After forty years in a job I initially disliked and in time grew to loathe,
my adult mind has grown weary. Encountering the fish and the pond, it
puts up what little fight it has left. Then noon comes, and when I go to get
lunch, I find myself heading not to the fridge in the break room but out
of the building and down the block to the pet store, where I buy several
varieties of fish food.
I realize I never told the end of Bob’s story. One day I arrived at work
and found that someone had fed Bob those cheesy goldfish crackers. A
clogged filter, a dead fish, a rainbow slick of oil on the surface of the water.
The next day, entering the office, the smell is immediately different.
Damper, earthier, with an undercurrent of fish. I go immediately to the
pool and scatter some flakes. This time, two fish rise out of the depths:
my old friend and a new companion, a mirror image of him but all white.
Little plants are beginning to grow at the edges of the pond, bright green
shoots poking through the mud. They grow with startling speed.
That afternoon, I do my best to deal with the backlog from the previous day. I make some headway but not enough. I keep turning around
to watch the progress of the young trees, their nascent crowns now a
good two feet above the cubicle walls. By five pm, when I go back to the
pond to check on the fish, the trees are nearly to the ceiling. Their roots
wind deep into the water on one side and on the other rise up to crack
the floor of the cubicle opposite. The swelling trunks have toppled one
divider, and another leans at a perilous angle. Moss has started around
the banks, along with arrow arum, bur reed, cinnamon fern, a cluster of
By morning the young forest has spread to an area roughly five cubicles
in diameter. The oldest trees, the ones near the pond, reach the ceiling;
the younger ones are shoulder height. Dirt spills out from the cracks the
roots have made in the floor; water drips from the leaves. There is a different light on that side of the room, too, something less like fluorescents
and more like the diffuse light that emanates from thick clouds at noon.
I find three fish in the pond now when I do my feeding and a frog chirping on the bank. The water has begun to overflow, soaking the carpet.
And there on the carpet: a set of muddy footprints.
I match my shoe to one of them to check if they’re mine, maybe left
the day before. But these prints are a good size or two larger. I spend the