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The Splendour of Iran
Iran Travel

Payvand's Iran Literature ...

Short Story: The Fish and its Pair

By Ebrahim Golestan
Translated by: Roya Monajem
Edited by: Katherine L. Clark

The man looked at the fish. The fish were at rest and hung behind the glass window. Behind the glass window, they had built a little pond out of rocks with its walls extending backward, fading into a semi dark area. The wall facing the man was of glass. In that semi dark area, there was a cave-like passage on both sides of the walls, forming an aquarium that was the showroom for a variety of colorful fish. A light projected on each tank from above. The source of light could not be seen, but the brightness covering the water hinted at its presence as the man sat watching the fish under that cold, serene light.

The fish were at rest and hung behind the glass window as though they were birds without flapping their wings, as though they were soaring in the air. If a bubble did not appear every now and then, it would be hard to discern the watery nature of their medium; the bubbles also showed the slight, slow movement of their fins. In the far distance, the man saw two fish facing each other.

The two fish were not big; they were swimming together. Now their heads were next to each other and their tails away from each other. Then all of a sudden they moved, swam upward, turned around in the middle , and swam downward; and again they stayed together as though they wanted to kiss each other, but separated , wiggled, and swam back and forth.

The man sat down. He thought that he had never seen so many one-tailed creatures. Each fish swam alone and had its own simple excursions. In other ponds and outside the ponds of the world in forests and valleys, he had seen fish, and hens, and humans; and in the sky, he had seen stars in motion, but never in such great harmony. In autumn, all the leaves did not fall at once, and the New Year's sabzeh did not grow simultaneously on the clay jars [1] and the stars do not blink together in a very harmonious way. But the rain, perhaps only the rain, perhaps only the tiny strings of rain fell together, and perhaps the vapor too rose from the surface of the sea in one breath. But, he had not seen it. He had never seen it.

Perhaps the two fish seemed so similar because they were together, or perhaps they were together because they were so similar. Was their harmonious movement due to friendship, or did their friendship result in harmonious movement? Or, perhaps, they were geniuses. Have fish genius? The man could not hear any tune, but he liked to think that fish had a song, or a hearing sense that perceived the tune of unity. Did the other fish have it too?

The two fish were one with each other. The two fish were decorating the small aquarium with their harmonious dance. But, how would they continue to dance? Where would they dance from here? An old woman holding the hand of a child arrived and stood to watch the fish, obstructing the man's view. The woman pointed out the fish to the child. The man stood up and walked toward the glass. The fish were beautiful and acted in a soft, free manner, and everything possessed an air of light stillness. Was the woman showing those fish to the child? She tried to raise the child so that he would be able to see better, but she was not strong enough. The man held the child in his arms and raised him. "Thank you, sir," the old woman said.

After a few moments the man told the child, "Look how beautifully those two fish move together!" The two fish were now swimming breast to breast and their fins moved simultaneously in a soft, wave-like fashion. The soft light at the end of the tank was like the sleep of early mornings, and it made the rocks appear like bubbles, clean, smooth, comfortable, and light. The two fish now moved simultaneously away from each other, only to come close simultaneously again and glide side by side. .

The man told the child, "Look how beautifully those two fish stay together."

"Which ones?" the child asked after a short pause.

Knocking at the glass wall of the aquarium, the man replied, "Those two. I mean those two. Look at those two."

Somebody had written a line as a memorial on the glass with a needle or nail.

The child said, "They are not two."

The man said, "Those, those two."

"Those two are not two. One is the image reflected on the opposite wall," the child said after a short pause.

The man put down the child, and after a few moments went to watch other tanks."


1. One of the customs of the New Year's ceremony is to grow a fistful of wheat, lentil or any other cereal before the new year in a dish or the outside of clay jars to simulate spring. This is what is called sabzeh in Persian, meaning any kind of freshly grown seeds.

Two Sisters : Stories

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