645 readings

35

FINALIST
Jury Selection

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Indifference kills. It is as pitiless towards higher intelligences as it is to the most primitive of beings. The truth is the same for all. Tight lips and absent stares are deadly poisons.

Despite his age, Maurice was still on top form. With his fresh complexion and confident approach, he moved through life with evident ease. As happy as a fish in water, you might say. And yet...
And yet, you have to acknowledge that, early this morning, Maurice put an end to his days.
It was the cleaning lady who found him dead as she started her day’s work.
She had known Annette for years and used to come twice a week to clean the apartment.

Annette had left home a few hours earlier. She always got up very early to go to her place of work, a research center at the other side of town.

Had a few morbid ideas taken root in Maurice’s head? What had made him perform that fatal gesture, take that great leap? Would anyone ever know?
The weight of loneliness, perhaps. The impression of now being no more to Annette than a decorative object rarely given more than a casual glance.
How many times had he not felt like shouting at her, “For God’s sake, Annette, look at me! I exist! I am alive! I am not just a trophy! Say something nice to me or yell your disgust at me as if I were rotten fish, but at least speak to me, I beg you. When we first lived together, you were interested in me, just a look, a smile, a little word from you was enough for me to bask in happiness. Now all that has disappeared. I go round in circles in a world which seems to me much diminished. Without understanding anything of what is happening to me.”
Unfortunately, when Maurice wanted to express himself, he would open his mouth with a barely perceptible noise but then feel blocked, powerless, incapable of articulating the least syllable. As tight as a clam. As silent as the grave.
As the days went by, it had become unbearable. There was something inhuman about it, he sometimes used to say to himself. He could no longer even think coherently. He felt as if he were swimming through choppy waters, with no landmarks and no hope. And the worst of all was not being able to share his pain with anybody. Keeping it all to himself. In the end he fell into a dark melancholy. Until that desperate act.

On Annette’s table lay a half-open book, with one passage underlined, ‘Do problems of depression in Man have an equivalent in the world of the simplest animal life?’
And right next to it was a half-empty bowl and a little pool of water in which lay the inanimate body of Maurice, the goldfish.

Translated by Wendy Cross

35

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