REPUBLIC OF TURKEY MINISTRY OF CULTURE AND TOURISM

THE AQUARIUM - Mehmet GÜLER

THE AQUARIUM

The child came from outside with a box of medicine in his hand.

He had lost his breath.

His fish had been dying for days. Whatever he did was useless. It was as if they were waiting for their turns. First a decrease in the movements of the diseased ones was noticed. They were becoming tranquil and they were not rushing to the bait given as before. They were just touching the bait and then leaving it. And suddenly they were dying. They were floating on the surface of the water with their white and phosphorescent stomach on the top.

What was death? How was it happening? For days he had been pondering this subject. It was startling above all. It was horrible. It was destroying all the beauties at once. It must have been for this reason that he felt dislike and anger for it, most. Death was coming and catching at a point where his fish fell in love with living. It was the case for the Tasseled Tail. And the same for Redhead, Spotted, Naughty, Rainbow, and Shark. They lost their jolliness in a short time and surrendered to that invisible thing called death.

He named his fish himself. He was laughing at his parents saying:" How do you distinguish them from each other? They all look the same." And he was saying:" You think like that. When you look carefully, you see that they aren't the same." Sometimes he was looking at them with his magnifying glass. Tasseled Tail fit his name. Its fins and tail were longer than those of all the other fish. It used to move about sweeping the bottoms of the aquarium. It used to swim with its thin and long body in a distinct style. It looked like the fields of dotted flowers. A great many colors appeared wavy in its scales. Like spring fields, sometimes poppy, sometimes crocus and hyacinth waved on it. Fatty Japanese was the healthiest of all. It resembled Japanese girls with its slanted eyes. One morning he found it also dead. He could not believe it. Was death so strong because it was wicked? Why was the thing called life so weak? A number of questions that he could not find any answer to occupied his mind. And what about Rainbow? One morning the same end waited for it also. Suddenly all its colors were faded. And he took with itself the most pleasing yellow, violet, pink, and red. What about Naughty? It shone like a hanging lantern day and night. It can be said that it always carried a flambeau in its hands. Even in the dark it moved about spreading light around itself. Its illness also did not last long. It left the world without even saying good-bye.

The child looked more carefully with his chin between his hands. His eyes filled with tears. His aquarium that was lively day and night turned into a place of death. Even the water was not as blue as before.

The windmill that he put at the remote corner just as for decoration was not revolving with joy. The air filter was not puffing up its white foams. The cool shadows of the mosses and the sea plants that remind of the bottoms of a sea were startling. Something like the silence of death had filled everywhere.

He was lost in thought when he saw their cat Cotton beside him. It was also looking at the aquarium with its big eyes full of wonder. In spite of his great sorrow he looked at Cotton and smiled. In their last days it was also strange. It was like most curious people. It was coming silently, standing on its back paws and watching the aquarium at length. It was apparent that it also felt sad for the death of the fish. But it was not like that at the beginning. It used to move fast around the aquarium wagging its tail, and it used to jump on the glass to catch the fish all the time. As time passed it gave up this habit. It got used to living with them. Then it also started to get sad as it saw the fish dying one by one. At the moment it was getting close to him as if it wanted to share its sorrow. And it was looking at him. After a long time it went away with a nearly weeping face like human.

He took his cat into his arms. He opened the lid of the aquarium. He poured the medicine that he had already brought from the shop into the water. The fish that used to flock to his hand in such cases thinking that he would give bait did not even move slightly. "Look!" said he to his cat. "The fish are dying. And I can do nothing."

He did not speak any more. Something stuck in his throat.

His mother said:

- Change its water if you like.

And he responded:

- I had already changed it yesterday. It isn't the water. Whatever I do, my fish are dying.

He gritted his teeth not to cry.

He went away from the aquarium. He turned on the TV. He could not enjoy the serial that he used to watch with pleasure before. He turned it off. He would study his lessons. He had homework. He settled among his books and notebooks. He studied for a while but he could not concentrate. He came back and looked at his fish. They did not take the medicine that he gave. Blue Wing that is the mother of all fish in the aquarium seemed to move even less. And her stomach was so big. Was she pregnant? He got happy but his hope did not last long. Maybe the swelling is due to her illness, thought he. Who knows, maybe she also approached her end. He thought of the first day of Blue Wing in the aquarium. She had a distinct blue. She used to pass like a blue light among the lebistes, Japanese fish, blackmolies, scavengers, astronauts, and the platis. Always she used to lead the other fish. Usually she used to make them follow her and turn those large fish flocks. She used to make the little aquarium rich as a vast sea and enliven it.

He directed his hand towards Blue Wing. He hoped that she would approach as usual and licked his hand from the other side of the glass." Is the life of fish that short, Blue wing?" said he. " All my fish are dying. At least you don't die!"

He did not speak too much again. Hardness that arose in such moments stuck in his throat. He was ready to cry. He tried to finish his homework that was left half done. And he went to bed quite early. He could not sleep for a long time. He constantly moved in the bed. He thought of his fish. Once all died, he would take his aquarium and give it to someone. And he would never have fish again. For he would not bear their death…

He dreamed of his aquarium. It was not as small as it was in fact. It was not like a closed box. It reached the seas through a thin and long canal. Again Blue Wing made all the fish follow her. She was flowing into the endless seas like a light flood.

He woke up happily. And as soon as he woke up, he ran towards his aquarium. He could not believe his eyes. All his fish were motionless on the surface of the water. And Blue wing was also among them.

He shouted:

- All my fish died! Blue wing also died! I have no more fish now!

His parents came out of bed immediately. Even their cat Cotton woke up to his scream. Now they were all watching sadly, and nobody was saying a word.

The child released his tears that he hid inside. The drops that had been gathering for days started to run like thin and long thread. He cried continuously.

His mother said:

- Come! It is too early for school. Let's sleep together in our bed.

He did not refuse. His parents hold his hand and took him to their bed. He lied between them. He slept in their arms for the first time since his babyhood.

When it was time to go to school, his mother wakened him as usual. She prepared his breakfast and dressed him. She kissed him on his cheeks as sending him to school. She told him not to be sad.

How hard he tried, he could not stop being sad. After school he did not get on the school bus service. Walking absentmindedly, he thought about where and whom he would give his aquarium to.

When he came home, he did not talk to anyone. This silence affected even Cotton. It was not clinging to his legs and mewing as before.

It must be a habit; his feet took him to the aquarium again. The water that was scaly before was silent. None of the fish that ran from one end to the other like a color wave was there. The moment he was looking absentmindedly at the windmill that was not revolving any more and the air filter that was not making bubbles, he saw hundreds of eggs. He could not believe his eyes. He came closer and looked more carefully. He was not wrong.

He shouted:

- Eggs! Hundreds, thousands of them!

He was so excited that he did not know what to say. Again his parents and Cotton came immediately.

He said:

- Look! Look!

And he added:

- Of Blue wing! She was pregnant! All these eggs are her product!

Her mother said:

- Right! Her stomach was very big recently. But when she died, it was smaller. She turned death into a new life.

The child forgot about all his sorrow at once. He jumped up and down because of happiness. He embraced Cotton. That evening he sometimes at his table to study but he came back immediately. He waited hopefully for the colored and little fish to come out of the eggs. Even at night he woke up. He sat near the aquarium. He could see them from now: Hundreds, thousands of scaly young fish were cracking their eggs and swimming all around waving the blue waters and the mosses…

Mehmet GÜLER