"Life does not cease to be funny when people die, any more than it ceases to be serious when people laugh."
- George Bernard Shaw
(In our last episode, The Gardener was overtaken by grief, swooning into the arms of her faithful Tech Support Guy upon discovering senior members of her koi pond family had been brutally murdered.)
Narrator’s Voiceover in a deep, slow Sam Elliott drawl:
Recovering fully from her swoon of surprise and grief, The Gardener set about making final preparations for the memorial ceremony while Tech Support Guy led the body recovery operation using a net and a plastic bucket.
The Gardener’s voiceover, beginning with a fake cheerful nervous laugh, quickly choked off by a tidal wave of melancholy resignation:
What caused the Monday Night Massacre? Villains? Evil Magicians, carnival freaks, raccoons, possums, egrets, or a possibly desperate coyote? Skunks and the otherwise tattooed? Australian tree rats, gophers, ground squirrels, demons and devils, two Mormons clones riding bikes, Tupperware Sales-Moms, or badly dressed Amway reps? Some of the dead have been with us for more than twenty years.
Narrator Voiceover, in a - “Hi, I’m Chad McClure. You may know me from the educational films “The Woman In Peril is Saved By Hero In the Nick of Time” and “The Lonely Death of the Woman in Peril Who Solved her Own Problems But Died an Old Maid” - type of voice:
One of the dead was beloved Rickey - purchased before The Gardener married the Tech Support Guy of her dreams over 20 years ago, when he (Rickey) was a little fish three inches long. Rickey came to us with Lucy, the way we always bought fish in the future – in pairs named for dead celebrities. Lucy left us in her prime years ago – she was white – an easily visible target for aerial hunters, as we learned from her untimely death. But Ricky, shown at far right in this awful lineup, survived. At the time of his death, he was blind in one eye, covered with scars from past escapes, missing a few scales and generally looking pretty raggedy. But he knew his name, and came when called to kiss my fingertips when I fed him fish pellets. All the other fish let Rickey eat first, either out of respect, or because he was one big old mean bully of a fish
The other gold fish (at left) was either Phil or Lil – so named because they were virtually identical twins – born as offspring of Ricky and some of the larger gold fish we’d purchased as feeder fish simply to populate the pond when it was first completed. (Ok, wait, I know I said we named our koi after dead celebrities, but I think consistency and truth are overrated, so yes, also named for cartoon characters, but always adopted as arbitrarily chosen boy-girl pairs.)
Tech Support Guy (seen pictured as a shadow above the fourth victim):
I know what you’re thinking, Yes, The Gardener acknowledged that the koi intermarried with the carp, an abomination to a real koi fancier. To make matters worse, Rick was a butterfly koi – the ones with the long graceful fins. Real koi breeders eschew the fancy tail fins because they aren’t genuine koi, and besides, the huge tail fins really increase drag, thus decreasing gas mileage. Apart from that, there’s serious incest happening, and eating of the excess hatchlings by their kin in order to control overpopulation. Pretty depraved pets, eh? But they were like family.”
The other fish (center in top photo) – the silver and black one – was an actual genuine koi, purchased when he was tiny and named Bekko because of his desirable coloration. Bekko was actually probably one of the more “valuable” fish in our habitat, but The Gardener liked him because he could blend into the background of the pond and then suddenly, by changing directions, he could send watchers a bright glint of silver as the sun caught his fins in action.
There were dozens of other victims, unnamed smaller koi who were nowhere to be found. Now, that kind of terrorist attack in the pond hood tends to spook survivors, who are sometimes in hiding for days afterward, a sort of collective fish PTSD.
A fourth fish was found gutted and drying in the sunshine behind the pond. His body was too mutilated to permit identification. The corpse, dragged about 4 steps away from the side of the pond and disfigured violently, confirmed that it was invaders, not poison, that killed the fishies. Based on our experience egrets completely consume their catch, leaving only bones and an empty skull. This last find confirmed for us that this was not an egret, but something that entered the pond, captured and removed fish and tried to carry them away. Some glutton who, not satisfied with Nature’s bounty, simply killed all in his path, not stopping to consider his innocent civilian casualties.
(Camera pans out from the solemn, sweaty face of The Gardener, to slowly reveal her arms holding a long shovel, then her entire silhouette a gardener poised in profile, bending over a shovel, beneath the shade of the California pepper, and backed by a sun-drenched canyon of glinting golden dry tinder.)
We buried the bodies in what will one day be my White Garden, overlooking the back canyon. Ricky is at far left, on the left side of the night-blooming jasmine, and Phil or Lil beneath the right side of jasmine, and Bekko beneath the Alfonse Karr Bambusa further down the hill at the far right of the picture.
By late Tuesday, we observed at least two survivors, both medium small – about 6 inches long, but they may be gone now too. The food we left for them lies untouched at the bottom of the pond, and no one comes when you wiggle your fingertips beneath the water and call them to dinner. For now, while we’re grieving, we don’t want to buy any more koi. We’ll get the “skeeter-eater” fish the County provides to prevent disease-bearing mosquitoes. They remain too small and unappetizing to attract predators.