Madelaine Zadik, a Straw Dog member, lives in the wooded hills of Hampshire County. She is currently working on a memoir about her relationship with her Aunt Helga, whom she never knew except through letters Helga wrote from prison in Nazi Germany. A short excerpt has been published in DoveTales.
Fish were falling from the sky. Was it really fish; was it really the sky? How could she possibly tell? She couldn’t see where the fish were landing as they hit the ground. Were they dissolving on the way down, or perhaps they just headed back up again? She wondered if there was big ocean in the sky. Somehow, she found the fish comforting. They were her companions in this new world she was living in. She was surrounded by fish she could see, even if they then disappeared. However, the pathogen that was causing such havoc in the world was invisible. She couldn’t see this novel coronavirus, except for those colorized and blown-up microscopic images displayed in scientific explanations.
The world was just changing so rapidly. It was hard to know what was real and what was a dream, or a nightmare. Was she losing her mind and imagining crazy things?
Perhaps she was channeling her dead cat Jambalaya. They had had to end Jambalaya’s life in October, and she missed her terribly. During this difficult time, she really needed the comfort of a pet, especially one as affectionate as Jambalaya. So maybe it was Jambalaya who was raining these fish down on her. Maybe Jambalaya was trying to feed her, the same way J used to bring her mice, right up the very end. Or, perhaps she was now embodying Jambalaya, such that she was yearning for all these fish. For a cat, it would hardly be a nightmare, although the fact that they were disappearing before they reached the ground would have been pretty puzzling or frustrating to her dear cat.
She thought it was just emblematic of the whole surreal world they were now inhabiting. Perhaps the disappearing fish were symbolic of everything you could no longer trust. Nothing was what it appeared anymore, and she couldn’t even trust herself. She didn’t know how to keep herself safe, and she hadn’t been able to keep Jambalaya safe and healthy, despite three years of twice daily insulin shots. Her feline body simply wore out. She had given Jambalaya some tuna fish for her last meal, something that hadn’t been allowed since the pancreatitis diagnosis.
So, these raining fish did make sense. Jambalaya was smiling down on her, trying to help her get through this pandemic. She laughed. Jambalaya never knew she was a vegetarian.