“Hi,” Eric said.
“Wow!” George decided. “Talking fish on the beach! Let’s play!”
“We’re trying to follow a sound,” Tom grunted.
“Yeah, we’ll play some other time,” Eric agreed.
“The sound is gone,” Tom continued.
And it certainly was. No one realized the sound had been George crying, which his amazement at the fish had made him stop. But then, the pair of fish realized they were breathing air! And right above them was the sun, all ready to be played in! But they were undeniably still fish. How could they breathe air? How could they talk with George? How in the world—
“Just accept it!” a Voice boomed from all around them.
Eric and Tom and even George wondered who had said that. Was it—was it—God?
“What does it matter?” the Voice responded and then went away, never to speak again.
“Maybe we could play a little,” Eric conceded.
Tom shrugged and they played. George started to run around and around, laughing and laughing like an idiot. But all Eric and Tom could do was watch him and flop in place. Soon, George noticed they weren’t following his lead.
“What’s wrong?” he moaned, tears ready to flow. “Come on!”
“We just can’t, George,” said Tom. “We just can’t play like you do.”
“Just get up and run with me!” George shouted.
“Fish don’t run,” Eric realized.
“Up! Up on your legs!” George screamed.
“We don’t have legs,” Eric noticed.
“Yeah,” elaborated Tom.
Now George just full-on wailed a fountain of tears.
“You’re just a couple of fish!” he howled. “You can’t play right!”
“Well, we would like to,” Tom believed.
“Can you help us get some legs?” Eric wanted to know.
“Gosh, I don’t know. I don’t know, but I’ll try. Yeah! I’ll get you legs! It’ll just—but how—? Oh, what’s the use?” George whined.
The small boy flopped down into the dirt and bawled harder than he had in his life, which is saying a lot.
“Hey, don’t do that,” Eric said, disgusted. “It’s all right.”
“Yeah,” put in Tom. “Not that big a deal.”
“It is, too!” cried George. “It’s not all right, and it’s the biggest deal ever! This is terrible!”
And so he cried. Time passed, washed away by George’s relentless tears.
“Look, George,” Tom finally interrupted. “This just isn’t working out. We’re gonna get going.”
“But you’re my friends, aren’t you?” George pleaded. “You must be! We all knew each other’s names without being told! You wouldn’t really leave me, would you, Tom?”
“I don’t know,” Tom explained.
“What about you, Eric?”
A look of puzzlement overcame for a moment George’s tear-blurred face. The small boy stood and looked wildly around.
“Where did Eric go?” George wondered.
“He left a few minutes ago,” Tom argued. “Look, I have to go, too. Eric knows the way home.”
“Tom! Let’s go!” Eric called from a distance.
“See you, George,” Tom lied.
He then flopped and plopped his way back into the sea where Eric was waiting.
“Don’t go!” George wailed after them. “It’s okay that you’re just fish! Don’t go!”
But they were already gone. George could do nothing else but drop back onto the sand like a lump and weep in despair like he had never known since he’d met the pair of fish.
Back below in the deep, dark sea, Eric and Tom floated aimlessly and discussed what had happened with George.
“That was weak,” Eric declared.
Tom had to agree, but not wholeheartedly.
“Look,” Eric continued, puffing up proudly. “I took these from George.”
“What are they?” Tom sighed, staring at Eric’s new possessions. “Hey! It’s those things he had on the end of his legs!”
The fish didn’t know those things were called shoes, or that they weren’t a physical part of George’s legs.
“Cool,” Eric said anyway.
“No, not cool,” replied Tom. “You shouldn’t have done that. You could have hurt him. Or he might get mad. He probably needs those and, well, what if they don’t grow back?”
“So? I don’t care.”
And how could Tom argue with that?
Up above in the sun, George suddenly stopped crying and started feeling confused.
“My shoes are gone!” he discovered. “How?” he wondered briefly.
Then he knew. It was obvious.
“Oooooohhhhh!” George shouted. “Those stupid fish! They slipped ’em right off my feet while I was busy crying. I’m just going to find those dumb old fish and make ’em give ’em back. Shoes don’t grow back, you know!”
George jumped into the sea and propelled downward pell-mell and at a furious pace, fueled by his furiousness.
Back down below, Eric and Tom were now….well, pretty much still just floating there. Tom soon felt a disturbance, a turbulence coming towards their peaceful depths. He decided, after sparing some thought to the matter, to look around. Eric looked nowhere, for he had fallen asleep. As Tom stared in the direction he felt the disturbance coming from, gradually, George came into his sight.
Tom then expended more precious thought (once gone, never to return) and decided he’d better stay very still and quiet. That way, George might not find him. See, Tom was vaguely concerned that the boy was angry about Eric stealing from him and was coming to get them. And Tom was right, wasn’t he?
With the pair of fish absolutely motionless, George may very well have not seen them. Anyway, his eyes happened to be closed as he came swimming at them. But on top of that, something scary was happening to him. What? You ask. What What?!? You ask, starting to worry.
Try to think. George was underwater with his small boy-lungs. He was unsuited to breathing water, as are most small boys. And no miracle was happening to help him, like with the pair of fish up on the beach. George was too deep in the sea to make it back to his shore, too, even if he turned back right then.
Tom saw that George was flailing his limbs around strangely. He wondered what was wrong with George, besides the usual. Then, in a flash of inspiration, Tom realized what was wrong with George. A moment later, he also realized what he could do about it.
“Wake up, Eric,” said Tom. Eric paid him no attention. Tom began to feel a touch of panic, which was strange because George’s predicament had very little to do with him.
“Wake up!” Tom said again, shaking Eric. “This is serious!” Finally, Tom succeeded in waking up a grumpy Eric.
“What’s the matter?” Eric grumped.
“It’s George. Look!”
“Oh, let’s get out of here,” he said.
“George can’t breathe down here,” Tom insisted. “He’s gonna die.”
“Yeah, I see,” Eric snapped, angry because he didn’t see at all.
“I just thought you should know. It’s a bad thing, don’t you think?”
“I suppose. Should we do something? We should do something.” At the moment he said this, Eric almost meant it. “What can we do, Tom?”
“We can’t do anything, that’s what. But why not? Why not?”
…to be concluded