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The Perdition of the Carp
Koi-san's continuing adventures annoy him.
Koi-san let himself float up toward the dim light, suffocating in this brackish pond. The fish flapped his fins and lifted his mouth, breaking the surface of the water. He gulped air angrily. What was so warm up there? He flipped around in agitation, tail knocking against a lily.
He calmed himself. This was probably not his pond, he reasoned. He was an ancient and venerated carp, and this did not feel like it was his home.
The fish looked up, past the surface of the water. A wooden bridge spanned the still water. A pair of humans was leaning over its balustrade, pointing and goggling down at him. He concentrated, floating idly, feeling their minds. Just married, so? He felt resentment, and some of his anger leaked from him.
The carp twitched his tail and slid under the water toward the shade of the bridge. As he passed into the welcome coolness, he heard, dimly, the sound of the human footsteps on the bridge, and their voices, distant and angry, leaving his presence.
Hisako, he thought. He thought of her, leaning on the clean pine wood that bordered his home, bowing down toward him in his clean waters. What agency had brought him here? He missed the gentle rain of the afternoons at his home, teasing his scales with splashing and singing. Here the sun glared off the dusty surface of the water, and he felt half-boiled already.
I do not mingle with peasants, he said to himself, as a large carp swam blunderingly toward him. Koi-san thought fishhooks at it and it twitched as if shocked and vanished to the hidden bottom of the pond.
Koi-san drifted again to the surface. Around him, he now felt the presence of other carp, cautiously keeping their distance. The murk of the water made him claustrophobic, with sudden fronds of weeds and lilies waving out of the clouded water like fishing nets and wicked seins. Not like the clean, black, gleaming waters of his pond at home.
There was a gazebo on an island in the middle of the pond. Standing to one side of the small building, up to his knees in reeds, was an old Chinese man dressed in loose, dingy black pants, and a grey, ill-fitting shirt. Chen, thought Koi-san. He looks old; it has been many years since last I saw him. The fish stopped swimming. Chen was in Vancouver. How had he been brought back to British Columbia? And what was this infernal heat wave?
Chen, he said. You must bring me back to my home. It is in a quiet suburb of Osaka. I am tended by Hisako Osada.
The old man peered into the pond. Master Carp, he said. You have denied us the delight of your presence for too long. The Sun Yat-Sen Classical Chinese Garden welcomes you back. This pond has indeed lacked for your grace. Even the willows droop more elegantly with you in our humble waters. What a generous deity it was that arranged for you to dwell amongst us once more. He raised his lined face to squint at the sun. I do apologise for the unseasonable heat.
Koi-san twitched in agitation. Home. I must go home.
Chen smiled sadly. I am afraid your enemies have mandated you stay here.
Here? asked Koi-san, his voice querulous in the old mans head. Not possible. Who has kept me here? He cast his mind about. The old man was impervious and he could not attack him. A tortoise laboring along the rocky bank of the pond withdrew into its shell as his power dashed about. Was he meant to live among base animals now?
I am afraid all there is to say is you must go to the record of those who observe you to view yourself, and to consider your fate. Chen bowed. The recursive nature of life is such. Chen lifted his straw hat from behind the reeds and waved it in front of his face. It is indeed hot. I would stay in the shade if I wanted to avoid sunburn. Your comfort is of utmost concern to us. We will do all to see that you are no disturbed, Master. However, we must be discreet. If any of the tourists bother you, please refrain from killing them.
Pah, said the fish, and with a small splash of water he wriggled to the bottom of the pond. There, amongst the mud and snails and roots of lilies, he sulked.
Tremble with fear, O Treacherous Canada*