Feeding the Fishes


            James St. Vincent leaned over the top of the fish tank and opened a slot in the lid.  He shook a little of the preparedfood out of the box and bent to watch as with flashing tails the fish swirled to the top to grab the floating grains.  Each beautiful little creature, he had discovered, had a separate personality, and he would sit for hours watching them.  Dreamily he cut up some small pieces of ham and dropped them into the tank.  They too disappeared in a turmoil of rainbow water.

            Of course it would take a long time to dispose of the body this way, he thought, as he carefully sliced another piece.  There was such a lot of her now; she had put on a great deal of weight in her old age.  He sighed.

            Now, if his fish had been piranha, or perhaps small sharks!  He always had a sneaking admiration for sharks, with their silent, lightning swift approach, the iron snapping of their jaws, the complete disappearance of their prey – except for the blood of course.  He grimaced slightly at the thought and brought himself firmly back to the task in hand.  Mildred’s body.

            If he peeked though the kitchen door he could see it lying grotesquely in the chair by the fire where he had left her; legs slightly apart, head rolled back at an impossible angle, the mouth a little open.  He shuddered and turned back to the fish.  They were tranquil again now and had resumed their monotonous, endless, patrolling of the clear waters of the tank.

There was always the deep freeze.  He glanced across the kitchen and smiled, chiding himself gently.  It was only a small freezer on top of the fridge.  There would hardly be room for one of Mildred’s legs in there. 

He must remember to bring in the saw, he reminded himself suddenly.  None of the kitchen knives would be up to the job – he had checked them – and he could never hope to carry her all in one piece.  He doubted if he could even drag her from the chair on his own.

As old age had come upon them he had become more and more bent and frail, the veins in his hands and neck standing out in great ridges between the sunken areas of flesh.  Mildred on the other hand had grown.  As her arthritis had kept her pinned more closely to her chair, and her only real enthusiasm, food, had turned first to passion and then to an obsession she had swiftly become mountainous.  For years her only moments of animation had been just before meals and on the rare occasion when a visitor had had the foresight to bring a box of chocolates.

Perhaps he could bury her?  Really he should have worked all this out before this stage in the proceedings.  Agitated, he hobbled over to the window and looked out.  The back garden was little more than a yard, but surely he had heard of people burying their victims in back yards?

Then he shook his head.  That was obviously no good.  If he had heard about it, that meant they had always been discovered.  He had no intention of being discovered.

No, it was much better to dispose of the body permanently.  He had though of acid several times, and had even gone to the trouble of enquiring about it, but it appeared that he would have to buy it in very large quantities and use it in the bath.  He could not be sure that he would be able to carry it to the bathroom by himself and someone would be certain to ask why he needed it.  And even supposing he got that far, what if the plug dissolved before Mildred?

Fire of course was a well-tried method, but they had no hearth in their modernised house, and anyway the smell of cooking fat – even bacon – always left him nauseous.  

Sighing again he sat down at the kitchen table and put his head in his hands. 

What was there left?  He had to think of something soon.  How long did it take for people to go off?

He remembered a gammon steak he had forgotten to put in the fridge when they had gone away for a weekend.  They had stayed a few days longer than they intended and when they got back … ugh!  He shuddered at the thought.  And how angry Mildred had been.  She had thought only of the wasted food, silly woman, instead of the few days of happiness they had had in the country air.

He looked again longingly at the fish.  If only they were a little bigger.

Then he had his idea.

The river.  There were bound to be large fish in the river, perhaps even pike.  If he took her up there, in small quantities of course, it would be simple.

The blood would be a difficulty.   He just could not visualize her bleeding somehow.  She was too white and bloated now; too old.  But he supposed polythene dustbin liners would be a way around that difficulty.  There was a whole bag of them under the draining board.  He hobbled over and pulled out the drawer to check.  Then he stopped in his tracks.  Surely he had read somewhere that corpses did not bleed at all.  All he had to do was wait a bit for the blood to freeze.  He smiled with relief and turned back to the problem in hand.

Pike were freshwater fish, he remembered, so he would have to go above the first lock.  Would that mean a bus?  He rubbed his chin thoughtfully.  And how much would he be able to carry at a time all that distance?

The kitchen was quiet except for the slight bubbling from the fish tank.  He watched mesmerized as the succession of little bubbles drove brightly up though the water and burst on the surface.  He could just see the feathery corner of a tail hiding behind one of the ornate stones.  That was the Artful Dodger.  He always lay there brooding, waiting for the first sign of food.  Then he would move like lightening.

The silence was broken by the gentle chiming of a clock from the living room.  It was four.  James St. Vincent rose to his feet and turned to the sink.  Filling the kettle he plugged it in and opened the fridge to take out the butter and a little dish of fish paste.

The body by the fire stirred and yawned loudly.  ‘James!’  He heard her querulous tone over the rush of boiling water in the kettle.  ‘James is tea ready yet?’

One of these days, he thought to himself as he took the lid off the fish paste and picked up a knife, one of these days …. 

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