Final Fish Death
At the beginning of each year the family buys twenty to thirty fish and
throughout the year they die. By the end of the year there is only one
fish left and its death process is beginning. In the first stage, it
shows signs of insanity or failing motor control by pointing itself
upright and swimming repeatedly to the top of the tank. This display is
frightening and cannot be altered or prevented. The children of the
family run to the fish tank after school each day to see how the fish's
death has progressed and present their findings to the parents of the
family. In the second stage, the fish becomes weak and lies at the
bottom of the fish tank for periods of several minutes, plunges upward,
and floats back down. When there were several dying fish they floated
down together like leaves falling from a tree in autumn but now there
is only one fish and alone it does not evoke the autumnal image so
strongly, or at all. In the fish's final stage it is sucked towards the
filter and curls around it, and appears dead until closely examined for
gill movement. The fish's body has many tiny bones but it appears to
have none. Then the fish dies and looks the same except when examined
for gill movement. The fish loses some color but remains intact. All
the previous dead fish were nibbled by the live fish until their chewed
flesh came loose and swayed in the currents provided by the filter. The
second-to-last dead fish was mostly intact because this fish was the
only one devoted to eating it. The final dead fish is removed from the
tank and the tank stands empty. The family leaves the filter running
for its bubbling noise, which calms the family at night and helps them
sleep. In the new year the family will buy new fish but the remainder
of this year is their period of reprieve and convalescence.
Maddy Raskulinecz lives in Baltimore, where she's an MFA candidate at Johns Hopkins. Her
stories have appeared in Word Riot, Spork, Everyday Genius and others.
Detail of photo on main page courtesy
Read MR's postcard.
Detail of photo on main page courtesy of BD.
Read MR's postcard.