A Helpful Tale
by B Craig Grafton
“Please go to the garden and fetch us some beets,” said the mother. “For that again is all we have to eat for supper tonight.”
“Yes, Mother,” replied the boy.
“And stay away from that hole. No telling what is down there.”
“Yes, Mother,” replied the boy again.
The boy couldn’t help himself. The hole fascinated him and he went right over to it and looked down into the darkness and could not see the bottom.
“Hello, down there. How’s the weather down there?” he hollered down the hole expecting only an echo for his answer.
“Hello, up there. It’s wet, cold and dark down here,” came the reply back.
“Who are you?” asked the boy.
“I am a fish who lives in a cold underground stream, who longs to see the light of day, feel the warmth of the sun, and live in the world above.”
“Fish, I can help you do those things,” said the boy. “I will go and come back with a bucket and a rope to haul you up here.”
“Thank you kind sir. That is very kind of you to help me,” replied the fish.
The boy returned and lowered a rusty old bucket on a rope down to the fish. “Fill the bucket with water and swim into it and I will pull you out, fish.”
The fish did so. “I am in the bucket. Pull me up please,” he shouted back.
The boy began to pull on the rope, but the bucket, full of water now, was too heavy and the boy was only able to raise it a few feet.
“I am sorry fish, but the bucket is too heavy for me to pull any further. What should I do?”
“Just hold it steady,” directed the fish. “The bucket leaks and I can hear the water running out. Once it is empty you can pull me out.”
“Now try it,” said the fish after the bucket drained itself dry.
The boy pulled up the bucket to the world above, and therein was the fish gasping for air.
“Put me back,” demanded the fish. “For the sun is too bright, its warmth too hot. I cannot breath in this place. Shame on you for bringing me here. Put me back before I die.”
“But you asked me to bring you here,” said the boy.
“But now I hate you for doing so,” replied the fish.
“But I was only trying to help you,” pleaded the boy.
The fish cursed the boy, then gasped it’s last breath and died.
“I am sorry you died, fish, but I meant you no harm,” apologized the boy to the now dead fish. “But now, because you are dead, you can help me.”
The boy took the fish home and that evening his mother cooked it. They had a meal of fish and beets, a full meal for the first time in a very, very, long time.
“You are such a good son,” said his mother. “Catching this fish so that we could have such a wonderful meal.
To which the boy replied, “Just being helpful, Mother.”
◊ ◊ ◊
B Craig Grafton
The author’s stories have appeared in Romance Magazine, Frontier Tales, The Zodiac Review and The Fable Online.