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Bathtub Carp

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That gdamned
fish swam in the tub,
still. Leaving a grossly
green scum-ring around the
waterline. Sick,
she thought. The fish
opened and closed its mouth
rhythmically, mockingly
pretty much.

She looked at this
prehistoric thing
floating in her bathtub.
Like some f*ing
Japanese painting
or something. She flicked
her cigarette ash at the fish,
who did not move.
But opened his mouth and closed it again.

The yellow light in the bathroom
made the fish look a pukey color,
and she told him so,
to get a ruse from him.
"Hey puke fish, yeah. Puke fish,
what the hell you doin?"

No response.

"Eh, ok. Cigarette, then?
You smoke, puke fish?"

She flicked more ashes his way.
The fish wavered and sucked at
the water's surface. The
tap water tension release his fish lips
to the air, where an empty sound
came from.

"What the f***!?" She stepped back and
frowned. "Well, alright then."

And she skimmed her hands
along the top of the water,
not quite breaking it open,
just pressing the surface.

The fish did not seem
surprised, nor amused.
He was a subtle being
who did not startle easy.

Her fingers plunged deeper,
grazing his green-y (but really golden)
scales. She expected his eyes to
get bigger, his lips to stop moving,
but nothing happened.

His scales were not slimy,
but just ridged and cool.
She petted him like a dog.
The carp-fish sat still,
moving his big mouth
open close, open close.

He was making words for her.
Her cigarette burnt out but she didn't notice,
just continued looking at this
creature in the tub. Big and
languid, fins flowing behind him.
Regal, yeah, that's it, she thought.

"Where'd you come from,
puke-fish?" Her voice had lost an
edge, she let go of her flimsy
pretexts about the swimming pukey
fish.

He had come from an Asian market,
but he couldn't tell her this secret.
It would be to give away his history.
A history of crimson and gold,
his symbolism of wealth.

She kept running her hand
along the luminescent scales,
gentle gentle and smooth.
His eyes looked where they
could, didn't make an effort to
move or see her.
But he knew she was there,
above him, beyond the water.
His gills pumped tap water
and he was tired.

She was disconcerted by his
languorous body, his stillness.
She added more water,
checking the temperature
like you check a baby's bottle,
her clunky wrist underneath the faucet,
she spoke to him:
"Is this ok, puke-fish? You looked a little
bored, more water to move in, alright?"

The roaring sound startled him
and he darted to the other end of the
tub, swishing his fins and watching the
bubbles.

She turned to faucet off,
and leaned over the tub's
edge. Her chin resting on
the ledge, she watched him
move, and she knew what he was.

She had seen a very old
book of fairytales in her youth.
New York Public Library,
1983. A faded red
book with worn binding and stains.
The title was in Chinese,
but the stories had translations.

"You're a little prince,
aren't you, fish?"
She whispered, eyes widened,
"I've seen those paintings,
you're a great big thing,
in the River Love,
golden scales flashing.
You need a princess, right?"

The story in the book
had shown, in beautiful
gold-edged illustrations,
a long, wide river,
The River Love,
with great swelling carp
inside, and these
beings pleaded with girls
doing laundry on the banks
that they were princes-
their great mouths open
close, open close.

The fish in the tub
opened and shut his
great wide lips.
He remembered
the River Love.

She stared,
her nose now on the ledge,
half her face
disappeared behind
the bath.
"I should kiss you,
puke-fish."

Open close, open close
went his mouth.

She reached both hands
into the cold
and lifted the flopping,
hulking river beast
from the water,
his tail splishing water across the
room.

She leaned in and
planted a weak kiss
onto the golden lips
of the bathtub carp.



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