The Moon-Fish

I once obtained a moon-fish for the school museum. The moon-fish, althoughnot very rare, is only infrequently found in the waters of the Mediterranean. It varies in size, usually it is from six to eight feet high and five to sixfeet long. It is a flat fish. It gets its name from a peculiar habbit whichit has, of rising to the surface of the water and lying out flat in the sun,which reflects on the body from a distance. It looks for all the world like acircular moon or sun on the surface of the water.

On the particular occasion of which I am speaking, a moon-fish had wanderedinto the Gulf and had gotten entangled in the nets of the fisherman at thehead of the Bay. The fishermen had to cut their nets to get rid of thecreature. In order to make up for the loss of the nets, one of theenterprising fishermen decided to use the fish at a peep-show for thetownspeople. For this purpose the ungainly fish was hauled to the shore andfrom there to a shed where the people were invited to pay a ten paras entrancefee.

This occured in early February and my curiosity was aroused when I heard of itso I went from our village five miles to the Bay, crossed the three milestretch of the Bay to the town, where the fish had been on display for twodays. My offer of one medjidje (80 cents) was accepted by the fishermen andmy next problem was how to get the fish back to my village. I finally hired acart driven by two oxen. After much labor we succeeded in getting the fish onthe cart and for the sum of ten ofissten (40 cents) the drivers transported itto my village. It took them ten hours to transport this burden from the townto our village in the mountains. The cart, drawing its unusual cargo throughthe cobblestone streets of the village, finally arrived in front of our house. On one side of the street was our gate and on the otherside of the street wasa garden which owing to the sloping character of the region was below thelevel of the street. In attempting to turn the cart around to go through thegate, the fish slipped out of the cart down to the garden below. Fortunately,the owner of the garden, for a consideration, permitted the fish to remainthere. It took me the better part of the next day to skin it. After the skinwas removed, the fish was cut up into small pieces and thrown to the dogs inthe street. The skin, when mounted, formed the prize show-piece of the schoolmuseum for many years after.

by Robert Chambers ęCopyright2001