dead goldfish

Excerpt: ‘Dolly City’ by Orly Castel-Bloom (1992)

The first pages of this novel introduce its terrifying protagonist.

Before goldfish die, they swim for a few hours on their sides, turn over, sink into the shallow water, and float up to the surface again. I once had a little orange goldfish that spent the whole day dying like this, until at dusk it sunk to the bottom of the bowl, its eyes open and its body twisted into a question mark.

I took a plastic cup and fished out the corpse. I went to the kitchen with the cup and poured the water carefully into the sink. I laid the fish on the black marble counter, took a dagger, and began cutting it up. The little shit kept slipping away from me on the counter, so I had to grip it by the tail and return it to the scene of the crime. For about an hour and a half I worked on that fish, until I’d turned its body into little strips you could measure in millimeters.

Then I looked at the pieces. In very ancient times, in the land of Canaan, righteous men would sacrifice bigger animals than this to God. When they cut up a lamb, they could be left with big bloody, significant pieces in their hands, and their covenant would be a real covenant.

I seasoned the strips of goldfish, put a bit on my finger, lit a match, and brought the flame up to the flesh of the fish until it was a little charred, and my finger too began to smell like a steak. Then I threw my head back, opened my mouth wide, and let the first strip of fish fall straight into my digestive system.

I did the same thing with the rest of the fish, and then I was finished I sat down to contemplate my dying dog, a fourteen-year-old cocker spaniel bitch who was suffering from heart failure. For fifteen days I sat on the armchair and looked at her, at her dry, lolling tongue, her rapid breathing, her dulling eyes. During the course of these fifteen days I gave her food and water, and, of course, medication. She ate and drank next to nothing, and she threw up the medicine. I hooked her up to an IV, into which I injected the drugs, and this helped a little.

I was sorry that I hadn’t treated the fish to an IV too, but I immediately dismissed this thought on the grounds that it didn’t seem possible to find a vein in such a tiny goldfish. Altogether, it didn’t seem possible to find a vein in any fish, even a herring.

After fifteen days of continuous dying, when she no longer ate, stopped drinking, and the medication too became worthless — I allowed myself to open the medicine cabinet and prepared an anesthetic injection from which she’d never wake up.

Reprinted from Dolly City by Orly Castel-Bloom, with permisson of Dalkey Archive Press.

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