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.