The Goldfish Express

The morning’s mad dash to the subway is the world’s great equalizer. The strong get over-run by the weak. The weak get eaten by the old. The old get trampled by the young. Dust and tears survive.

Perhaps one’s humanity cannot survive that much nearer to hell.

It is the only place on earth where falling on your face is an affront to those around you. It is where hatred is born, bred and then released upon the surface. Days are ruined. Loves, lost. The seeds of heart attacks, sown. And the most torrid love affair cannot match the fervor and passion with which an elderly man embraces me as the doors slide shut on the tail of his coat.

So, you can imagine my surprise this morning.

I walk past a big fat dirty bird playing bongos in the underpass. I use my babushka token and take the empty escalator to its warming depths. I read a novella called “The Other Side of My Mother’s Face” on the way down. I don’t finish it; I don’t think I want to. At the bottom of the escalator I stop. It feels as though I’ve walked into a nursery to find nothing but the plague.

No hustle or bustle, in fact, no noise whatsoever. I think it might be closed. I turn to ask the Babushka guarding the bottom of the escalator. I open my mouth, but lose my courage. Instead I turn and walk along the platform. I wait. Then, it comes. An aquarium-sized cylindrical fish tank slides along the tracks toward me. It slows. It stops.

I brace myself as the door opens. But, the water doesn’t move. It stands there like clear jello. Schools of goldfish buzz about inside. I reach out my hand. My fingertips graze the surface. And then, for a moment, I am nothing.

Then, everything goes sideways, then upside down.

I am wet. I look out of the tank. The doors slide shut and we are moving. I look at my dark reflection in the window.

Holy shit, I’m a goldfish, I realize.

I try to scream. Only a bubble emerges from my tiny throat. I look around the tank.

Other fish float lazily, this way and that. A fat little castle is in the sand below. I make for it, swimming in wide spastic arcs. I make it half way. I look at my dark reflection in the window.

Holy shit, I’m a goldfish, I realize.

I see a fat castle in the sand below. I make for it. Darting artlessly. I become distracted by a dark window. I look into it, I think.

…Holy shit, I’m a goldfish, I realize.

I don’t know how long this goes on for. I miss my stop many times over. Eventually I find myself spat back onto a platform; wet, cold, and confused. Hippos in police uniforms roam about pulling people up off the ground and asking for their passports. My heart skips a beat. I forgot mine at home and I don’t have enough for a bribe.

Luckily, the hippos are distracted, people everywhere are shouting. An old man hollers something about caviar. I slip away. I light a cigarette once I am safely outside. I look around. It is nighttime, I think. I don’t know where I am.
Still, I think I’ll walk home.

 

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10 comments

  1. Reblogged this on jmwwriting and commented:
    What did I just read? I love the use of repetition to portray how clueless and stupid a goldfish can be. I wonder if they can really be that dumb. In all, a great little piece. Really strong technical merits here, in addition to a unique and humorous theme.

    Like

  2. Wickedly fantastic read! As I am presently making my way to the 123 train now… I can’t help but laugh at the awesome truth “It is the only place on earth where falling on your face is an affront to those around you.”

    Like

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