The sun shone down on the lovely blue lagoon, bathing it in rich, golden sunlight. The wind was gently rolling through the reeds, whispering its secrets to the world. In this peaceful scene, there were two animals.
There was the Fish in the waters and the Monkey in the trees.
These two animals lived together in peace.
Until, one day, the Monkey came down to drink from the lagoon. At the spot where the monkey chose to drink, the Fish was also resting there under a shaft of sunlight that reached down between the waters of the lagoon to the smooth rocks at the bottom.
The Fish was small and silver and gleamed under the sunlight. He was very proud of his scales and how they shone brightly in the sun. Suddenly, a shadow overtook the Fish and when he looked up, he saw the Monkey sitting there, hunched over, drinking the water and blocking the Fish’s wonderful sunlight.
“Excuse me,” the Fish said, bubbles escaping from his mouth and rising to the surface. “Could you please move? You are blocking my sunlight.”
The Monkey ignored the Fish and kept on drinking. The Fish repeated himself more forcefully, bigger bubbles popping out above his head.
“If you want the sunlight then you move away from me. I shall not move just for you, little Fish,” said the Monkey, who was really rather rude.
Well, the little Fish saw the truth in his words, but he was annoyed at the Monkey’s tone.
“Little Fish I may be, but at least I have manners,” the Fish said tartly.
“Manners shmanners,” the Monkey replied. “I don’t need manners when I sit up high and watch over all at the lagoon.”
“That is the reason you should have manners. If I were able to watch over the lagoon, I would be polite to all below me and treat them with respect,” the little Fish said.
The Monkey laughed harshly at the reasonable little Fish.
“Well then, perhaps you’d like to try to climb one of my trees and show me how it’s done,” he challenged.
The little Fish, going slightly red with righteous anger, readily agreed to the Monkey’s challenge.
The Monkey sat back and watched, grinning from ear to ear.
The little Fish thought for a moment of how he would get to the trees. First, he had to figure out how to get out of the lagoon. The Fish thought for a long time, swimming back and forth as he did so. While he was swimming, he suddenly noticed the water pushed around him, helping him to move sideways and forward.
“I wonder if the water can help me go up?” the little Fish thought to himself.
He swam right down to the bottom of the lagoon then pushed himself up, faster and faster until he erupted from the surface of the lagoon in a sparkling of water droplets. The Monkey, for one split second, felt concerned that the Fish would indeed manage to climb his trees. The Monkey’s fear was soon abated though as, although it was a mighty effort, the Fish only emerged a little bit above the surface of the lagoon.
“Ha!” The Monkey shouted. “See, you can’t do it you silly little creature!”
The Fish was dispirited but still determined to prove the Monkey wrong. The Fish tried again and again and again. Each time, the Fish failed and each time the Monkey laughed louder. The Fish, in one, gargantuan effort, managed to fly up out of the water and land on a smooth stone at the edge of the lagoon. The Fish felt a moment of elation that he had made it out of the water. Then that elation quickly turned to fear, for he now felt the heat of the sun’s rays away from the cool safety of his water, and his gills strained to breathe the unfamiliar air. The Fish wiggled its fins desperately and managed, slowly, to flop itself back into the lagoon. He heaved in large gulps of water and tried to calm his tiny, frantic little heart.
“That was close,” he thought to himself. “It is too dangerous for me to do that again. I will never climb trees like the Monkey.”
The Fish felt dejected and miserable. Perhaps he was just a dumb, tiny Fish and worth less than the Monkey who could climb the trees like a King.
The Fish slowly swam to the Monkey who was still cackling in glee.
“You are right, oh great Monkey, I cannot climb your trees. I cannot even leave the waters of this lagoon,” he admitted forlornly.
The Monkey, upon hearing the Fish’s defeat, leapt up with joy and hooted and hollered at the Fish.
“Ha! I told you! You cannot do it, you silly little Fish! I am the King of the Trees and the Lagoon!” he shouted, jumping around on the riverbank in celebration.
Suddenly, the dirt and rocks at the edge of the lagoon crumbled and with a loud shriek, the Monkey slipped and fell – SPLASH! - into the lagoon. The Monkey was not a fan of the water, and always only carefully sipped it when he needed a drink.
You see, the Monkey could not swim.
The Monkey thrashed and screeched as he tried to float. This particular area of the lagoon was deep and the Monkey’s long legs could not reach the bottom. The Monkey shouted for help, choking on the water as it churned about him.
