Title: The Boy Who Was a Fish
Word Count: 750
Once upon a time – and yes that’s how this story starts. That’s how it must start for all good stories begin with those four words and this is a good story, even if it is just the beginning of it; there was a boy who was born a fish.
This is not so uncommon. His parents were fishes, and his grandparents, and as far back as his family could remember since coming to this land they had all been fishes. What they were before here is a tale for another day but today listen of the boy who was a fish.
He looked enough like his family and swam well enough like his family that for many years the sadness in his heart laid buried, unseen. For though he swam, his strokes were not quite as steady as the other fishes and he never dove as deeply into the rivers as the others. This was a small thing, in the beginning. But as the boy who was a fish (was, do you see where our story goes) grew up he became discomforted in his own skin.
These were not the waters he wished to swim; and though he loved his family out of duty, theirs were not the voices he wished to hear.
The boy who was a fish had a secret, one he did not quite know yet. He wished more than anything to fly.
The wish grew, as wishes tend to do when left unchecked,, until it was the only thing he could think of: wind and sky and sun and he wanted it so badly he thought he might die.
So the boy who was a fish did the only thing he could think to do: he began to try.
His family scoffed at him. “what use is flying when you can swim?”
“If I can fly I am bound by nothing but my own strength. Here we are trapped by the edges of the river, we can only go so far.”
His family did not listen.
“We are fish but we are also people. what use is flying when you can just as easily walk across the land?”
“Land is well enough for some and perhaps I could be happy there if I tried, but my heart calls to the sky.”
“You’ll never make it.” His family waved his wishes away. “You’ll be back. You’ll see, this is impossible.”
The boy who was a fish but wanted to be more saw he would get no support here. Although he did not turn to a sea witch for help, she would have told hi to do exactly as he did: climb out of his river every day until he traded fins for legs. Walk up the highest hill he could find until he thought he would collapse, and then run back down, jumping before hitting water’s edge and trading legs for fins again.
Every day the boy who was a fish did these things. Some days he made it farther than others. Some days left him, broken and weak on the side of hills until friends came to retrieve him (a girl who was a tree but thought she was a fish and some days was both and some days was neither but this is not her story, although she plays a part.) Every day he pulled himself from his river and did these things. Again and again and again.
The sea witch he did not bargain with would have said good, Now put that practice into use and fly. And the first day he jumped, shifting forms from boy to something else and felt the wind buoy him from beneath his wings he gave a cry of triumph and heartache, so intertwined were the two feelings that it would be many years before he untangled them.
The boy who was a fish had done what he had been told was impossible: he had flown. And although he was still a boy an dstill a fish, his fins were tailored differently now and feathered and more wing than fin, if you knew how to look.
“Those won’t take you far.” said the boy/fish/bird’s family.
“Maybe not.” He smiled. “But they’re mine and I’ll find out exactly how far I can go with them.”
He did not turn his back on the river, not completely because there was still love there. Obligatory family love and freely given love to those he called friends. But he walks away with head held high, spread his fins/arms/wings and flew towards the sun.