The Inquisitive Fish
a story for children and wise adults!
t the bottom of an overgrown and neglected garden there was a large and beautiful pool. It was edged by lovely terracotta tiles, and fresh water ran into it through the mouth of a little stone dolphin and out again through a very small, metal grating at the other end. The pool was home to a very lot of rather fat and self-important fish and one tiny little golden fish.
The big fat fishes gobbled up all the worms and had long since appropriated the nicest corners of the pool where they idled their time away snapping at flies and enjoying the shade of the lilly leaves. Which left the poor little golden fish with very little to eat and nowhere to escape the hot sun that beat down upon his scales all day long. As he couldn't spend his time lazing around like the other fishes, he had to do a lot of serious thinking to keep himself from being sad. So he explored every nook and cranny of the pool, until he knew exactly how many tiles there were, the names of all the weeds and rushes, and which lilly was going to open next.
The fat fishes got greedier and fatter, and the little golden fish got thinner and lonelier, until one day, when he was swimming past the grating, he knew that he was thin enough to squeeze between the bars. It was quite a struggle getting through the grating and he lost quite a few scales in the process, but at last he was free. He swam down a long water-channel until he got to a meandering stream. Then he swam until he reached a great river, and he kept right on swimming (with short rests, of course) until he came to the sea. There he discovered lots of things that were very beautiful (and very frightening), and many other things that were quite beyond his comprehension.
Once he saw a fish so big that it could have drunk the whole pool for breakfast and still remained thirsty. Then the little golden fish found a beautiful coral palace in the clear, green, depths of the sea; and lovely little fishes with shimmering blue and silver spots brought him the most succulent fat worms on mother-of-pearl plates. He enjoyed it all so much he might have stayed there forever; but he wanted to return to his own home pool and tell the big fat fishes all the exciting things they were missing by being too big too swim through the grating. So he left the sea and swam back up the river. On the way he had many more adventures, both beautiful and frightening, but there simply isn't time to tell you all about them. And so he swam up the long river and along the meandering stream; and on up the water-channel, until he came back to the grating, but now he was so thin from all his adventures, that he slipped through it without losing a single, golden scale.
He thought everyone would be really
surprised to see him again after his long absence, but none of the fat
fish had even noticed he had been away. He swam right up to the nose
of the fattest and greediest fish in the whole pool, and said:
The fat fish, who was truly enormous,
swam lazily toward the grating, and when he saw that the bars were so
close together that not even his smallest fin could slip between them,
he blew a stream of angry bubbles and turned scornfully on the little
golden fish, saying:
With a derisory flick of his enormous tail, the big, fat greedy fish swam back to the shadows under the lilly leaves to finish his lunch. The little golden fish was very sad that nobody would listen to him; so he slipped quietly away through the grating and swam back out towards the sea.
Quite soon afterwards there was a drought,
and the water-channel ran dry; and no more water gushed into pool from
the mouth of the stone dolphin. The water level in the pool got lower
and lower, and the big, fat fishes got more and more frightened, until
the day came when they lay gasping in the mud at the bottom of the pool.
And then they died.