Wednesday, August 19, 2009

To mourn a carp


Until tonight I hadn’t gotten a chance to read this week’s Economist because on Friday, when it usually arrives, I left town for a much-needed weekend pastoral. But when I opened it up in my kitchen and flipped to my favorite section — the obituary — I saw that the eulogy this week is devoted to Benson, “England’s best-loved fish,” which died on July 29, “aged about 25.”

Benson was a carp, a female. And apparently so lovely a specimen of piscine femininity was she that the Economist rhapsodized her in its most honeyed and reverent language:

In her glory days she reminded some of Marilyn Monroe, others of Raquel Welch. She was lither than either as she cruised through the water-weed, a lazy twist of gold. Her gleaming scales, said one fan, were as perfect as if they had been painted on. Some wag had named her after a small black hole in her dorsal fin which looked, to him, like a cigarette burn. It was as beautiful and distinctive as a mole on an 18th-century belle.

Benson was a, um, full-figured fish. “At her peak weight, in 2006, she was 64 lb 2 oz.” I don’t know what that means in terms of carp BMI, but I take the magazine’s word that it was hefty. Poor Benson’s luxurious tastes may have been what ultimately did her in, as the obituary submits in its closing flourish:

She was said to have taken a bait of uncooked tiger nuts, which swelled inside her until she floated upwards. Telltale empty paper bags were found on the bank of the river. Or she may have been pregnant, with 300,000 eggs causing complications, or stressed after so much catching and releasing, those constant brushes with extinction. On the line between life and death, at Kingfisher Lake, she breathed the fatal air and did not sink again. And there she lay, like Wisdom drawn up from the deep: as golden, and as quiet.

Two years ago the Economist famously ran an obit of a parrot named Alex.

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