Fiction, Vol. 4.2, June 2010
After searching the city for weeks, I have finally found a fountain that can console me.
It is not a particularly striking fountain; not architecturally significant. There is nothing about its design that would catch the eye of the fountain connoisseur. It is neither embellished nor sculpted, but unadorned—sparse, vaguely brutalist, its surfaces bleak and pure like raw concrete. It consists of a shallow pool, about fifteen feet in diameter, and in the epicentre of this pool sits a squat stone column, topped with a broad bowl or plate from the centre of which the water emerges.
The fountain is obviously neglected. Moss grows here and there, mounds of rotting leaves are heaped against the edges of the pool. Located in a dark, unkempt corner of a park that receives few visitors, the fountain is almost hidden from view by rampant vegetation. Overhead, a haphazard tangle of foliage forms a natural canopy, so that the effect is of being entombed in a cave or grotto, the air stale and cold, the light poor. It is not pleasant by the fountain. The atmosphere puts me in mind of a dingy public toilet.
I have done some research, and discovered that the fountain was constructed in 1917, and is purportedly modelled on the fountains in Trafalgar Square in London. I have seen these fountains, and I can confirm that the one I have discovered is a poor copy at best, if it is even a copy at all. The differences between them are so great in number that I don’t know where to begin. I suppose the most obvious contrast is the water flow. The fountains in Trafalgar Square issue a steady stream, firm and constant, which separates as it rises into seven or eight perfect arcs of silver, that shudder and disintegrate at their peak before falling listlessly into the basin and spilling over into the pond below.
My fountain is feeble and faltering by comparison. It emits nervous, arrhythmic spurts that slosh uncomfortably into the cloudy water, clumsily licking the edge of the basin, which is striped with green slime along its lip. Despite this, I find myself drawn to the fountain, a magnetic relic lurking in the shadows. There is something about the stunted unpredictability of the jet that fixates me. I have visited the park every day for two weeks now.
Yesterday, I found a piece of bone in the foot of the adjacent bushes. I think it was a jawbone, probably from a dog, judging by the size. It was spectacularly clean and white, as if recently subjected to a belt sander. There is no meaning or symbolism behind this discovery. It was merely a beautiful object that I happened upon by chance. I held it up to get a better look at it, admiring the firm line of the jaw, the slight curve, the pronounced pout suggested by its length.
Impulsively, I removed my shoes and socks, rolled my trousers up to the knee, and waded into the murky pool. I placed the bone on the edge of the fountain’s basin, positioned so that the water would land directly on it, washing it, darkening its dry chalkiness with every pulse.
As I stood there a feeble, apologetic spurt of water slopped onto the jawbone with a perforated splat.
The noise made me feel like I could get away with anything.