At first, the Fish went to try to help. But when he realised he could not help the Monkey, the Fish simply watched and waited to see what would happen.
After a long time, the Monkey finally managed to scrambled as fast he could up over the edge of the lagoon and onto solid land. There he lay, coughing and panting heavily, his heart thundering at the close brush with death, just like the Fish had. After the Monkey had regained some of his breath, he heard a loud eruption of bubbles from under the waters of the lagoon.
“Why, oh great Monkey, it seems you cannot swim,” the Fish laughed at the Monkey.
“I can swim. Much better than you,” the Monkey bit back, angry now at both himself and the little Fish he thought small and stupid.
“Well then, if you think you swim so much better than I, show me how it’s done,” the Fish challenged.
Now the Monkey was caught in his lie, for he very much feared the water. He knew he could not swim and he could not breathe the water like the Fish.
“I can swim, just not exactly like you,” he said, not ready yet to admit defeat.
“I move through the water. That is swimming. I am sure that someone as great as you could easily do that,” the Fish teased, enjoying himself after his earlier mistreatment from the Monkey.
The Monkey remained silent, trying to think his way out of the situation.
Into this silence, flew the Stork. The Stork had been watching silently from the reeds, waiting for a moment to intercede.
“Monkey. Fish,” he acknowledged, nodding to them both. They both nodded silently back then returned their attention to each other.
“I don’t feel like swimming today,” said the Monkey. It was the only response he could think of.
“No. The problem is that you cannot swim. What a silly, silly Monkey!” the Fish said, laughing and teasing the Monkey as the Monkey had teased him.
Before a heated argument could start, the Stork interrupted as he stood between them.
“Dear Monkey and dear Fish. You used to be friends not so long ago. What has happened since then?” the Stork asked.
“He laughed at me for not being able to climb his trees!” the Fish shouted.
“He is laughing at me for not wanting to swim in the lagoon like him!” the Monkey shouted back.
The Stork flapped his magnificent, snowy white wings.
“And why are you laughing at each other this way?” the Stork asked curiously.
Both the Monkey and the Fish were silent for a long moment.
“Well…he cannot climb trees. Everyone I know can climb trees,” the Monkey said.
“Well, Monkey cannot swim. Everyone I know can swim!” shouted the little Fish.
The Stork listened and then he spoke.
“I am wise. I have flown through the skies for a long time, watching the world below me. I have seen wonderous things that the two of you could not imagine, creatures of every shape and size and plants of all types and colours. So, believe me when I say this...” here the Stork paused and motioned for the Monkey and the Fish to listen closer. “Believe me when I say, that in all my very long years and in all my travels, I have never seen a Monkey swim underwater or a Fish ever climb a tree.”
“Never?” asked the Fish and the Monkey together.
“Never,” said the Stork.
Another silence reigned in the lagoon as the Monkey and the Fish looked at each other, then at the Stork.
“But…I would like to climb the trees,” said the Fish in a small voice.
“And I…I would like to learn how to breathe underwater,” conceded the Monkey.
The Stork smiled sadly.
“And I would like to do those things too, and I am sure you wish that you could fly high above like I. But alas we can be no more than what we are. For you are a Monkey and your longs arms and long tail were made for swinging from tree to tree and breathing in the fresh air amongst the treetops. And you, little Fish, your scales were made to gleam in the sunlight underwater, your fins and tail to push you onwards and your gills to breathe the watery substance that flows around you.”
The Stork took a deep breath.
“We often want what we cannot have and forget what we do have. For no one can swing through the trees like you, Monkey, and none can swim as well or for as long as you, little Fish. And no-one can soar through the breeze high in the sky like I, watching all below. Do you still believe that each of us is silly for not doing what the other can?” the Stork asked, staring carefully at both the Monkey and the Fish.
The Monkey and the Fish looked at each other, slightly ashamed.
“I’m sorry I called you silly,” the Monkey said first.
“I’m sorry too,” said the little Fish, sad he had laughed at his friend.
“I shall not ask you to climb my trees again,” the Monkey said.
“And I shall not ask you to swim in the water like me,” the Fish replied.
The Fish poked his head out of the water to touch the Monkey’s outstretched finger. They both smiled their different smiles and continued on with their day – the Monkey in his trees and the Fish in the deep blue waters of the lagoon.
The Stork watched once more from his perch in the shadowy reeds and smiled to himself.