Wednesday, February 10, 2010

 

Free Willy (and Edna)

It rained the other day. You may have noticed it if you live anywhere near me, because it bucketed down with the enthusiasm of an explosion at sea. It poured. Those of us lucky enough to live on a flat bit of land were merely worried about the water coming sideways through the windows, but for those whose homes are built on the side of a cliff, the view from those same windows must have changed from one minute to the next, as their homes spun round and slid inexorably towards the soft warm Mediterranean down below, just past the recently-barbecued beach bar.
It was a ‘perfect storm’, as the book of that title would have it. It filled the rambla, the dry-river bed which, for a short while, revealed its true function of being one of the province’s major drains. The appropriately named ‘Rio de Aguas’ showed its teeth as it does once every seventeen years.
Our two goldfish must have sensed the rain sluicing under the door. They appeared agitated each time that they circled their comfortably equipped quarters towards the front, where the view of a few books floating across the carpet must have caught their eyes. As they arrived again in front of their tank, gobbing gently in horror at the scene, their piscine brains may have briefly awoken once again to the prospect of a larger world without. Not even a soggy meal of fish-kibble floating slowly past them towards the bottom of the aquarium where the dishabille little glass mermaid lies on a bed of sponge would put them off this unexpected contemplation of a world beyond their ken.
The number of animals under our care has risen again recently with the arrival of a small dog which I suspect was once billeted at a PAWS compound and has now, by a roundabout route involving some friend of my son’s, made its home with us. The flood didn’t seem to bother it, nor yet the bad-tempered cat with the long claws and the remarkable aim together with a well-known antipathy towards all things canine, nor indeed the chicken, whose egg-laying capabilities, coupled to a number of outraged squawks delivered outside our bedroom window every morning, have made it a favoured member of the family for providing us with a regular breakfast, an early-morning wake-up call and the prospect of an agreeable Sunday lunch if her other duties fail her. The philosophy of our pets, well-cared for as they might be, is simple. In every life a little rain is going to fall.
I was gently releasing a large and outraged country rat that my wife had found hiding under the sink, now dried and fluffed, back into the garden when a thought suddenly hit me. Why not allow the goldfish their freedom? They could be released into that giant muddy lagoon which the river had by then become, and maybe, if rumours about Edna’s sexuality were true, start a whole empire of goldfish down in the lake.
Well, a short-lived empire. The sun would dry out our rambla by Easter. Then again, when your attention span is reduced to just a few seconds, three months is a hell of a long time.
We could even sell the untenanted aquarium in the classified section of The Reader, now universally confirmed as Almería’s leading Eng-lang weekly.
So, I squelched my way across the garden and back inside, trailing mud across the carpet on my way to the kitchen to find an empty jam-jar.
My son wandered in at that moment. ‘Would you like to release Willy and Edna into the wild, to allow them to swim free, to let them go where no fish has gone before? And anyway, we could sell the aquarium at the market’, I asked breathlessly.
Visions of covering himself in mud must have dazzled him. ‘Yep’, he agreed. ‘I’ll do it’.
Willy wasn’t entirely convinced about his departure to another home. There might be sharks there, he may have reasoned, or cat-fish. But, as Edna had already packed her things and leapt into the jam-jar, Willy had soon forgotten his concerns and was quickly wedged in beside her.
My boy climbed onto his motorcycle and was soon skidding his way enthusiastically down the lane towards the rambla, a jar of slightly reluctant fish in one pocket and the bottle of fish-eats in the other. Just in case they didn’t like the local grub.
I was emptying the fish-tank and explaining events to the glass mermaid when he returned, covered as expected from head to toe in mud.
‘Wait’, he said, ‘I found a terrapin’.
So, now the aquarium and the mermaid have a new guest. For some reason, we call him Noah.

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