(First published in Dirty Chai Magazine – Issue 6 – Spring 2015)
Lake Gåddernosk, Sweden
There is nothing about being a Perch that I regret. It’s wonderful at times. Some of the time. I am now just one of the many fish on drugs here.
Many of us have taken new, expressive names, or sport human fashions. This just another variant of the odd behaviors as the human pharmacological bonanza now seeping into our basin induces quaintly human side-effects. Along with our versions of speech, emotion, thought. Now we know what tears are. What it means to keep a promise. Or break one. What are the vanities that dissuade regret, or incite temerity. Not to mention side effects like ravenous appetites and bouts of belligerence.
Other faces are now suddenly expressive, their manners exciting. The Bream’s eyes are inquiring, demanding globes. The Bullhead’s perpetual frown draws now into a comical smirk. The Eeelpout are more affable and the Grayling flash a bolder iridescence darting in and among the weeds, incited by the humans’ lures.
Ironic this should have been first discovered in here, in one of the world’s happiest countries. And that the drug found in highest concentration in my comrades and I should be Oxazepam®, commonly used to treat anxiety disorders. In people.
The effect? You know we Perch are a generally shy lot. On tranqs like Serax®, we get bold, leave the school, hunt alone. Little bothers me now. I sing:
We had some human activists with nets and hip boots and scuba gear try an intervention. Their hearts were in the right place, but nåd!…mercy! As somehow it’s our fault! We’re not substance abusers, we’re substance suffusers. It’s just flushing through us as we swim our merry way.
I’m one of several test subjects. Allowed, sometimes I swim towards it. I know a spot in the lake where waste from the hospital’s Klinik is discharged. Sometimes, if no one else is around, I will dwell there. None of these my prouder moments.
I wish I could leave this lake and ‘Go Salt’. The oceans have almost all the earth’s water, and it will take a long time to drug all of that. But it’s not in my genes. Some of us can live in salt or fresh, but not a Perch of my lineage. Besides, I don’t really have the classic signs, I’m not in denial, I’m not preoccupied with it, and I don’t have a family history. So I’m okeydokey, yes?
We fish are known for a lot of things, and tree-hugging is not one of them. But we’re eating more now, we have great new appetites. We wonder what that’s going to do to our world, Patrice, if we continue to eat so much as we now do.
There are some things that are humans’ fault more than others. It’s one thing to have their lawn chemicals leach into the waterways and blow up algae blooms that steal the oxygen from the water and lay waste to hundreds of my own. That’s a vanity alien to us.
This other thing, though, is so much less willful. This isn’t about the ecological arrogance of nurturing the monoculture of the perfect, manicured lawn. What we’re talking about is medicine. Man’s medicines, true. But who are we to begrudge other creatures their balms? That is, till it showers down upon us, unprescribed.
They cannot continue to think of their toilets as wastebaskets for unused or outdated drugs. We know that in many countries, the medical and environmental authorities actually promote the idea. And guess where that all ends up? Yet little is it known that most chemists, or drugstores, will take back the unused portions of prescriptions as a service. Would that not be preferred?
But don’t mistake our consideration of their sloth for our lack of will. As Heisenberg famously postulated, the act of observation changes that which is being observed. So let us observe humans change from a new ‘uncertainty’ in this, our new negotiation: we will take ourselves off the table. Literally. We will vote with our fins. Yes, the drugs do induce a kind of bravura, and a new consciousness that has revealed certain facts for what they are. That old habitual, periodic surrender to the morsels humans dangle over our heads, or the nets they hang in our path, is a bloody chore. Dying at the hands of a Pike is one thing: we go whole, fighting. The Pike is swift and merciful. And we’re intact. But no more of this ‘fishing’: the long hour suffocating in a bucket of warm water with our kind, tails over heads, our last conscious moments a gutting and beheading, our corpses consigned to a laving in mjölk, an encrustment, a scalding to a crisp then an offering up on a plate to man. We’re less afraid of dying now, but shall have no more of their frying!
As long as the water was safe, they had us to eat. That ‘contract implied’ is no more. Until they clean up their act, the ‘fish-fry’ is förbjudet.
We will not be available for the hooking or netting. Which will serve to provoke new uncertainties for their species, and their dinner plates, new mental stresses. And even more drugs.
Hold that thought.
And the tartar sauce.
(Graphics by the author)