I’ve joked before about how there might be bodies buried in my yard. I didn’t actually think there were bodies. It was a joke, okay?
So all summer I’ve been growing tomatoes and peppers along a fence I share with my Russian neighbors, and on the other side of the fence they tend flowers and attract butterflies. Since we basically share the same soil, I felt like it would be the right thing to do to share my tomatoes. I left a big container of tomatoes on their doorstep and walked away feeling pleased with my good deed.
I didn’t want, need, or expect any form of reciprocation.
Yesterday, I was rummaging around in the kitchen trying to find something to make for dinner when the doorbell rang. Gary answered it.
I heard Gary saying things like, “Oh wow! Thank you so much! Yes, they’re beautiful! Thank you!”
As he closed the door, I came around the corner to see what was going on. The next few seconds unfolded like a slow motion scene in a horror film. Gary turned toward me holding two plastic grocery bags. There was something large, wet, and heavy bulging out the sides of each one.
“It’s fish,” he told me.
I heard: “It’s FFFFFFFFF IIIIIIIIIIIIIIIII SSSSSSSSSSSHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH” because I was stumbling backward in a horrified, knee-jerk recoil.
“That… was… nice… of… them!” I choked.
“Yes!” said Gary, who was clearly trying to figure out how and where to set down the bags without thinking about their contents. “Really… nice!”
I like fish and all. But if I’m going to eat a being, I’m kind of partial to things that haven’t been recently extracted from their natural surroundings for the purpose of my eating it. That may seem like a vague distinction, but let’s just say I can eat fried chicken but I have a hard time squishing bugs.
Gary set the fish down on the counter with a thud and pulled the bags down around them. One of them moved. “OH GOD, IT’S STILL ALIVE!” I shouted. Or maybe Gary shouted it. I don’t remember. I’m traumatized.
The fish wiggled its fin at me and sucked air with its gill. At that point I wanted to cry.
We talked for a while about what the hell we were going to do. Neither one of us had it in us to clean it or otherwise conceptualize it as food. We spent an hour or so on the phone with everyone we could think of who might enjoy fishing or be willing to accept a gift of dead fish. We talked about giving them to a food pantry, bestowing them upon folks who fish at the lake nearby our house, and yes, even burying them in the back yard.
We had not yet, at this point, reached the level of detachment needed to find humor in the situation, and so we did not immediately start throwing out ideas for our Top Five Things to Do With a Dead Fish list, or the Top Five People We’d Like to Give a Dead Fish To. That would come later.
Gary packed the fish in ice in our cooler and put them in the garage. I tried to find something to make for dinner that had never had its own spine.
There are bodies out there, and I think I’ll be having nightmares for months.