won, he had really lost. Come to
think of it, she was a bit like a goldfish, his deceased wife, in
colouring and manner. Honeyed skin and coppery hair with an unsure
look about her; often opening her mouth to say something and then
closing it again, letting the silence remain unbroken. He knew she
didn't always agree with him and only tolerated some of his habits,
but she loved him in her own way, which was why it was so alarming
when on her death bed her tongue lashed out like a sea serpent.
of it had been incomprehensible gibberish, but the syllables ripped
from her with unusual violence, her eyes red-rimmed and ablaze with a
strange inner light. Her last words sounded as if they'd been torn
from her voice box, “For balance and grace, go fish!” Then the
light in her eyes had suddenly died and her quietened spirit had been
snatched, the force of which lay her flat on her back stone-cold
few months after her death, he had tried to find the meaning to her
spewed secret. He'd spent whole days line-fishing; he'd eaten fish in
some recognisable or disguised form at every meal, until one day
carrying on in this way had seemed pointless, so he buried the
information she had tried to pass on with his last regrettable image
But his retirement last year, a good ten years after her
death, had again unsettled him. Widowed from life, loneliness had
seeped into him like a teabag left to stew for too long, and so to
combat that he'd bought some goldfish. “Yes,” his dear wife
whispered like a breeze from beyond, “you finally got it.”
*Picture credit: Goldfish by Henri Matisse