My translation of an amusing and little-known short story by Anton Chekhov.
by Anton Chekhov
It is strange, but the sole carp living in the pond close to the dacha of General Pantalikin, fell in love up to his ears with his daughter, Sonia Mamochkina. By the way, what is strange about this? Lermontov’s demon fell in love with Tamara, and the swan with Leda, and really, doesn’t it happen that chancellery clerks fall in love with their bosses’ daughters? Every morning Sonia Mamochkina arrived with her aunt to bathe. The love-struck carp swam right up to the bank and observed. Due to the close proximity of the Krandel Sons foundry, the water in the pond long ago had turned brown, but nonetheless, the carp could see everything. He saw how white clouds and birds hung in the light blue sky, how the ladies exposed themselves, how, due to the bushes on the bank, young people looked at them, how the fat aunt, before she went into the water, sat for about five minutes on a stone, and, stroking herself complacently, said: “How did I come to resemble such an elephant? Even looking is frightful.” Having removed her undergarments, Sonia threw herself into the water with a squeal, swam around, shaking from the cold, and the carp, there on the spot, swam up to her and began to greedily kiss her toes, shoulders, neck…
Having swum, the summer vacationers went home to drink tea with sweet rolls, and the carp swam alone in the enormous pond and thought:
“Of course, the chances of reciprocity don’t even come into the question. Could she, such a beauty, fall in love with me, a carp? No, a thousand times no! Don’t delude yourself with fantasies, despicable fish! There’s only one fate left to you—death! But how to die? There are no revolvers or phosphorous matches in the pond. For our brother, for carps, only one death is possible—to fall to a pike. But where to find a pike? If there was a pike in the pond at one time, it expired of boredom. Oh, woe is me!”
And, thinking about death, the young pessimist buried himself in the pond slime and wrote in his diary…
One day towards evening Sonia and her aunt sat fishing on the bank of the pond. The carp swam close to their bobbers and didn’t tear his eyes from the beloved girl. Suddenly, an idea crossed his mind in a flash.
“I’ll die at her hands!” he thought, and happily started to wiggle his fins. “Oh, that will be a wonderful, sweet death.”
And, full of decisiveness, only having turned a little pale, he swam to Sonia’s hook and took it in his mouth.
“Sonia, you’ve got a bite!” screeched the aunt, “Dearie, you’ve got a bite!”
Sonia jumped up and lurched back with all of her strength. Something golden crossed into the air and slapped into the water, leaving a circle after itself.
“Got away!” shrieked both vacationers, having turned pale. “Got away! Oh dear!”
They looked at the hook and saw a fish lip. –“Oh, dear, you didn’t have to tug so hard. Now the poor fish is left without lips…”
Having gotten off the hook, my hero was stunned and for a long time didn’t understand what was wrong; afterwards, coming to, he moaned
-- “Alive again! Again! Oh, trick of fate!”
Then having noticed that he didn’t have his lower jaw, the carp turned pale and wildly laughed…. He went mad.
But I’m afraid it looks strange that I want to occupy the attention of a serious reader with the fate of such a disposable and uninteresting creature as a carp. Well, what’s strange here? Ladies describe gudgeons and snails which aren’t of any use to anyone in thick magazines. And I am imitating the ladies. It might even be that I am a lady myself and am only hiding behind a male pseudonym.
And so, the carp lost his mind. The unhappy one still lives to this day. Carps in general love to be baked in sour cream; my hero now loves any death. Sonia Mamochkina married the owner of an apothecary shop, and the aunt went to Lipetsk to live with a married sister. There is nothing strange in this, because the married sister has six children and all children love an aunt.
But, to continue. The engineer Krisin works as the director at the Krandel Sons foundry. He has a nephew Ivan, who, as is known, writes verses and eagerly publishes them in magazines and newspapers. One sultry day at noon, the young poet, walking past the pond, fancied a swim. He changed and began to climb into the pond. The mad carp took him for Sonia Mamochkina, swam up to him, and gently kissed him on the back. This kiss had the most disastrous results: the carp infected the poet with pessimism. Not observing anything, the poet got out of the water and, wildly laughing, set off for home. After a few days he went to St. Petersburg; having visited the editors there, he infected all poets with pessimism, and from that time on, our poets began to write gloomy, cheerless verses.