A Doom and Reprisal editorial from Ale 81 field correspondent, Ford Wenty
On the same day that Fred Willard passed on from this realm another Fred also departed. He was none other than Fred the betta, a small, blue fish. While Mr. Willard was renowned among his peers, as well as viewing audiences of five decades, Fred the betta was and still remains an obscure quantity. His passing was not unnoticed by me and I am struck suddenly that dead fish seem to have become a theme in this column.
There was actually nothing remarkable in the demise of this tiny creature. He had already lived far beyond any reasonable expectation of his species’ normal lifespan, and outside of a very select handful of people besides myself he was a total unknown. This story, like the recent Of Dead Sharks and Divorce, is not literally about a dead fish (shark or betta); rather it is about the dead fish as metaphor.
For many hours Fred had been a silent companion at my writing desk, he on one side of a six liter glass bowl and I on the other. Ours was a peaceful coexistence, while in two distinctly separate realities. Either of us were able to view the other’s world through the distortion of that glass bowl, yet neither of us able to experience the other’s world directly. Whereas I breathe air, and he water, it was an impossibility for us to exchange places. Despite these facts it is still true that, though I might not see everything inside of the bowl with total clarity, I was still able to observe his behavior.
In his waning days there was much of that behavior that remained the same as before, but there were others which signalled that a change was coming. Fred’s degree of curiosity about the outside had always been limited to whatever should press against the glass of his bowl. A couple of weeks before the end this began to change. Where he had once eagerly swam to the top of the water to greet those who would peer in, he began instead to ignore any other presence. He seemed to “play dead”, utterly disinterested in anything occurring on the other side of the glass. His colors, once comprised of brilliant tones of blue, faded to a sickly pallor of pale grey. In his last couple of days on this earth he spent most of his time with his belly pressed upon the glass near the surface, his gills seemingly bloated and laboring to breathe. These spells were broken periodically by frantic paroxysms, splashing about aimlessly until spent and then resuming a listless drift. At the end these fits came more frequently and violently, followed by a return to the glass where he would remain still, requiring every ounce of energy just to keep his gills moving. When he was finally done a film covered his dead eyes and he sank slowly to the bottom.
I have been left to contemplate Fred’s passing for nearly two days now and it occurs to me that, like the dead shark of Annie Hall fame, Fred likewise is a metaphor for something more. Not something greater, in any real sense of that word, just something other. There is an unmistakable parallel between Fred’s last days and some of the events we see playing out around us.
There is a certain order that has prevailed in our world for many years. It is an order which, not unlike Fred’s glass bowl, that has been highly insulated. The inhabitants of that bowl have, like the recently departed fish, been perfectly content to remain within it’s confines to shit where they eat. Day after day, month after month, and years on end. They have remained blind to realities that exist beyond their sheltered pool, able to catch mere glimpses of that reality without gaining any further understanding of what else may lay beyond. Fred was only a fish. It is unlikely that he experienced a knowledge that he was dying; rather, it was an instinct which spurred the changes in his behaviors at the end. The behaviors of those comprising this order would seem to mirror that of the late betta fish. They seem to be flailing about in the same spasms of desperation, like the panicked, drowning soul that thrashes utterly mindless that they might pull others down with them. Unable to admit to themselves what is happening, though they have the means to know it, they revert to instinct. Having ignored and denied instinct for so long their actions are purely reflexive.
It was saddening to watch Fred go through those last days. In contrast it is a total delight to watch these craven, privileged shit stains descend into their death throes. Fred has been given a burial suitable for his place, his bowl submerged into flowing waters that will ultimately carry him to the distant Gulf of Mexico. He was deserving of more than being flushed down a toilet. I can not say the same for that dying order. They have already been swimming in the largest toilet ever made for years. Better they wash up on some distant shore for the birds to pick their carcasses clean, though I still wonder: would they even eat anything so foul?
Ford Wenty report end , 5/18/2020