Friday, November 26, 2010
Interview with author Art Rosch conducted by
General Stonewall Jackson Cichlid
A note from Art Rosch:
In 2004 I was passing the fish tanks in a large pet store. I hadn't intended to buy a fish. The idea was absurd, as we were then planning to move into an RV. Nothing stays put during the driving portion of RV adventures. An aquarium would be a disaster. Now that we're hardened RV hipsters, we understand the uses of Gorilla tape, bungees and slip-loks. We can, to a degree, securely fasten doors, closets, cabinets, drawers, small children and demented adults. In the early days any sudden turn would bring all the silverware out to bury itself in the faux wood paneling.
A fish swam up to the glass and fastened its eyes upon me. It was a thumb-sized cichlid with iridescent stipples of blue and red. It was stunningly gorgeous.
"Hey," said the fish. "I'm for you. Get me out of here."
I tried to ignore the creature but it kept pace with me the length of the aquarium. Other fish got out of its way as if it were a predatory monster.
"I'm serious," said the fish. "They don't obey my orders in here. They don't know who I am. What am I supposed to do with an undisciplined rabble like this? " Its eyes almost crossed with contempt, " Angel fish? Mollies, guppies, goldfish? Star fish! I have only one good thing to say about star fish. They don 't drop their weapons and run when the fighting gets hot."
I had to stop. The fish and I squared off and looked deep into one another's eyes.
"General?" I inquired. "General Stonewall Jackson?"
"I know," he replied. "This is embarrassing. I was a Presbyterian."
That was how I acquired The General. He liked people. He hated fish.
He ate the female cichlid we introduced into his tank. We rigged a special travel bowl that hung from a hook on the motor coach's ceiling. No matter how we bounced and yawed, the nylon sling that held the bowl kept the General's water nice and placid.
When we planned to stay somewhere for a while, we bought ten gallons of bottled water, heated it to the proper temperature and put The General in his aquarium. It was a major pain in the ass.
End of note. Begin interview.
Mr. Rosch, you've maintained a literary career of extraordinary purity. You sold a story to Playboy Magazine in the late 70's. It won a prestigious award. The online magazine Exquisite Corpse published two of your satirical pieces Aside from fleeting brushes with notoriety, you've barely sold or published anything at all. In fact, I believe no one besides your partner and your household pets has ever read your most important work.
First of all, please call me Art. This formality is silly. You are one of the household pets who has read my work. In fact, you've read more of my work than anyone besides my partner.
General: Yes, thanks for setting up that music stand and turning the pages. You're a patient man.
Rosch: Fox did most of the page turning. You know how she is. Anything for a reader.
General: Let's get back to the uncompromising nature of your written work.
Rosch: It's easy to have integrity when you're not getting paid. The lack of pay is a great motivator. There's always the looming possibility of posthumous fame. I don't worry about it too much. I'm fairly certain I'll be forgotten long before the quality of my writing is recognized..
General: You don't find this obscurity frustrating?
Rosch: Not at all. If I became a successful writer, I would have to behave like one.
I would have to increase my medications. I would have photos taken of me with my chin on my fist. I would have to travel on airplanes. Who wants to do that?
Further Author's Note:
As you can discern, The General was a remarkable fish. The preceding fantasy
is half true. One story about The General that is completely true involves an amazing leap of faith, an awesome feat of piscatory prowess.
One day I was cleaning my friend's aquarium. I had prepared a large bowl
with about three gallons of his water, and set him to swimming in it while I poured out the rest of the water and cleaned the gunk off the glass and out of the filters.
The General wasn't thrilled about this; he slapped the surface of the water with his
tail and darted in angry circles. Before meeting The General I had never conceived that fish could have such elaborate personalities. Now I know better. Animals, all of the creatures on this planet, need to be taken seriously. Fish, fowl, mammal, invertebrate, they are all conscious, each with unique complexity. The General was a lesson.
Having cleaned the rocks, the castle, the plastic plants and all the pumps and filters, I put the aquarium back on the table. I went through the procedure of getting fresh water to the correct temperature and began filling the tank. The General was in the big bowl, about four feet away on a dining table. I was going to net him and transfer him back to the aquarium. Then I would gently pour the water in the bowl back into the tank until it was topped off.
I approached the table with the net in my hand. I was about to chase The General around the bowl until I had him in the little rectangle of green mesh. He saved me the trouble. With an explosive leap, the fish flew through the air to make a perfect dive into the aquarium. Sploosh!!
This, I swear, is completely true.