He came in through the broken kitchen window; skittering into and out of the sink and toppling the kettle from the bench as he did so. He called out hello with the voice of an imbecile, an embarrassed and scuffed-knee greeting anyway. The kettle lid ellipsing on the tiles.
Nothing seemed unusual in The Fish Man’s kitchen: the table, a fly-tip trestle he had found in the long grass out the back, was crowded with mugs and pincered beer cans: a congealed, dug-out tinfoil meal, spoons, stained and bent out of shape; books, likewise. The dubious milk bottles, the ashtray collection, the harsh bulb and the bin bags slouched at the wall. Newspapers and tiny paint pots and brushes and glue and scattered green things that turned out to be miniature plastic trees. The missing cupboard doors, revealing nothing more than paint pots and jam jars filled with thin, and encrusted, detail brushes. He called out again, but using The Fish Man’s other name this time, a rare thing on any lips. The name fell dead in the hallway.
But the hallway beckoned, and so he moved between the things stationed there, elbows to his chest and turning, occasionally, sideways, to negotiate some corner or leg of dun furniture stacked along its length. The butterflies petalled in his belly, so he called no name now or again greeting. He called nothing.
The Fish Man was sat in the mirror on the red sofa surrounded by his chattels. His pants ragged in his jeans around his black ankles, the top of his left leg and groin was purple-grey. The other was blue.
From the dim chaos, many, many objects that he’d never noticed before began to make themselves seen and be known by him: familial photographs; a young couple from the old days leant on a curvaceous bonnet; the same man, but older, sat in a deckchair in a sunny back garden, reading a book; a boy with the smile of The Fish Man; postcards from the past, addressed to Gil, and some to Mr. G. Howard, many different addresses and differing hands.
Knott fingered an altar of things covered in ash on a slate on the mantel; a squad of lead Grenadier Guards at attention on the frame above the door and a porcupine quill stuck in a small, green and brown, woolen cactus and a green terrarium bulb bottomed with coppers and silvers. He nosed around a tobacco tin, but it only contained a molar, a Yellow Submarine Beatles Zippo lighter, a dice, some lapel badges and some Dutch or German coins. Nothings.
He looked around a little more, all the time edging toward the bookshelf. He took The New English Dictionary from the shelf, like he’d seen the Fish Man do, and sat next to The Fish Man on the sofa. The Fish Man was like a puppet beside him, head and hair hanging against his still chest; Knott was breathing hard and his head was spinning; but, then this settled, too, and he noticed that a needle, catching on the run-out groove of a record on the turntable, crackled and sizzled and clicked in the huge speaker cones either side of the fireplace, that a clock was ticking (somewhere) and occasionally the fish tank bubbled.
The Fish Man was filled with nothingness.
Knott opened the book and pocketed the things the Fish Man had hidden in the hollow: the knuckle rocks, the speed wraps, the hash slab, the rubber-banded money; a small, worn notebook of numbers, addresses. He went over to the record and placed the needle back to the start. He picked up the cover with the familiar red haired seraph gazing somewhere out of frame and went and sat down next to The Fish Man again. He began to construct a joint from the book findings and thought about what he would do.