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The Fish

     "Is anything wrong, my lord?" Angrette asked as she bowed at the foot of the dais.
     "I find a worm in my grapes, slave-girl, and you ask if anything is wrong; this is for your stupidity." Pompano hurled the grape-filled platter at her; its edge pierced the back of her neck. Moaning loudly, she clutched at her neck and fell to the floor.
     Pompano shrugged his shoulders and picked a cutlet from another tray near his divan. The bleeding Angrette got to her feet and moved toward the door. Pompano pointed a stubby finger at her. "Stay, so I can watch you." He chewed thoughtfully for a moment.
     "Angrette," he said, "you are suffering beautifully; I commend you. One seldom finds anyone who suffers well."
     An hour passed, and Angrette, who managed to stop the flow of blood with her garments, fell into a feverish doze. Pompano pushed aside the pile of bones left on the tray, licked his fingers, and hoisted his body onto his stocky legs. "Now for a most unpleasant custom." He heaved a profound sigh. "Sometimes it seems that life is simply too painful to bear." He waddled into the adjoining room, and lay on a cushion near a small, dark pool.
     "Angrette, come, bring the feather." Through the waves of pain numbing her head, Angrette heard her master call, and ran to obey. As he leaned over the pool, she inserted the feather into his open mouth. He retched until it seemed that the force would turn him inside out. Angrette turned her head in disgust; Pompano vomited: fragments of food streamed from his mouth and nose, and tears came to his eyes. When he was through, he wiped his mouth, blew his nose, and watched a sight that always amused him.
     The water shivered; a silvery sheen rose from the depths, and suddenly the surface was covered with hundreds of frenzied fish. They tore at the bits of meat with their razor teeth, and in seconds the water was clear of every particle of food. The flashing fins faded to a sheen that disappeared as the fish sank back to the bottom.
     Angrette fell ill each time she witnessed this violence, and the throbbing of her head increased so that she could scarcely stand. She staggered, almost fainting, and stepped on the hem of his crimson robe.
     "Clumsy fool," he roared, and struck her across the face with the back of his hand. Her head jerked, and the wound on her neck opened again. Her eyes misted over with tears of pain, and her mind filled with tiny spark-like explosions.
     Almost without thought she ran at him, her hands stiffened into claws, and pushed him over the edge of the pool. A silvery sheen swam toward the surface to receive him, and he screamed only once before the water closed over his head. As she ran from the chamber, she heard only the splashing of water, like the smacking of a hundred tiny lips.