(originally appeared at yareah.com on 8/4/2013)
I’ve always wanted to name a book Lungfish. Of course, nobody is going to buy a book called Lungfish, so I thought I’d better write a story called Lungfish in the hopes that this gets it out of my system. My books have enough problems without dragging around a title like that.
You might ask yourself why anyone would want to name anything Lungfish to begin with. A fair question.
Because who wouldn’t want to name something after a fish that felt like a fish out of water so often that it literally became a fish out of water? How fucking heroic is that? I can’t believe there aren’t products named “Lungfish” anywhere you go.
Who can’t identify with a fish like that?
If there was a breed of dog that was called “underdog,” I’d bet they couldn’t keep up with the demand. Fish that had to develop lungs just to get away from the other fish certainly fall in that category.
Not much to look at, I’ll grant you. It’s easy to see why the original lungfish weren’t exactly the schooling type. They probably would have been game but I’m guessing the offers were few and far between. It probably wasn’t long after that the lungfish started to get a very anti-schooling outlook.
We’ve all be there, am I right?
And once you start to let your looks go, it’s a slippery slope. A slippery, slimy slope at that. Next thing you know, you look like something that belongs in a cave somewhere.
Possibly Plato’s cave?
For those not in the philosophical know, Plato (through Socrates in The Republic) described a group of prisoners who lived chained to the wall of a cave all of their lives, facing a blank wall. The prisoners watched shadows projected on the wall from things passing in front of a fire behind them, and those shadows become their reality. It was all they could know of things.
You have to wonder, however briefly, if the lungfish believe themselves to be things passing behind these prisoners. That they are somehow the enlightened ones. The disenfranchised always seem to feel this about themselves. Ask an outcast and they’ll always tell you they are out there of their own volition.
But to actually develop lungs? That’s quite a commitment. None of these simple air sacs you see popping up on the occasional aquatic malcontent, lungfish are sporting vascularized gas bladders with complex structure and subdivided to maximize the surface area for the exchange of gases.
How’s that for a big “fuck you” to their freshwater compatriots?
Now I know a few of you, the “Lungfish” among my readers, are still trying to wrestle with the notion that my cave allegory includes a fire burning in what has to be an underwater cave. In fact, there are some of you that haven’t been able to pay attention to a thing I’ve written since as your brain tries to think of what fish has those glowing antennae, if those glowing antennae could reproduce the effects of fire (i.e. the strength to cast shadows), and, if so, what role these fish whose name you can’t quite recall would play in the story. Plato had a non-sentient fire. This parable would have to include a willing conspirator.
Can’t you just read a nice story about lungfish without muddying the fucking waters?
And yes, I know lungfish enjoy muddy waters.
No wonder your friends consider you a lungfish.
And yes, I consider myself a lungfish. But I don’t go around fucking up perfectly nice stories just because I can’t let go of one tiny detail.
Ok, the fish you’re looking for is the anglerfish. They’re the ones with the bioluminescent thingy sticking out of their head that lures in other fish for them to eat. They might be the only fish uglier than the lungfish.
Would that explain why they were in cahoots?
No! It wouldn’t. Stop hijacking the story. I was only telling you the name of the fish so it wouldn’t bother you the rest of the day. You know how it is when you can’t put your finger on the name of something. All day you’d have this image of a great hulking set of choppers with a glowing thing sticking out of its face and you’d be blaming me. Don’t be barreling along in the story and saying to yourself that participating in this Lungfish’s Cave incident is probably why the angler fish retreated down to the depths in the first place.
They were ashamed or some such nonsense.
No, that’s not the story I was trying to tell at all, you stupid lungfish! If the angler fish lived with the rest of the schooling fish it would never have developed the bioluminescent thingy sticking out of their head in the first place. You’re not equipped to tell stories. You’re out of your depth. That’s why you’re a reader!
Leave the storytelling to the professionals.
Take it from a fellow lungfish: you don’t always have to see what’s coming. You don’t always have to be swimming upstream.
It’s fine just to sit back sometimes and relax and imagine what the other fish wouldn’t give for a breath of fresh air.