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NYC Time Traveler

Another (Minor) Miracle on the Hudson

Jack—short for Jack Dempsey, the species of cichlid to which he belonged—had outlived all the other fish in Al's upstairs tanks, and now he was dead too.

In fact, he'd been dead for several weeks, was currently ensconced in the freezer (in a Ziploc freezer bag, yes) because I'd insisted on a proper burial, land or sea, for him, but had neglected to take care of it in a timely manner. 

Finally, this morning, I carried him over to Riverside Park, where I made my way to my favorite small pier, having concluded that a watery grave was the most suitable, all things considered.

I took him out of the plastic casing, laid him on the planks, then held him for a time so that the warmth of my hands (as well as the humidity in my breath) might thaw the frost that clung to his eyes, his skin. His brilliant coloring was almost completely lost, but his strong, gruff Jack D. expression was unmistakeable, in death as in life. I snapped a few photos of him and then, with no ceremony whatsoever , slid him into the cold, dark river.


I don't know why i was so surprised he floated, but I was. And it made me afraid, suddenly, regarding the gulls, the other local predators. The tide was high and the current fastflowing northward, upriver. I took a few photos of Jack moving swiftly away. I thought it best not to spend too much more time there: I might see things I wouldn't want to see. I began to regret that I hadn't planted him (for example) beneath the two weeping willows that remained of the three that had stood in the grove across from the pier before last year's hurricane. I hurried south, surprised now by tears starting up behind my sunglasses. I felt heartsick: ridiculous true.

The day was windwhippier, grayer, chillier than I'd realized; I turned back from the southern reaches of the park sooner than I'd planned to. Still, Jack should have been long gone, way uptown already. I told myself not to look anyhow: what if I spotted him, and could see that he'd been torn apart ? (Though I'd earlier noted the strange fact that not a single gull had seemed to observe his launch into the waves.)  I couldn't stop myself from scanning the rough waters, and what I discovered was even stranger: JD had only made it a short distance north of our pier…and from what I could see, he'd remained utterly intact!

I was as absurdly cheered by this as I'd been absurdly cast down. Just then, a gull dove straight toward Jack, caught him up but then—left him freely floating, and flew away. Perhaps he was too large, or still too cold and hard or (being a tropical fish) just not that appetizing? I felt even better, imagining he might go on and on and...

but that was beyond absurd. Jack will be food for some other creature, or creatures, and that is as it should be. I was grateful for that long last look, though. I loved that big, beautiful fish. And (despite anyone's skepticism, Al) he loved me.

Adieu and R.I.P. Jack Dempsey...

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