The Secret Goldfish

October 25, 2009
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In a small fishing town lived a fisherman, his wife, and their young son. They lived in a tiny cottage next to a harbor, making it convenient for the fisherman to make a living. The fisherman and his wife believed in a simple life. They were always able to provide the necessities, but shunned the extravagance and the material things that everyone else seemed to crave. The fisherman and his wife made sure they raised their son with this attitude.

At the end of every week, the fisherman and his son would take the fish they had caught and sell it at the marketplace. Thinking to instill a working mindset into his son, the fisherman decided to give the boy one dollar for every fish he sold. The young boy quickly got comfortable in his new position. He was a natural seller and received a fair portion of his father’s earnings each week. With nothing to spend his money on, he collected it in a small chest where it accumulated into a huge sum.

As the weeks passed, the little boy got restless. He wanted to buy something fun with the money he had made, but he knew his parents wouldn’t approve. They always spent their money with the family in mind; selfishness was nothing compared to selflessness. Since today was market day, he decided that he would surprise his parents with dinner. He gathered his money and put it into his pocket to take with him.

When the fisherman and the boy got to the market to set up their tent, they were surprised to see more vendors than shoppers.
“Where is everyone?” the boy asked.
“It is hard times,” the fisherman replied. The fisherman fully understood the economical hardships everyone was experiencing. Unbeknownst to his son, the fisherman and his wife were having a hard time getting the things they needed.
“I understand,” the boy said solemnly. He now knew what he was going to do with his money; he would give it to his parents.

They set up their corner and waited; no one seemed interested in the fisherman’s fish. Noticing the slowness and the boredom of his son, the fisherman allowed him to go browse at the other vendors’ products. The boy eagerly left and looked at the merchants who were usually there and the new merchants that he hadn’t seen before. One particular vendor caught his eye. A beautiful woman wrapped in gold silk was surrounded by sparkling goldfish. Their ruby eyes twinkled and their tails that were lined with diamonds seemed to move in the sunlight. Transfixed, he slowly walked over to inspect the stunning trinkets.
“Good morning, young one,” the lady said in a musical tone. “They are my lucky goldfish. You buy one; all your wishes come true!”

The boy’s eyes popped out in wonder. The goldfish seemed to be calling him. His hand moved to his pocket and slowly eased in to take out his money.
“May I have one? How much?” the boy asked, his eyes never leaving the goldfish.
“All that you have will do,” the woman answered.
The boy looked down at the money he had earned feeling some doubts. The way his parents lived was a reminder of how they felt about useless things. If his parent’s ever found out about the goldfish, he’d get into a lot of trouble. He stared back at the goldfish and all doubts disappeared.
“One, please,” the boy said handing the money over. He grabbed the goldfish, slid it into his pocket, and headed back to his father.

When they reached home the boy hurried to his room to look over his goldfish. Without the vendor’s setting, the goldfish looked plain and worthless. Dumbfounded, he ran to the window and held it up to the sunlight. Still the goldfish looked ordinary and uninteresting. He pocketed the goldfish and hurried to ask his father if he could go back to the market. The boy tried to side step the reason for his desire to go back, but his father wouldn’t let him leave. Finally, he confessed to purchasing a goldfish that didn’t seem worth what he paid. The fisherman asked to see it. The boy reached into his pocket and revealed his foolish purchase. Angrily, the fisherman snatched the goldfish and inspected it to try to see the special qualities his son had seen. There was nothing on it that was close to being remarkable. He decided that the boy would take it back to the vendor and get his money back.
The fisherman and his son walked back to the market, hoping that the vendor was still there. Surprisingly, they found one lonely vendor. It was an elderly, unkempt woman surrounded by plastic goldfish that had gold paint peeling off.
“You’ve come back I see,” the woman said in a rough voice. “Do you like your goldfish?”
The boy and the fisherman looked at her and looked back at the plastic goldfish that he had bought.
“My son is naïve. I was not with him when he made that purchase. May he have his money back?”
The woman laughed harshly. “You think his purchase was naïve? You make him see the bad when there is good. You think you see everything, but you only see the surface. Take your goldfish and try to resell it, young one. You will be deeply rewarded.” The boy nodded and looked at his speechless father. The woman and her products had disappeared.
The next day the boy took the woman’s advice and went to a different marketplace in a bordering town. He found a vacant corner and sat, unsure of what to do next. Suddenly, a man richly garbed stopped and stared.
“Oh, my,” the man exclaimed in wonder. “How much do you want for it?”
The boy looked at him confusingly. All of a sudden two more people came over to inquire about the goldfish. In minutes, the young boy was surrounded by people who wanted to buy his goldfish. He became more confused. He looked down to inspect the goldfish that seemed to have everyone enthralled. Astonishingly, the goldfish looked like how he had first seen it.
“You needed to step back and look; really look at what you have. Your parents raised you with their opinions, but mistakenly sheltered you from others’ views. They did it with good intentions, but now you see both sides. Sometimes you need to be selfish in order to understand all that is worth being selfish for,” the beautiful vendor’s voice whispered.
The boy smiled and looked down at the goldfish he had been able to earn.
“I’m sorry everyone. My goldfish isn’t for sale.”

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