Most of the roads go nowhere, the bridges out but replaced by flimsy plank excuses, the asphalt stripped to reveal boulders abandoned by glaciers eleven thousand years ago, before anyone had learned to read the bible. Downtown, dirt tracks intersect among buildings wrecked and lacking facades. Only the pharmacy remains open. Ken in white jacket disperses painkillers in blue, pink, and green. Behind the shops the canal sulks in muddy withdrawal. Beyond and parallel, the railroad high on its embankment still functions. Long freight trains from Canada rattle past. Nothing derails the rush of commerce, but the town no longer pulses with corruption. The realtors and selectmen have drowned, the lawyers have slunk away. Big houses built by speculators collapsed when foundations cracked and the wetlands had their revenge. Nothing left to brag about. The state and federal governments looked, promised, and left. The last adolescent lovers claim a half-toppled house for their noisy, feverish sex. The child they’ll abort will ghost above the ruins forever. But once the roads repave themselves and new speculators enrich themselves that spirit will tatter like a flag of surrender. The winter light hangs overhead in sallow tones unflattering to survivors.
His brittle fins look frail as mica. “Throw that thing out,” you say. But guppy looks clairvoyant in death. Not like tea leaves, though. Instead of sinking he floats like a compass needle. He doesn’t point north but toward the sea. “Get that thing out of the tank before it poisons the other fish.” A pair of angelfish nose the carcass. Guppy swells a little, and then, as we stare at him, pops. Yellow scum leaks from the split seam. Disgusted, you scoop with your empty coffee cup and corral the mess. “I’m tired of cleaning up your little disasters,” you observe. The angelfish nose up to the surface, blowing tiny bubbles. They seem disappointed that the carcass has disappeared. I think they were happy that guppy bloated and died. You look at me sideways, hoping that when I die you’re far away, enjoying the tropical sun.