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The fisherman cast his line once again, grunting as he flung it as far as he could. The dinghy pitched dangerously underneath him, rocking from the effort of his movement. Then, all was quiet as he waited for a bite, a pull, anything. He counted the drifting clouds, casting anxious glances at the red floater bobbing in the water. One, two, three white puffs floated by before the fisherman spied the bobber disappear under the muddy surface of the lake. He fumbled excitedly with the reel, rejoicing in the strong tug of resistance he felt. Finally, a big beautiful fish.
Around and around, he cranked the reel, pulling in whatever lucky grab he had made. Letting loose a booming laugh, the fisherman gave one final yank on the rod, pulling up the hook and its catch. But his excited laughter faded, and he stared at the green blob hanging off the metal hook. The frog hung limp, the steel twinkling in its lip. The fisherman blinked, wondering if the noon sun was warping his vision. He was actually holding a ripe, fat trout, or maybe even a plump, striped bass. But no, in his hands he held a small, emerald frog. Did frogs even live this far out in the lake? Feeling cheated and thoroughly cooked in the scorching sun, he undid the drawstrings of his catch bag, but before he could chuck the frog into the bag, its eyes peeled open and blinked up at him.
“Please, sir. Let me go,” the frog croaked. At first the fisherman mistook the creaky voice for the moaning of the ancient dinghy, but when the creature spoke once more, “Please let me go, sir”, the fisherman’s eyes widened. Instinct told him to drop the frog, which was obviously touched by some kind of witchcraft. He must have been baking in the sun for a little too long.
“Wha… whaa… excuse me?”
The magical frog was nestled in his palms and wrapped its webby fingers around the fisherman’s two thumbs. It blinked up at him with deep, indigo eyes, its lips pursing as they formed words that seemed to reverberate through his body.
“I will grant you a wish if you let me go. Anything you want, sir.”
Was this really happening? The fisherman could have sworn he had been casting a line only a few minutes ago, and now he was talking to a frog. A frog was talking to him!
“Sir? Will you let me go for a wish?”
“W-why… why not? I mean… hah! Is there a magic lamp I need to rub?” He chuckled, shaking his head in disbelief.
“And what is your wish?”
The fisherman scratched his head and stared at the curious frog.
“Oh, I don’t know… I guess to actually catch a damn fish today,” he grumbled, kicking at the rod that lay in the bottom of the boat. The fisherman stretched his hand over the water, the frog sliding into the lake with a plop and re-surfacing his little head with an eerie smile stretching its lips.
“Thank you, sir. Your wish is granted,” and just like that, the frog disappeared under the murky lake surface, leaving the perplexed man sitting in the boat. Suddenly, the dinghy began to rock back and forth, and the calm face of the lake was marred with undulating waves. He gripped the sides of the dinghy, terrified by the sudden violence of the water. He lunged for his fishing rod, precious to him no matter how unproductive it had been. The fisherman watched aghast as a squirming, shining fish broke from the swelling water, flying through the air and just missing his head. Then another… and another! He began to whoop as the fish shone in the sunlight, flying through the air like birds and scattering droplets of water across his smiling face. He glanced down at the fishing pole clutched in his hands, then caught sight of his net. Without a second thought, the fisherman dropped the pole, sweeping up the fishing net and determined to catch one of the flying fish mid-flight.
He swung and swung the net, every swing catching him a fat fish. The catch bag forgotten, he unloaded them one after another into the boat, where they wriggled on the dinghy floor. He whooped and yelled, all the while swinging the net back and forth, silver fish winking in the sun as they plopped into the vessel. The lake’s ten fish limit lie forgotten in the back of his mind, and the fisherman’s reason was replaced by greed.
“Twenty-one!! Twenty-two! Look at those twins! Twenty-four!! Unbelievable! This is…”
A terrible groaning cut off the fisherman’s jubilation, the dinghy pitching under the weight of the fish. The waters had suddenly grown calm and the fish were no longer jumping through the sunlight. The net still held alert in his hands, the fisherman stared around, dumbfounded at the sudden quiet. He watched as a little green head broke the serene surface, an emerald jewel shining in the foggy waters.
“Well, sir, look what you have done.”
“Where did all the fish go? Bring them back, frog!”
“Now, now, Mr. Fisherman. Mercy may be a heavenly virtue, but greed is a deplorable sin.”
“What are you…?”
He stared down, startled to see water lapping at his feet, soaking through his shoes. The boat was sagging through the surface of the lake, when minutes before it had been skimming lightly across the water. Water sloshed on the floor of the dinghy, turning his khaki pants dark with damp. The fish were weighing him down. The fisherman waved frantically at the frog, the creature staring up at him with its azure eyes.
“No, no, no! Look, help me! My boat, the fish! I can’t sink in the middle of the lake,” he cried. The frog chuckled, and if the fisherman were not about to lose his boat, he would have started at the deep sound that had resounded from the delicate little amphibian. It blinked once, twice, and disappeared again, leaving the man to paw desperately at the water. But no matter how much water he scooped up in his bucket, no matter how many fish he threw overboard, the boat continued to sink. Soon, only the boat’s prow and rudder were peeking above the lake, the fisherman desperately pushing his arms through the water.
“I can’t swim, damn it! I can’t swi-“
The water churned around him, filling his mouth and sweeping away his words. The lake sucked the dinghy under, and the only thing left floating on the calm surface was the fisherman’s beloved fishing pole.
From that day on, the lake was barren of fish. No matter how many bait laden hooks were lowered into the murky waters, there seemed to be nothing alive in the lake. Although, one fisherman did come back from his fishing trip swearing he had seen a little emerald head break the surface of the foggy waters, watching him with cool blue eyes...