Fish Kills

My father looked up from his Bible and said, “There’s no modern world without wastewater treatment plants.” At first, this was not surprising; he had once remarked that wastewater treatment plants should be the eighth Wonder of the World. Because he worked in one, he lamented the public’s ingratitude for flushing and faucets, the blind eye we turn to fish kills—often the first sign an ecosystem is in trouble.

I wondered what Bible passage could have precipitated this declaration. Moses stands dumbfounded at the parted Red Sea; silver bodies flash on the sandy path, gasping for water. Lacking potable water in the belly of the great fish, Jonah hallucinates a future in which men in fast ships hunt whales to near extinction. While grieving the decapitation of his best friend, Jesus conjures thousands of fish to feed the masses. Tiny rib bones litter the grass, fossilizing into evidence that fish once crawled to land.

I did not ask my father which part of the Bible made him think of wastewater treatment plants. You don’t get to ask questions if you don’t have faith. Disbelief, I had learned, sucks the oxygen from the water. It is possible to drown in your own home.

Emily Weber’s work has been published in Adroit Journal, The Cincinnati Review, Gordon Square Review, Passages North, and elsewhere. She works in communications and lives near Philadelphia.