Iowa Writes

CHRIS KILGORE
How Man Came to Know That the Merilles Fish Was Poisonous and Inedible


One morning in the summer of a year before years were counted two men with brown leathery skin waded out far into the cold waters that stretched away to Hedvana, the land of the dead and unborn spirits. Armed with long spears poised high above their heads they scoured the glassy waters for food. The one called Bu tè flung his spear at a blue fish with yellow spots, impaling it. Bu tè retrieved his spear, raised it and examined the bright blue and yellow creature on the end of it. This was a fish that no man had ever seen before and Bu tè's heart became full, he rushed back to the beach at once, splashing and flailing. The other, called Bu yà, noticed this unusual behavior by his friend and so came ashore to see what the matter was. Bu tè had already gutted and splayed the fish, and was now making an obeisance over it. Bu yà beheld the fish before Bu tè and was awestruck by its brightness. He took his seat next to Bu tè and also began making an obeisance. Bu tè looked at his friend and made a grave expression. He then made guttural noises in his throat. What Bu tè said to Bu yà was: "You can't have any."

One morning in the summer of a year before years were counted two men with brown leathery skin waded out far into the cold waters that stretched away to Hedvana, the land of the dead and unborn spirits. Armed with long spears poised high above their heads they scoured the glassy waters for food. The one called Bu tè flung his spear at a blue fish with yellow spots, impaling it. Bu tè retrieved his spear, raised it and examined the bright blue and yellow creature on the end of it. This was a fish that no man had ever seen before and Bu tè's heart became full, he rushed back to the beach at once, splashing and flailing. The other, called Bu yà, noticed this unusual behavior by his friend and so came ashore to see what the matter was. Bu tè had already gutted and splayed the fish, and was now making an obeisance over it. Bu yà beheld the fish before Bu tè and was awestruck by its brightness. He took his seat next to Bu tè and also began making an obeisance. Bu tè looked at his friend and made a grave expression. He then made guttural noises in his throat. What Bu tè said to Bu yà was: "You can't have any."

"What do you mean," asked Bu yà, not a little offended. "There is enough for both of us. We are great friends you and I. We share everything."

"I'm sorry, Bu yà, but this fish I cannot share with you because it is a gift from Hevis, the lady of Hedvana and it was sent to me. If you were meant to have some, Hevis would have sent you your own Merilles fish." At this Bu yà became suspicious, wondering how Bu tè knew that the name of this fish was Merilles, which in their guttural tongue meant 'magic fish for a great warrior.'

Bu tè began to devour the Merilles fish while Bu yà watched jealously. When Bu tè had gorged himself he lay back on the sand, his lips shiny from the tetrodoxin-containing oil of the Merilles, secreted in the ovaries, eggs, blood, liver, intestines, and, to a lesser extent, skin. Bu tè began to moan and mumble in ways Bu yà did not understand. Bu yà jumped to his feet believing that Bu tè was having a divine vision.

"What do you see!?" Bu yà hollered. Bu tè looked up at Bu yà with blood-red eyes that then rolled back into his head as he vomited and soiled himself many many times. When there was nothing left inside his stomach he was left heaving and convulsing on the sand. For about twenty minutes Bu yà sat next to him and watched intently as the tremblings of his friend's body and the rise and fall of the chest grew less and less until at last Bu tè became still. Bu yà, upon examining the body, found his friend to be without spirit.

"Truly," Bu yà thought, "this was a fish sent by Hevis to bring Bu tè back to Hedvana. Indeed, Bu tè must have been the greatest warrior in the life of the land."

Bu yà gave a great tribute to the body of Bu tè, he built an altar and a pyre on the beach and bid him good speed on his journey to Hedvana and then returned alone to his village. Bu yà related with great ceremony the story of Bu tè and the Merilles fish. His story became known to all people for many miles around who, from then on, always did two things: they exalted the memory of the great warrior Bu tè and were wary of the Merilles fish and knew not to eat of it, lest they should be carried away to Hedvana.

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About Iowa Writes

Since 2006, Iowa Writes has featured the work of Iowa-identified writers (whether they have Iowa roots or live here now) and work published by Iowa journals and publishers on The Daily Palette. Iowa Writes features poetry, fiction, or nonfiction twice a week on the Palette.

In November of 2008, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) designated Iowa City, Iowa, the world's third City of Literature, making the community part of the UNESCO Creative Cities Network.

Iowa City has joined Edinburgh, Scotland and Melbourne, Australia as UNESCO Cities of Literature.

Find out more about submitting by contacting iowa-writes@uiowa.edu


CHRIS KILGORE

Chris Kilgore is an Iowa writer. He was born in Dubuque but has lived in Iowa City since 1997 (with a 10-month hiatus in Missoula, MT). He has a few stories posted on online journals, one of them published in an e-zine called Johnny America.

Johnny America

This page was first displayed
on April 23, 2006

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