Warning: the following short story contains a carp ton of fish puns. Bass yourself.
“Gilroy, please don’t do this,” Bubbles pleaded. “Don’t go making waves.”
We bobbed together in large, black waves as the storm raged overhead. Lightning cracked down in the distance. Birds screeched at each other within the dark shadows of the forest bordering the shore.
“I can’t, Bubbles,” I said, pausing for dramatic affect. “It must be done.”
“No, it doesn’t,” Finley interjected. “You could stay in the ocean. Swimming forever. It’s what you were born to do. It’s what millions of years of evolution created you to do.”
“Was it? Was it really?” I questioned. “Or was I born to do more? Break the barriers of reality perhaps.”
“Please, just stay here with us,” Bubbles pleaded. “It doesn’t get much betta than this.”
“Unless it can…”
“You’re a fish!” Finley finally shrieked. “Fish are made to swim, not climb trees.”
“And you’re a hater! A hater made to swim all over my dreams. Well not today, Finley. Not today.”
I started swimming towards the shore, eventually riding a long, foamy pitch-black wave. This is it. This wave will take me to the tree. Then, I’ll climb it.
The wave crashed down on the white sand beach, leaving me behind as it retreated. I soon realized my mistake.
“aaAAAHHHHH!!!!” I screamed. My mouth rapidly opened and shut as my gills screamed at me for water.
I flopped around on the beach getting sand e v e r y w h e r e. Oh Cod, I was gonna be swimming it off for weeks.
I craned my fish head around to see the ocean. The safe, wet, watery ocean. ”Water…” I croaked.
Behind me, an annoying voice called out, “Hey Gilroy, water you doing?”
“Crabsworth,” I sneered at my arch-nemo-sis.
Crabsworth sideways shimmied up to me. “Man, you’re a reel fish out of water, aren’t you?”
“Get lost, Crabsworth,” I said.
“What was your goal here anyway?”
“I was gonna climb that tree.”
Crabsworth burst out laughing. “Oh Cod, you’re krillin’ me! Seriously? Fish can’t climb trees.”
“Not yet,” I muttered.
“Tell you what,” Crabsworth pinched my tail. “Why don’t I chuck you back in the ocean, so you can continue with the rest of your pathetic fish life?”
With a spinning toss, he launched me back into the ocean. I floated on the surface, not feeling the energy to swim. Bubble swam up to me. “Hey, at least you’re krill alive.”
“Barely,” I mumbled.
Laughing his scales off, Finley swam up to us. “Oh Cod, Crabsworth really schooled you.”
I grumbled and looked away. Before I could dive into the ocean and reclaim what shreds of dignity I had left, Crabsworth called out to me. “Hey, Gilroy! It’s a reel shame you can’t climb this tree—because the view is fin-tastic!”
I spun around to see Crabsworth on top of a tree. The tree I was gonna climb before dumb things like ‘biology’ got in my way. I sneered and swam away. “One day, Crabsworth,” I whispered, “one day I’ll prove you wrong and you’ll feel my wasse.”
“Holy carp. I never thought you’d come up with a worse idea than krill-ingly going up on land. But this is worse. So worse,” Finley said.
“You’re skating on fin ice,” Bubbles warned. “Fin, fin ice.”
Together, we stared at one of the ocean’s main, raging currents. It was usually something I’d be extra crawfish about, since it’s too powerful to escape from after you’ve sucked in. Once you’re inside, there’s nothing to do but wait for it to be over. Luckily, it loops back around and ends somewhere fairly close to where it starts. Unluckily, a large stretch of its loop is in what we fish call the Capitalist Zone—a part of the ocean that became toxic and radioactive after capitalists looking to save a quick buck dump a bunch of hazardous waste there.
Once the Capitalist Zone showed up, it wasn’t too long before a whole slew of weird stories followed—stories about the mutations fish developed after swimming through it. Some have been said to grow limbs like humans. And now it was mine turn.
“Are you shore, you wanna do this?” Bubbles asked.
“Dolphin-ity,” I said, then took the plunge into the current.
I’ve been herring of this thing humans use to wash their second, colorful skin called a wa…waš... wäshing machïne? Anyway, I’ve heard that once they take off their second skin, they throw it in the wäshing machïne and it spins around and around and around. Weird, right? Well, now I know how it f-eels like to be their second skin.
The current threw me around, spinning me circles as it sped into the Capitalist Zone. Toxic chemicals soaked into my body, and my scales fish-ckered all different colors. “Woah…. woah…. woah…” I said, trying not to vomit.
One either side of my body, something pushed my scales—from within. Two massive lumps swelled at either side of me, growing into limbs that could bend in the middle. Great, they were already broken.
Then the limbs splintered into five smaller limbs. “I got arms on arms!” I screamed.
