Bewildering Stories

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A Fish Story

by NewB

     They gathered their gear together and set out for the pond, just like any Saturday. Benny frowned at McGurt. "We ain't gonna catch nothin', y'know. We ain't caught nothin' in weeks."

     "Just a string of bad luck," McGurt said. "We'll git somethin' today."

     McGurt sauntered along the boot-worn path like a cowboy. Benny just shuffled along, dejected. Benny had been fishing ever since he was old enough to hold a rod. It didn't make any sense - Why hadn't he caught a fish in such a long time?

     Neither man said anything for a while.

     They walked past the spot they usually fished at - no sense in stopping there. They would try a new spot today. Benny spoke up. "McGurt, what is it you suppose makes a fish go for the bait? If they looked real close, they could see a hook in there."

     "Fish ain't too smart, Benny. They see food, and they git all excited. They bite at the food without lookin' real close."

     "Yeah, but they ain't been bitin' for an awful long time. Maybe they got smarts or somthin'."

     McGurt laughed out loud. "Those fish ain't never gonna git any smarts, Benny. Their brains ain't no bigger 'n a pea."

     They stopped at what looked like a suitable spot. They set down their tackle and baited their hooks. Benny cast his off to the left, McGurt to the right. They sat there.

     Benny contemplated fishing and fish for a while, partially hypnotized by the sunlight glinting off the ripples his line made in the pond. 'If I was a fish,' he thought, 'what would I do? I'd probably swim around my town. I'd hang out with my friends, and chew seaweed or somthin'. We'd probably just swim around, most of the time.'

     Benny composed a little poem in his head about being a fish. Still staring at the sparkling water, he said, "I just thought of a poem, about bein' a fish. Wanna hear it?"

     "Sure, Benny," McGurt said, without taking his eyes off the bobber he had floating eighteen feet out. "I hope it's better'n that last one you told me about cows."

     "Well, I kinda liked that cow poem, y'know. Anyway, here's the fish poem." He cleared his throat, straightened his back, and with his chest sticking out and his head held so high his chin was pointing clear across the pond, he recited his poem:

If I was a fish,
Deep in the water,
I would swim.

     He recited his poem with such obvious pride that McGurt decided he should clap and congratulate Benny on a wonderful poem, rather than tell him what he really thought. "Good poem, Benny. Um, it made me understand the uh... poetic uh... life of a fish." He said the last four words quickly, with an air of finality. He didn't feel like saying any more.

     Benny grinned. "Gee, McGurt, thanks." He thought to himself about his other poems. It was just the other day he had thought of the cow poem. It was a dreary summer evening, with the sun setting over the distant hills beyond the ranch. He was sitting on the log fence near the pasture, watching the cows and listening to them moo. He wondered if the moos were a language or if they just mooed for the sake of mooing.

     He decided that they must just moo for the heck of it, because he couldn't hear any difference in the various moos. It was then that he thought about what it would be like to be a cow. He would probably just hang out with all the other cows, his friends, chewing on grass. He figured he would probably just moo, most of the time. He had composed the infamous cow poem then.

If I was a cow,
Out in the pasture,
I would moo.

     Benny smiled at the memory, then turned his attention back to fishing. He reeled in his line, checked the hook to see if there was still bait on it, and cast it out again. They had been fishing for an hour, and hadn't even gotten a nibble.

     A strange thought crossed Benny's mind. He turned to McGurt, his eyebrows askew.

     "What the hell are you lookin' at me like that for?" asked McGurt.

     "Well, I was just thinkin', that's all."

     "Did it hurt?"

     "Oh shut up and lissin to this idea. We think fish are stupid, right? So for years, people been fishin' and always just said 'Fish are dumb, that's why they bite the hook,' right?"

     McGurt crinkled his forehead and said, "Yeah, so what'cha gettin' at?"

     "So what I'm sayin' is this. What if fish have been smart all this time? Maybe they have towns and town meetings and stuff. They could tell each other about what's good food and what's not. Maybe they're under there right now laughin' at us!"

     McGurt thought for a moment that Benny had truly fallen off the deep end. "You can't be serious, Benny. Towns? So if they're so smart, how come we catch 'em on hooks?"

     "That's the part I been gettin' to, McGurt. Maybe most of the fishes are smart, but some of 'em are stupid, like the town idiots or somethin'. We would only catch the dumb ones, y'know, the town idiots. That's why we haven't caught none in so long. The dumb ones are all caught!"

     McGurt smacked his forehead and sighed deeply. "Benny, I'll tell you what. You can think that, if you want to, 'bout fish town meetings and fish town idiots if you want. Just don't tell no one but me about it, okay? Next thing you know, they'll be lockin' you up."

     "I ain't crazy, McGurt. I just think that fish are smarter'n we think. Maybe someday them scientists will see that I'm right. Then won't you feel dumb!"

     McGurt just shook his head and reeled in his line to check his bait.

     The next hour or so passed quietly. Benny looked up at the sky. Some clouds had rolled in, but avoided blocking the hot disc of the sun. They seemed to stretch from the treetops to their uppermost point somewhere off in the sky, fluffy and white. Benny thought to himself that they looked a lot like a fish, a really big fish. "It would be nice," he thought, "If I would catch something today."

     He let his thoughts wander. He thought about clouds. He thought about cows. He thought about fish. He thought about how smart most fish were and about how only dumb ones get caught. It was in the middle of this train of thought that he got a nibble on his line.

     "Holy smokes! I got a bite!" yelled Benny, as he yanked up on his fishing rod. The rod bent over sharply, the tip almost touching the water. "It's a big one, too. Look at my line!"

     McGurt grunted noncommittally. A pole bent over that far had to be snagged on a log. Then he noticed the pole bouncing, and Benny wasn't bouncing it. It had to be a fish! He quickly reeled in his line and grabbed the fishing net. He would be ready when Benny pulled this fish in.

     Benny fought long and hard, harder than he had ever fought before. Whatever it was he had on his line, it was big, and he was determined not to let it get away. He pulled up on his rod and reeled the line in. Again, he pulled up, and reeled in. Pull up, reel in. He grimaced each time he pulled, but it was a happy grimace. For the first time in more than a month, he had something on his line.

     Both men had their eyes fixed on the water. Soon Benny would have it in shallow water. Then it happened.

     Benny pulled up on his rod again. Just at that point, his catch broke the surface of the water with a mighty leap. McGurt's eyes bugged out; it was a cow!

     Despite his astonishment, Benny kept reeling. He pulled the cow in closer to shore, where its head and neck were above water. It mooed a mighty moo, pulling back against the force of Benny's fishing line. Benny just kept reeling. "It looks like a Holstein," he said.

     "No," McGurt said, squinting a bit, "looks more like a Guernsey to me." He brandished the fishing net with both hands, readying himself to spring into action at just the right moment. Then he realized his net wouldn't be very useful with such a big catch. He hung on to it anyway.

     The cow fought hard, mooing and struggling. It had fire in its eyes and the strength of a hundred fish. But Benny would not give up. This was the catch of a lifetime.

     The strange spectacle of Benny reeling in a cow became too much for McGurt to handle. Woozy, he sat down on a rock to get his bearings.

     Before long the cow began to tire. It was no longer jumping as high out of the water, and its moos were only half hearted. Soon it got so tired that it just fell asleep, and Benny and McGurt hauled it up on shore.

     For the first time in an awfully long time, Benny had a catch. He was victorious.

Moral of the Story:
Cows are dumb.

Copyright © 2003 by NewB