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The Cook's Wedding and Other Stories

The Fish
A SUMMER morning. The air is still; there is no sound but the churring of a grasshopper
on the river bank, and somewhere the timid cooing of a turtle-dove. Feathery clouds stand
motionless in the sky, looking like snow scattered about. . . . Gerassim, the carpenter, a
tall gaunt peasant, with a curly red head and a face overgrown with hair, is floundering
about in the water under the green willow branches near an unfinished bathing shed. . . .
He puffs and pants and, blinking furiously, is trying to get hold of something under the
roots of the willows. His face is covered with perspiration. A couple of yards from him,
Lubim, the carpenter, a young hunchback with a triangular face and narrow Chinese-
looking eyes, is standing up to his neck in water. Both Gerassim and Lubim are in shirts
and linen breeches. Both are blue with cold, for they have been more than an hour already
in the water.
"But why do you keep poking with your hand?" cries the hunchback Lubim, shivering as
though in a fever. "You blockhead! Hold him, hold him, or else he'll get away, the
anathema! Hold him, I tell you!"
"He won't get away. . . . Where can he get to? He's under a root," says Gerassim in a
hoarse, hollow bass, which seems to come not from his throat, but from the depths of his
stomach. "He's slippery, the beggar, and there's nothing to catch hold of."
"Get him by the gills, by the gills!"
"There's no seeing his gills. . . . Stay, I've got hold of something . . . . I've got him by the
lip. . . He's biting, the brute!"
"Don't pull him out by the lip, don't--or you'll let him go! Take him by the gills, take him
by the gills. . . . You've begun poking with your hand again! You are a senseless man, the
Queen of Heaven forgive me! Catch hold!"
"Catch hold!" Gerassim mimics him. "You're a fine one to give orders . . . . You'd better
come and catch hold of him yourself, you hunchback devil. . . . What are you standing
there for?"
"I would catch hold of him if it were possible. But can I stand by the bank, and me as
short as I am? It's deep there."
"It doesn't matter if it is deep. . . . You must swim."
The hunchback waves his arms, swims up to Gerassim, and catches hold of the twigs. At
the first attempt to stand up, he goes into the water over his head and begins blowing up