The fish rise to the surface and eagerly suck down the floating pellets with mouths agape, greedily inhaling food and air before disappearing with a splash.
I hate doing this. I’ve hated doing this for the three years I’ve been visiting the lake. But promises must be kept.
I visit for you, to keep your ghost at bay. You loved these fish. I can still hear your happy laugh from when you used to throw handfuls of food into the water and incite the school into a golden rush.
Soon I will stop coming. It’s been almost six months since you died and I’m finally almost out of fish food.
No more will I have to give my pocket change to Gary, the homeless former bus driver who sleeps in the bushes and bathes in the lake. No more nodding and smiling to Sheriff Donaldson, who occasionally teases me about needing a permit to feed the fish. No more kids begging and jostling me for a handful to throw. No more cold, expressionless faces leering at me and disappearing in a flash. No more you.
No more you — it’s hard to believe. We had so many happy days before the angry ones. Holding hands, making plans and sweet nothings.
Then our hands fell away and we didn’t want to touch each other. Then the plans came undone. And finally, in the end, there was nothing.
Then that nothing turned into something horrible. Neither one of us could let go, and we both choked our relationship with a death grip while trying to hang on for dear life. Then a life was suddenly gone. Yours.
I knew how much you loved these fish when you made me promise to help take care of them. You knew how much I didn’t like it, but you still asked.
“Together, or not at all,” I replied.
“It’s a deal!” you agreed.
I look around and spot a fisherman landing one of the carp. Thrashing in his net, he quickly dispatches it with a club before unhooking it and placing it in a bucket with others. It looked bronze out of the water.
So here I am. Almost done. Almost done with you.
I throw another handful into the melee, let the snot-nosed kids fling some in, tip my cap with a smile to Sheriff Donaldson on the way to my car, and calculate how much pocket change I have for Gary.