Bustehrad Carp

” ‘The carp are suffocating,’ he said, turning to me. ‘Nobody cuts holes for them.’ Spreading his feet apart, he struck the ice. The sound rumbled through the night, and I shivered. ‘We will do it here,’ he said. He stood and hacked at the ice. Ice splinters showered his clothes and face as he cut out a square and pulled it out from the water. ‘We’ll have to wait, buddy,’ he said. ‘They’ll swim here soon.’ I was mesmerized, staring into the transparent water in which each crease and pebble on the bottom stood out. The water quivered with the life-giving bubbles from the air, and that square in the ice looked like a safe well for carp travelers. Papa understood it, and suddenly a dark, oval-shaped shadow swam under us. It returned. A carp. And what a carp! He stuck out his rounded snout and gasped for air as another arrived. They looked drugged, not minding at all that we were there and watching them. In seconds the carp filled the hole, and still more were coming. Then Papa was overcome by something deep and unknown. He knelt down on the ice and rolled up his sleeves. He stroked their heads and backs, mumbling ‘My darling, carp. Little carp.’ He played with them, and they flocked around his hands like his children, gold and silver in the moonlight. I never saw such carp again. Papa rolled them over, lifted them, then let them go as he hummed something.”

Ota Pavel, How I Came to Know Fish

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