As the interview opened, Tom asked me to read a short excerpt. So here is a flashback to the time Ben was twelve years old child, facing the fish tilting sideways in his aquarium:
"The fish, it seems to be gulping for air. Maybe it forgot how to breathe. I know I can fix it. First I rub the mouth, delicately, with my finger. Then I try to massage the entire body. I am doing my best, my very best to be gentle—but in the end, some scales tear off the body, and a tiny fin flakes away.
At this point, I must do something, and fast. Just like dad: he did what he could for grandma, and blew his breath into her; and his breath was magical, because it lasted in her, somehow, for the next two weeks. I can do better than that for this little body, even with a few scales or a fin missing. So, I take a deep breath, put my lips to the fish—but then the smell, the touch... It makes me pause for a minute.
Still, I cannot give up: I must be brave, just like dad—or else, the spell may be broken. So again I gasp, and with frantic hope, I give a full-blown puff. The red eyes seem to be looking at me, and the tail is hanging over my finger, and it looks limp, and a bit crumpled.
I cannot allow myself to weep. No, not now. So I wipe the corner of my eye. Now if you watch closely, right here, you can see that the tail is still crinkling. I gasp, and blow again. I blow and blow, and with a last-gasp effort I go on blowing until all is lost, until I don’t care anymore, I mean it, I don’t care but the tears, the tears come, they are starting to flow, and there is nothing, nothing more I can do—
Then I feel mom, the smell of her skin. Here she is, wrapping her arms around mine. Softly, gently, she releases the fish, and takes me to their bed, and dad says nothing but makes room for me, and I curl myself in the dent between them, and it feels so warm here and so sweet that at last, I can lose myself, and I cry myself to sleep."
To listen to the entire interview, come hang out with us at The Writers' Lounge.
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