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The author: Yota Prokopi was born in Athens, lives in Europe and she considers herself a world citizen. She loves investigating how language functions in the brain, translation and writing stories.
The translator: Christopher Luke Kourpas is an English Cypriot raised in Larnaca and Nottingham. "Fish Talk" is his first significant project in terms of translation.
The fish tank – Fish talks
The High Dive
A ray of sunlight tricked and slipped its way through the grey multi-storeys and rushed into Mr Pensatore’s fifth floor window and lit up the lawyer’s office. After a few moments the ray, after it had warmed the office and the water in the fish tank on the little table in front of the window, left in search of other windows. Before another ray of sunlight could reach the office, a set of keys could be heard unlocking the door of the empty office and the lawyer came into the room, shutting the door behind him. He went to switch on the light but before he pressed the button he looked at the window and realised he didn’t need any more light than what was coming through the window. He went to his desk, put down his briefcase and knelt in front of the fish tank to look for his little fish. They were nowhere to be seen. He looked behind the shipwreck where they kept their eggs and they weren’t there either, so he tapped his finger on the tank, a sign of worry beginning to creep onto his face. “Where could they be?” he asked himself. He lifted the other hand and tapped with two fingers. Thankfully his beloved fish appeared at the door of the tower and the lawyer smiled at them. They went straight to his finger to say hello and then rushed back to their eggs.
‘So my dear little fish, said Mr Pensatore as he stood up and the little fish looked upwards at him, I understand that today’s the most important day of your life! You’ve been swimming together in the tank for three whole years, since you were little, and at long last the day has come where you become parents. I realise you must be really anxious so I’m going to treat you today,’ he said dropping food into the tank.
He continued to speak while they ate, ‘You know, I’ve never told you this but when I bought this tank I wanted to fill it with lots and lots of fish. But when I chose you and brought you here, first Artles and then you Bravado, I knew that you two would be enough for company and I forgot about bringing in any other fish. Ah…’ Mr Pensatore sighed and sat at his desk to look at his cases.
In the tank…
‘Look Bravado, poor Mr Pensatore is sad again… I think he’s crying.’
‘Hmm…humans…let’s check on the kids, it’s important we’re there when they hatch, I want to be one of the first faces they see.’
‘Stop worrying, there are only three faces here anyway!’
‘I want my kids to know that I’ll never leave them unprotected… that I’ll always be by their side and that…’
‘Eh? What? Where? What happened?’
‘Our first egg’s hatching!’
‘Quick! Hurry! We might need to do something! We have to be there! said the excited father and ran to the egg that was moving determinedly. ‘
‘Bravado, come back. They know very well what to do. They don’t need you getting in the way.’
‘They don’t need me… said Bravado, with the same sad look as Mr Pensatore, but how can they not need me when they’re so small and vulnerable… you’re saying it like that to get on my nerves aren’t you?’
‘No Bravado… honestly, don’t you remember how we hatched?’
‘You know I was in a fish bowl on my own… all alone, until I found you here thanks to Mr Pensatore.’
‘Yes my dear but even when you were on your own you were fine!’
‘Yes, sure. So that’s why I thought that my parents where the parrot and hamster in the cages across from me! Well THEY WERE the first faces I saw…’
‘Yes, yes but our children have us, now look…over there… another egg is moving.’
‘And the one behind it too, do you see it?’
‘Do you think they’ll all hatch at the same time?’
‘Well let’s just hope these three hatch before some crazy client shows up that makes the tank shake with their annoyingly loud voice.’
‘Shh stop talking and look! The first one’s coming!’
‘Come on! Let’s help!’
Bravado rushed over to the new-born and sweet talked him out of his shell and into his welcoming arms. Artles looked at Mr Pensatore. He was deep in thought and hadn’t realised what was happening. The two fish loved Mr Pensatore dearly because he always spoke to them about the curiosities of life. They may have never been out into the world but through the lawyer’s words their every query had an answer. And so they hated to see him sad. Artles saw Bravado had his hands full with a new born and was encouraging a second one, so she swam up to the surface and tapped her fin against the glass. The lawyer looked over distractedly and rushed to the tank as he realised that she was trying to get his attention. He didn’t take his eyes off her and as he stood over the tank he saw that she was looking at something, so he followed a stream of bubbles leading to Bravado’s arms. He already had two little ones in his arms and the third had just hatched. The proud father showed off his children and the lawyer began to well up.
‘Do you know what? I’m going to take the rest of the day off. I’m going to sit here next to you. I’m going to share your happiness! True friends are there when their friends are happy and are happy with them. They don’t just want good things for them, they want to be there during the good things too!’
He sat on the brown leather armchair closest to the fish tank and silently watched the two parents as they taught their children to swim and here and there they stole a glance at the ones still sleeping. It was midday now and Mr Pensatore felt lucky not to have been disturbed, not even his secretary had knocked on the door. He thought that today had proven that there was room for happiness in this world too, not just the sadness he saw in the courtrooms. As he sat enjoying this thought, someone knocked on the door. He stole one more glance at how many eggs were still sitting unhatched. Four little ones were swimming around their mother, one was in its father’s arms and two were on the way. Another one had already popped its head out of the egg and was looking at his father who was speaking to him.
‘Well little fish, looks like it’s time for a visitor!’ said the lawyer and he went to open the door.
‘Let’s hope this client won’t be someone accused of illegal fishing and end up terrifying the babies with their stories!‘ whispered Bravado to Artles.
‘Don’t be such a pessimist! And anyway our children are too young to understand humans.’
All the fish looked over at the door, curiously wondering who would appear.
‘Hello! Well, good afternoon I suppose… ‘ said a high pitched voice coming from a slender woman in a grey skirt and black jacket standing at the door.
‘Hello…’ said Mr Pensatore awkwardly as he noticed the woman was still wearing sunglasses and her chin was shaking as she held back tears.
‘Could I trouble you with the matter of my divorce?’
‘Oh…’ said the lawyer still distracted by the sunglasses, ‘Of course, please step into my office. ‘As she walked into the office Mr Pensatore shut the door behind her.
‘My name’s Ticker Lont and I’m a designer. My husband decided to leave me so I was wondering if you could handle my divorce.’
‘I understand. Please, take a seat.’ The lawyer motioned towards the armchair that was furthest from the fish tank but she ignored him and sat where he was sitting before. As he couldn’t sit next to his precious little fish he sat at his desk. He reached over to a box for a fresh piece of paper and got his pen to note down any important information about the woman’s case.
‘So, Mrs Lont, did you say you’re a designer?’ asked Mrs Pensatore as he secretly tried to glance at the fish tank to see if the last egg had hatched.
‘Yes, I design circus puppets. I have a workshop in the village where I grew up, not far from here. I’m planning to go back there after we finish. You see Mr Pensatore I only came to the city for my husband, but now he’s left me I have no reason to stay. You should understand that...’ she paused ‘What?’ Mrs Lont had caught the lawyer looking at the fish tank and automatically looked over too.