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The Independent Culture
His name was clearly false, and I never did know

when he reached here, or where he landed, or why

this particular town became home. Was it far from some-

one or close to? Were there prejudices to overcome?

Did relatives visit? What about friends? It is my task

to find these things out, but there is no one to ask.

What I can tell you, though, is the year he crept

into Public Records, working hard while others slept-

walked through life. You know that already. And we all

remember why. Less is said about how little call

there was for his invention later, which was when

most people thought he died. Actually it was then

his life really took off. Not in a public way, no,

that was done with. I mean in private. I mean so

private you might almost not think it could be true.

He bought this new house, and downstairs, where you

or I might play billiards, maybe, or set up our TV,

He put a tank of carp. That's right. Carp. Don't ask me

how, precisely. All I can say is: they're lovely fish,

carp, so with the tank full I can understand his wish

just to hang over the edge and watch. Hang and watch.

You know, don't you, that carp are hell on earth to catch?

They have this clever mouth which knows what's what

and what's not (don't be put off by the fact they've also got

these droopy Mandarin whiskers and a stupid gape:

there's a reason for everything; it needs to be that shape).

I mean, a clever mouth and a clever sense of taste,

and our man was by no means the first person to waste

(did I say waste? it should be spend) hours finding a way

of making carp eat. He was inventing bait, you see -

that was the point. There was a second fortune to be made,

he thought, from tasty morsels: curry and marmelade;

peanut butter and peppermint. Sometimes he also threw

a bunch of daffs in, and hoped the carp might grow

curious, at least. In truth, nothing made any odds.

A fin might swirl. A hard greeny-gold skull might nod

upwards a second. But that was it. When the day

came for our man to die in fact, not merely die away,

he was none the wiser. What happened later to the tank?

Sold, I expect. And the carp themselves? I shudder to think.