“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?”
So the pair of fish took a long, serious look at the small boy. George for his part, was drifting closer to them, but still had his eyes tightly shut. Suddenly, Tom and Eric moved as one towards the struggling boy. Though they couldn’t do anything, they could at least be sociable. They started to swim circles around George as he continued to survive somehow without breathing. Eventually, he felt the fish-made currents swirling about him, and he managed to open his eyes. Eric was right in front of his face.
“Hey, George,” Eric greeted him, grinning as only a fish can grin. That is, fish can’t grin, but it’s vaguely recognizable.
George said nothing; but with the last of his fading small boy-strength, he grabbed Eric. Almost. Eric fishily slipped George’s grip and moved to a safe distance.
“Blub blub blub blub’b!” George tried to tell him.
“What?” Eric answered.
“He can’t talk underwater,” Tom said.
“We talked up in the sun,” Eric countered.
“One of life’s mysteries,” philosophized Tom. “Anyway, he wants his shoes.”
“Blub!” George acknowledged.
“His what?” Eric said, confused. He still didn’t know they were called shoes.
“Those things you took from him,” said Tom, pointing. “They’re called shoes, I guess.”
“How do you know?” Eric demanded with suspicion.
“I don’t know,” Tom explained. “I just know now. It’s like I can understand George’s blubbing. Why don’t you give them back?”
“Blub, blub blub,” George said, weaker now.
Eric studied the problem logically for a second.
“He’s gonna be dead in a minute anyway,” he reasoned.
And he was right. George was very nearly completely drowned.
But then, they all three had the same flash of inspiration at the same time for a change.
The trio suddenly realized (or maybe decided, I’m not sure) that the power behind the booming voice they had been boomed by earlier was still around after all.
As soon as this was realized/decided, they all heard it again. An underwater version but undeniably just about the same as before, only different.
“I know,” boomed the Voice softly.
“I know,” said the Voice consolingly.
George was no longer drowning but they didn’t notice as they were so occupied with waiting.
“I know,” said the Voice conversationally.
George finally got impatient, and spoke up (underwater!) as he floated and breathed.
“You know what?” George demanded.
“I know that you got the impression that I was never going to speak to you again….but———————————————————————————————————
“Here’s your shoes back, George,” said Eric later. “I thought they were cool, but I don’t need ’em. You do.”
George accepted the return of his shoes graciously and just held onto them for now in case he needed them later.
Tom laughed for no reason he knew and sang out “And we don’t need legs, either!”
“Let me burst that bubble for you,” interrupted the Voice. “You certainly do need legs to get anywhere. But you’re not supposed to have them.”
“Why not?” Eric yelled, as Tom angered quietly and wished he could disappear.
“You’re fish,” the Voice said.
“What’s so special about legs anyway?” Eric cried out. “George has them but they didn’t do him any good! He couldn’t even breathe down here till you came!”
“I was there for you, too,” the Voice reminded him. “In any case, shut up.”
“Now, listen—” the Voice began to say.
“Can’t we have legs?” Tom asked.
“No!” yelled the Voice, firmly putting its foot down (so to speak). “You are a pair of fish. You would look ridiculous with legs. Fish with legs! Next you’ll be asking for arms, feet, a head, a face— I mean, you’ll start wondering why I didn’t just make you people!”
“Why didn’t you?” Eric queried.
“Because you’re fish!” the Voice bellowed. “Oh, just shut up!”
Now George bravely tried to stand up for the fish.
“Why shouldn’t they have legs if they want them?” he demanded.
The Voice chuckled indulgently at George.
“Small boy,” it said fondly. “You don’t belong here. Now take your lesson and go back where you were. Away you go.”
Just like that, the Voice was gone, never to be heard from again (for real, this time.) George was also gone. The pair of fish had to assume he and his shoes were back at the Place in the Sun. Maybe he was already crying again. Tom and Eric stayed very still for a long time, but heard nothing more.
You see, a fish is a fish, and a boy is a boy. Two different worlds. Understand? Now sometimes they overlap and less often, communicate with each other. But true connection between two different worlds is never allowed to continue.
Why not? You may wonder.
I don’t know.
So the fish listened for George’s crying for a while. If they’d ever heard it again they might have tried to join him again. But they never heard so much as a single sob. The pair of fish began to feel that they’d somehow missed their chance, but chance at what they couldn’t say. And when they’d missed this chance, they couldn’t quite put a fin on. Then came the day when they forgot what little they knew.
“What are we doing?” Eric said, confused.
Tom shrugged in the special way that fish shrug, having no shoulders, necks or heads.
“Let’s swim, I guess,” Tom reflected.
And they swam in their usual counter-clockwise circles for a time. Then, without thought, they suddenly both stopped.
They looked at each other.
“Let’s do it,” they said in unison.
Then, defiantly, proudly, Eric and Tom swam round and round in clockwise circles.
Back up on the beach, George was not crying. He had built himself a little house out of seaweed, shells and sand right at the shoreline. Every high tide the house would be destroyed, but he would just build another, right on the same spot. George did this until he was no longer a small boy. In other words, he grew into a man.
By the time, George had grown up, Eric and Tom were dead. Fish don’t generally live as long as people.
So we have George the small man now. And————————————————————————————————————–
————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————– well, I could go on. But I think I’ll stop here. Without the fish, the story’s just not as interesting.