The following is a short story in a collection of articles originally produced for NPR written by Carol Wasserman. This tells the story of Barney, read on ...

PS "Ed" is Geoffrey.


When Barney died, after the doctors had done what they could, and determined that his passing had been due to natural causes, his caretaker threw him in the freezer and called Ed. Who drove over the bridge a few weeks later and picked up the body.

Barney had spent a good part of his life at WHOI, the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution in Woods Hole in the aquarium, where he was a particular favorite of the staff who looked after him. At some point he had become depressed and had stopped eating. And, as Ed says, "How are you going to force a ray to eat?"

A Cow Nosed Eagle Ray, specifically; an exotic fish, flat and elegant. His body sat in Ed’s freezer for a couple of months, waiting for some slack time in the ceramic fish industry. Eventually Ed made a mold of Barney the ray, and added him to the new summer line.

Ed has a little shop on the old road to New Bedford. He sells copies of the shiny colorful scup and stripers and flounder which swim around out in the bay. And sweet candy-colored little tropicals who met their deaths in home aquariums. It’s hard to get the big fish, though, before they’ve been gutted and cleaned by fishermen. And so Ed relies on the kindness of a network of people who make their living disposing of deceased museum exhibits.

"I think this is a fair trade-off," Ed tells me. "Barney was dead, but he’ll live forever now and be seen by hundreds of people."

And isn’t this promise of immortality through art exactly the thing upon which so many of us - also destined to go The Way Of All Fish - hang our slippery hopes?


Courtesy of Swimming at Suppertime by Carol Wasserman published by Random House