The Ecphorizer

The Fish
Warren Fogard

Issue #16 (December 1982)

Javot found the big building while he was walking aimlessly through a part of town he had never visited before. He was a little afraid, because it was such a big, handsome building and he thought somebody might tell him to get out, but nobody said anything, so he went on in and looked around. The building was all marble floors, and graceful columns, and strange designs in bas relief. It was very impressive, and just being inside it made Javot feel important and happy. He walked around for quite a while, looking at the building and the people who swarmed through it. After some time a man stopped him and put a pail, a mop, and a brush in his hand. Javot knew what these were for, and he went to work on the floor.

After he had worked a while Javot sort of got the hang of it, and he could work and look about him at the same time. He noticed that there were a great many people working along with him, and that there were a number of people who walked about among the workers, talking to them. One of these talkers at length came up to Javot, showed him that he was using his mop wrong, and talked a little, but Javot couldn't understand what he said.

When Javot woke up the next morning he felt a strange compulsion to go back to the building again. He dressed and hurried through the dismal streets to the building, found his pail, and his mop, and his brush, and went to work. Five days a week Javot worked in the building. The first year, when the talkers came up to him and said something in their strange language, Javot learned to grin and nod his head rapidly as though he understood what they were talking about. This seemed to satisfy them and they went away.The second year things were different. The talkers were not satisfied when Javot grinned and nodded. They scowled at him and kept making noises with their mouths. Javot at last understood that he was not responding properly to the ritual. He copied some of the other workers, and learned some words to say in the strange language when the talkers moved their mouths at him. He learned to say things like "lifendeath," "hoomanty," and "simpilism" and although he hadn't the faintest idea what these sounds meant they seemed to please the talkers. They would smile and pat him on the head, then go away.

The third and fourth years the response to the ritual became more complicated, but Javot learned to put whole strings of the sounds together, until the talkers were satisfied. He learned to tell the talkers apart, and what combination of sounds was more likely to please each of them. There was one of the talkers that Javot never did learn to please. She was a little old lady who looked like a witch, and she would always scowl and spit when Javot mumbled the words at her. One time she even grabbed the mop out of his hands and hit him over the head with it. Javot took to sticking his head in the bucket when he saw her coming, and she would snarl at him and walk away.

At the end of the fourth year one of the talkers took the pail, and the mop, and the brush away from Javot and led him up to a dais where another of the talkers was standing. This one made sounds at Javot for a long time, then handed him something rolled up in a piece of paper and told him he needn't come back anymore.

It made Javot sad, but he took the package and walked toward the door. On the way to the door he passed the old witch who snarled and spit at him as usual. When he tried to brush past her hurriedly, because he no longer had a bucket to stick his head in, she grabbed his arm and slipped a small, wiggly package into his hand.

Back in his room Javot unwrapped the two packages that had been given to him. He found that the large package contained a dead fish, and the small package the witch had given him contained a miniature human heart that beat and squirmed with life. He had a feeling that this heart would grow as time went by and didn't like it, so he took it out back and threw it in the garbage can. The dead fish he put up on his mantelpiece. Somehow looking at it made Javot feel important again. He decided to run for mayor, and he went downtown and bought himself a necktie. 

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Warren Fogard




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