“I met God yesterday,” Chuck said matter-of-factly as he was picking at the sweet-looking flies that were darting on the surface of the water.
“Oh really?” Cheryl rolled her big-bug eyes around her little scaly face, chewing on a piece of worm that was too big for her face.
“Yeah, really. I know you don’t believe me, I wouldn’t have believed me either – before yesterday, that is. The others all think I’m insane but I’m telling you, yesterday I met God.”
“You’re not insane Chuck. You’re a tale-teller. We’ve all heard the kind of stories that you go telling the catfish at the bottom. You’re good at it, they love your stories. You want some worm?”
“Nah, thanks. I’ve lost my appetite. Those stories I tell to the bottom-feeders, they’re different. They’re just silly ditties to entertain the dim-wits underneath. But this is true, I’m telling you! I wouldn’t try to pull a fast one on you would I?” Chuck was exasperated, his sulking eyes sinking to the floor to stare at nothing in particular.
“C’mon now little fella. You must know the saying: A trout may pout but is never a dweller. Don’t let it get you down. Let’s just forget this whole business and get on with having some dinner.”
“But Cheryl! It’s true! I really did meet God yesterday! Remember what Bob was saying the other week? About how God took Gloria?”
“That happens to an awful lot of fish, little one. It’s just their turn to go, but they don’t come back telling tales of how they met God!” She choked on her worm as she guffawed at the idea.
Chuck huffed and slowly swam in figures of eight, as he always did when he was feeling sorry for himself, the tip of his nose just glancing past the tip of his tale as he curved around and around and around. “Just let me tell you about it Cheryl. If you still don’t believe me then…then I guess I’ll forget all about it.”
She sighed a big, long sigh. “Oh, okay, if it will make you feel better. Go ahead, tell me all about God.”
“Great!” he began with a giggle of excitement, his attitude suddenly changing. “Well, remember how Bob said that Gloria was just swimming along, minding her own business, when a big juicy worm plopped into the water in front of her? And it looked like the most tasty worm in the world?”
“Yes…” Cheryl answered tentatively.
“Bob said that he knew there was something funny about that worm, because it just looked too blooming tasty. It had to be a divine worm. And he said that as he watched her approaching it to take a bite, he knew that this would be the end for her and that God was taking her. And when she took a bite, she was swooshed out of the water at the speed of…of…something fast and she was never seen again. She’s in heaven now, with all the other lost fishes, that’s what they’re saying.”
“Yes little one, but Gloria was old and fat. It was her time to go. Fish don’t get to come back once they’ve met God, that’s just the way it is.”
“But I did Cheryl, I saw heaven and I met God and he didn’t look like a trout at all! I’m not really sure what kind of fish he was, actually. He was tall and he had two long thin bits pointing to the floor, and two more of the same flailing out in from of him – a bit like an octopus. He had whiskers all over his head too, except they weren’t long and curly like a catfish, they were short and spiky. Maybe his mum was an octopus and his did was a catfish? Anyway, I was just swimming along, minding my own business, singing a little song to myself, when this little group of maggots came into the water from above. They were all different colours too, and they stuck together, just bobbing along in the water happily. I thought it was my lucky day!”
“Oh Chuck! Didn’t your mother ever warn you about when the worms and the maggots stick together? It can only mean one thing.”
“I know, I know. It’s a trap. But they looked so tasty and so innocent. They were too small to be a trap, I was so sure. And I thought if I could get just one of those maggots, I would be happy for the rest of my life – that’s how good they looked. I swam around it for a while, deciding whether or not to go for it and deciding which one looked the tastiest. My mouth was hanging open like I was a fool.”
“You are a fool, Chuck!”
“Let me finish! I took a few glancing stabs at them before jumping backwards, just in case it was a trap, but I couldn’t get to them. I had to do this slowly. So I braced myself, told myself that everything would be okay if I could just get that bright yellow maggot that was wriggling away enticingly in front of me. And I slowly crept up to it. I had to try really hard to keep my tail from swooshing the water and scaring them away. But I did it. I got that yellow little maggot in my mouth and…”
Cheryl’s own mouth was hanging open as she hung on Chuck’s every word. “And? And what?”
“And it was so tasty and juicy. For that split second, I couldn’t think of anything but how yummy that little thing was, wriggling around in my mouth but…”
“Oooooh, don’t tell me, don’t tell me!” Cheryl squeaked. “Don’t ruin the deliciousness!”
“But as I chewed, I could feel something hard and pointy in my mouth. This is strange, I thought, thinking that maybe the maggot was eating something not very nice – because they are odd like that. But before I could think it through, I was being pulled through the water at the speed of…of..something very fast indeed!” He saw Cheryl gasp. “I could feel the hard thing pulling on my cheek but still the deliciousness of that little maggot was my whole world. I didn’t care what happened, as long as I got the rest of that maggot.”
“What happened next? Did you get the maggot?”
“Yeah, I got the maggot alright! But I was getting closer and closer to the surface and all I could think was it can’t be my time, I’m not big enough. And I could see that big bright light shining through the surface and all the time I was getting closer still, until I burst through the top like a jumping fish and went soaring through the air.”
“Oh my word!” Cheryl gasped, her fin slapping her head in disbelief. “What was it like?”
“It was hot, Cheryl. Very hot and…dry.”
She gasped again. “Dry? Oh my!”
“And still I was pulled, through the hot, dry air. I didn’t have time to look around properly but it was so bright and there was lots of green. And there was God, his hand hovering above me as though I was dangling from it with magic – the higher he raised his hand, the higher in the air I went. He looked down and me and he smiled. He said something in his divine language. His words were like music. And there was so much I didn’t understand. I thought I was dead, Cheryl. I thought that was the end! But God cupped me in his hands and he whispered to me that it wasn’t my time, that I was too small. And he got this magic tool thing and put it into my mouth. It stopped the spiky thing hurting me and it made me alive again so that he could send me back.”
“And you came back?”
“The next thing I knew, I was swimming through the hot, dry air. And I felt the surface come up to meet me with a slap. I wriggled and wriggled all the way down. And once I was back in the water, it felt amazing. I had been touched by the hand of God and he sent me back. It was the best feeling ever. I could breathe better than ever and my scales felt invigorated. It was amazing Cheryl, it really was.”
“Wow,” she mouthed with awe and a little disappointment, looking around with her wide eyes. “I wish I could meet God.”
“Well you can’t!” Chuck replied, bragging like a child with a new toy. “He told me that he wants me to be big and fat before my time comes and so I am going to work on that mission. So c’mon, let’s go and find us some juicy worms!”
To read more by Riley J. Froud, visit her website where she posts short stories, reviews, and general bookish nonsense. Or if you really want a laugh, you could always read her book.