Excerpt from Fishbowl by Bradley Somer, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

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Fishbowl

A Novel

by Bradley Somer

Fishbowl by Bradley Somer X
Fishbowl by Bradley Somer
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  • First Published:
    Aug 2015, 304 pages
    Paperback:
    Nov 2016, 304 pages

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Print Excerpt

1
In Which the Essence of Life and Everything Else Is Illuminated

There's a box that contains life and everything else.

This is not a figurative box of lore. It's not a box of paper sheets that have been captured, bound, and filled with the inkings of faith, chronicling the foibles and contradictions of the human species. It doesn't sport the musty smell of ancient wisdom and moldering paper. It isn't a microscopic box of C, G, A, or T, residing within cell walls and containing traces of everything that ever lived, from today back through the astral dust of the Big Bang itself to whatever existed before time began. It can't be spliced or recombined or subjected to therapy. It's not the work of any god or the evolution of Darwin. It's not a thousand other ideas, however concrete or abstract they may be, that could fill the pages of this book. It's not one of these things, but it's all of them combined and more.

Now we know what it isn't, let's focus on what it is. It's a box containing the perpetual presence of life itself. Living things move within it, and at some point, it will have been around long enough to have contained absolutely everything. Not all at once, but over the years, building infinite layer upon infinite layer, it will all wind up there. Time will compile these experiences, stacking them on top of each other, and while the moments themselves are fleeting, their visceral memory is everlasting. The passing of a particular moment can't erase the fact that it was once present.

In this way, the box reaches beyond the organic to the ethereal. The heartbreaking sweetness of love, the rending hatred, the slippery lust, the sorrow of losing a family member, the pain of loneliness, all thoughts that were ever thought, every word ever said and even those which were not, the joys of birth and the sorrows of death and everything else will be experienced here in this one vessel. The air is thick with the anticipation of it all. After it's all done, the air will be heavy with everything that has passed.

It's a box constructed by human hands and, yes, if your beliefs trend that way, by extension, the hands of God. Regardless of its origin, its purpose is the same and its structure reflects its purpose. The box is partitioned into little compartments in which all of these experiences of time are stored, though there's no order to their place or chronological happening.

There are compartments stacked twenty-seven high, three wide, and two deep that house this jumble of everything. Melvil Dewey, the patron saint of librarians, would cringe at the mere thought of trying to catalog the details of these one hundred and sixty-two compartments. There's no way to arrange or structure what happens here, no way to exert control over it or systematize it. It just has to be left a mess.

A pair of elevators connects all of these compartments. Themselves little boxes, each with a capacity of ten people or 4,000 lb./1,814 kg., whichever comes first. Each with a little plaque attached to the mirrored wall near the panel that says it's so. The irritating pitch of the alarm that sounds when there's too much weight inside also says it's so. The elevators trundle tirelessly up and down their dingy shafts, diligently delivering artifacts and their custodians to the different levels. Day and night, they shuttle to one floor and then to the next and then back to the lobby. There's a staircase too, in case of fire or power outage, so the custodians can grab the artifacts most dear to them and safely exit the box.

The box is a building, yes. More specifically it's an apartment building. It sits there, an actual place in an actual city. It has a street address so people who are unfamiliar with the area can find it. It also has a series of numbers so lawyers and city surveyors can find it too. It's classified in many ways. To the city it's an orange rectangle with black crosshatching on the zoning map. "Multi-Residential, High-Density High-Rise," the legend reads. To many occupants it's a "one-bedroom apartment for rent, with underground parking and coin laundry facilities." To some it was "an unbelievably affordable way to experience the convenience and excitement of downtown living. This two-bedroom, one-bathroom condo with uninterrupted city views must be seen to be believed," and is now home. For a few, it's a place to work on the weekdays. For others, it's a place to visit friends on the weekends.

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Excerpted from Fishbowl by Bradley Somer. Copyright © 2015 by Bradley Somer. Excerpted by permission of St. Martin's Press. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

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