Before I could process just what the Capitalist Zone did to my body, the current spit me out right beside a horrified Bubbles. “Oh Cod, look at you!”
“You got arms, Gilroy,” Finely said and gave me a congratulatory tail slap on the back. “They look fin-tastic.”
“And a weird bump on your head,” Bubbles added.
I glanced up, seeing the edge of a black bump above my right eye. Ah, it’s probably nothing shrimp-ortant
My arms floated limp in the water. “I know. Now let’s go show Crabsworth who’s the fish!”
By now, the storm had passed and the ocean was quiet. Too quiet. I stared at the calm beach. Not a snobby crab in sight. “Where is he?” I asked.
“I’ll go fin-d him,” Bubbles said before taking a dive.
“Hey, Gilroy, why don’t you get a practice run in before Crabsworth shows up?” Finley suggested.
“Fin-tastic idea,” I said and started swimming to the shore. My scrawny arms dangled behind me.
As the water thinned, a new question appeared out of the depths of my mind: how will I breathe? Maybe I could put like a bowl of water over my head or—too late, the waves already pushed me ashore. Oh carp.
Once again, I flipped out. Literally. My body bounced and wiggled up and down and I panicked. What am going to do? I’m going to suffocate!
I tried to aim my flopping body back towards the ocean, but that was too slow. I need to pull myself over there somehow… That’s it! Pull! My arms!
I reached up and dug them into the soft sand. As I willed them to pull me up and they couldn’t, it hit me: I had been skipping arm day my entire life. “Tang it!” I cursed.
I’m gonna die. I’m gonna die. I’m gonna die.
Why? Why is nature so cruel?
Just as I thought I was done for, my bump wiggled. Then, it opened into a huge hole and started inhaling oxygen.
Haha! Take that nature! Capitalism beats you every time.
Without the fear of suffocating, I stayed alive long enough for a large wave to come and drag me back into the ocean.
That was a close one.
Bubbles swam up to me. “I couldn’t find Crabsworth. What happened?”
“My arms aren’t strong enough to pull me along the beach. They’ll never be strong enough to climb a tree,” I whaled. “It’s of-fish-al. I’ll never climb a tree.”
“Hey, hey, hey,” Finley said. “Don’t be like that. Of course you can. In fact, I’ll help you. I’ll train you to be strong enough.”
“Eely? You? Since when are you so interested?”
“Since I got a bet going with Crabsworth. So Let’s get kraken already.”
*cue the montage music*
*please play Fish on the Sand by George Harrison to enhance your reading experience*
“Come on, cuttlefish! Come on!” Finley demanded as I benched a large log by pushing deeper in the water. “Are you a minnow or are you a shark?”
“I’m a parrot fish!” I squawked.
“Twenty… twenty-one…” Finley counted from the ocean as I did push ups on the soft sand. Crabsworth squinted at us, a deeply confused look on his face.
I gave him the side eye. “What? I never learned how to count,” he said. “I’m a fish for Cod’s sake.”
“YEAH!” I hollered as I Iifted a fifty pound rock above my head.
“You did it,” Finley said. “You actually did it!”
I chucked the rock into the forest and hand-walked my way back into the water because I was buff now.
“I think you can actually climb a tree now,” he said.
“You betta believe it! Give me a high tail!”
We slapped tails. “Yeah! Here’s to friendship and buff fish!”
One day later, Crabsworth waited on the shore at high noon as I had dared him to. It was time for a comeback. I was gonna make him regret ever trout-ing me.
Slowly, I hand-walked out of the ocean.
“Gilroy,” he said, sounding unimpressed with my buff mutations. “I’m surprised you had the fish guts to show.”
“And I’m surprised you haven’t turned fish tail and run yet,” I said in my best low and intimidating voice. I had been working on it all day.
“I can’t move my tail. It’s hidden completely under my thorax,” he said in his best low and intimidating voice.
Tang it, it was better than mine. He must have been working on it for at least two days.
“It’s an expression.”
“An expression that doesn’t make any sense—“
“Would salmon just climb the tree already?” Finley called out from the water. “I got a hot date in half an hour.”
I cracked my knuckles. “Let’s do this.”
Cautiously, I gripped the tree’s lowest branch. I pulled up and swung my body, before launching up and grabbing the next branch. Then, I reached for the next. And the next. And the next.
Before I knew it, I was whizzing through the air. My mussels were burning as I raced towards the top. Once I reached the highest branch, I jumped up and balanced on one hand. I waved down at Finley.
Tang it! I really wish fish could smile. Because I would love to right now.
From up above, I could see everything—including a pissed off Crabsworth storming off. “Yeah, keep walking Crabsworth!” I called down.
Finally, I climbed back down and went back to Finley and Bubbles.
“Wow, that was amazing. What are you gonna do now?” Bubbles asked.
“Probably punch the nads of the capitalists who polluted the ocean.”