Wednesday, 12 August 2009

Indigestions of a summer night: Fish

Fish of the Mediterranean, its guts silted with debris, filth and poison.

Seven years ago, a large portion of the extended family made an expedition to a large old house on a mountainside in northwest Majorca. The first night there, our sixteen month old son began to burn up with scarlet fever. Family members ran from room to room, across upstairs wooden floors, up and down the wide staircase, across the polished stone floor of the grand hall below, with wet flannels, medicines, and expert medical knowledge.

Outside, loud frogs retching around the rockery poolside.

And the fish from earlier that evening, eaten on the terrace surrounded by passion flowers, hummingbirds, and beautiful mountains, (all very much like one of Martin Johnson Heade’s South American paintings,) that same fish began to stir inside me. The poison from its gut taking a hold of my gut now. Amid the wails of the lad and the worrying of his mother, grandmother, grandfather, aunts, uncle, cousins, through the pitching and rolling household I staggered, over wood, stone, tiles. Into the bathroom, wretched. A hideous sound. Again. And even when I was quite empty, again. My entire body convulsing. Quite an echo. The frogs were shamed.

Our son’s fever carried on through our stay. For days and nights we took turns by his bedside. As he slept, radiating. I stood on the dark balcony outside his room, under a clear sky of stars. A glow came from the terrace below, from where the lazy after dinner conversation was sounding loud and clear. Up here, apart, with my son, growing smaller with the fever, sleeping away the holiday, counting away the days.

Away from that narrow table.

And another holiday memory, of overheard night time conversation on a Mediterranean paradise isle: English voices, familiar anti-American noises, one of them comparing the death toll of September 11th with the death toll of Bhopal.

The relevance of such a comparison
left uncontested.

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