A Cray Fish Story

January 24, 2013
By Scott Steenstra, North Haledon, New Jersey
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Scott Steenstra, North Haledon, New Jersey
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If you go to New York City and take a boat or a car about seventy miles east, then you will find yourself in what used to be an underwater paradise. In the time when our story took place, it was a highly populated area of fish, but it could not have been further from peaceful or pleasant. It was a place where every fish was uneducated and ignorant, which led many to be extremely violent towards others. There was no place to get an education, no police stations for justice, no courts to judge the many criminals running amok in that large community, and no peaceful sanctuary of a church where lovers may wed. The water around the variety of fish living there seemed to be darker than most parts of the big blue, but it had nothing to do with lack of sunlight.

One fish living there, who is very important to our story as you will find out, is named Ozzy. Just Ozzy, as none of the fish could remember their families’ names. He’s a small Sunfish, but being as uneducated as all those fish were, he did not know that. This curious little fellow was a great friend to anyone who is willing to get to know him, but most fish in the ocean saw him as a loser. He lived in a coral cabin that’s on the borders of the kelp forest and lived his days trying to avoid all of the big jocks and jerks with their S (S for Shark) rated moves and their horribly loud tunes that rocked the ocean and shook the sand. He always saw a better day, when everyone would be nice, and anyone would be able to sleep at night without having to worry about what gangster fishes were lurking under the sand.
He kept his hopes up, and one day he befriended Gill and Sandy. The twin clown fishes (although they didn’t know that) were just as clownish and as silly as any clown fish could get. They were like partners in crime, their worst crime not being very bad. Gill became Ozzy’s very best pal, sharing every deep, dark secret they had, and doing almost everything together. Almost. Sandy would just be like a third wheel, always tagging along and having a great time, but never quite having the same bond as her brother had with Ozzy. She may also have had a small crush on Ozzy, but only a teeny tiny one, as she will tell you.
Ozzy really enjoyed his life under the sea, and had as much fun as he could with the little knowledge he had. Every fish only knew how to build coral cabins and grow seaweed that was good enough to eat, so the entire place looked like a bunch of boxes with grass growing all around. No one liked the seaweed, they were all so tired of it, but it was the only thing that they knew how to prepare and eat. Life was boring and tasteless in that village under the sea, but every fish had as much fun as they could, and for most, that meant beating the flounder out of old fish.
But then one day all of that changed for Ozzy. He was out on his morning swim - trying to not get fat from his seaweed meals - when he heard two old lady fishes talking about when they were children.
“Yeah, I remember the taste of coral, but now no one can even expand their food horizons beyond seaweed!” the first fish said.
“Well that’s because no one remembers. No one remembers anything. Remember?” said the second.
“Sadly, that’s all I remember, or do I remember? Is it possible to remember remembering?” the first replied.
“Remember, it’s such a funny ford, right? Think about it, or say it ten times fast!” the second added.
“Uh, how’s this: remember, remember…” the old lady fish started.
Remember, thought Ozzy. So there was a time when fish knew about things, things like coral. He swam away, not needing to hear the rest of this old ladies’ tongue twister.
On his way home, Ozzy thought to himself, what if people knew? No one would be mean, people could have fun! And we could stop eating seaweed! Life would be so great! And at that moment, Ozzy knew exactly what to do.

“So, this is the little gupiee who would like a little change.” said the old fish, passing Ozzy a plate of what the old fish called a kelperburger.

“I’m so sorry sir, but what is a gupiee?” Ozzy asked. Since he had called to the old fish in the garden, they had had a short conversation, after which the old fish and his long beard invited him into the large, rotting structure.

Now Ozzy had tons and tons of questions, but he held back the flood. He almost began to shake from the effort.

“Now, if you really want to know all there is to know, you must first hear the tale about how all knowledge came to an end.” said the old fish.

“But sir, I... I don’t even know your name or what your house really is, or” Ozzy started.

“Now you listen here, you flounder,” the old fish began, “all will be answered in due time. Just listen up.”

“But,” Ozzy protested.

“Anyway,” the old fish said, “our story begins a long, long time ago:
There once was a place where young fish woke up every morning with excitement in their hearts as they rushed out the door to get to. Many still remember the sign above the giant double doors: Kelp College. We all went there to learn about tons of different things like how to do math, or cook other fish, or -

“Wait, you ate other fish?” Ozzy dumbfoundedly said.

“Krill, shrimp, you know. Be quiet and enjoy the story! My goodness!” the old fish shouted. “As I was saying: We learned many things from day to day, and all of the fish got along with each other. There was tons of different fish attending this school, bass, sunnies, blowfish, koi fish, flounder, puffer, all of the fish you could dream of. They all lived in harmony with each other, helping each other out and lifting each other up without fail day by day. The houses around were colorful and vibrant with their gardens, and delicious smells came from the houses as the moms made wonderful foods. But then one day all of that changed, and the wonderfulness of it all was lost. It all started when one teacher began to let the students have ‘more fun’. He gave a little slack to the fish students when it came to rules, and then some more, and a little more after that until all of the fishmates began to go off the walls and totally abused their teachers. Finally, the teacher was fired, and Mr. Krabbykelp took his place.

Mr. Krabbykelp was a niceish man, not too fishy. He knew how to have a nice learning environment, and he was determined to get these kids back on track. He gave them extra homework and did not let them wear their cozy scales. After he did many more things, all of the young fish in the school hated him. They stopped listening to what he taught, even though he was telling them much. He was telling the little guppies so many fascinating things, like how to make kelperburgers and how a boomerang worked. He talked about humans and the fascinating species they were, but no one listened. No one cared. None but one, who happened to by myself, the wonderful Master Koi.

“I listened to him, and now that’s why everyone in this ocean seems to hate me. They did not like him, so they don’t appreciate any fish who listens to him.” Master Koi said.

“And that’s why you are the only one left in the ocean who knows anything.” Ozzy guessed.

“Now, don’t get ahead of yourself, boy.” Master Koi replied. “I’m not done with my story:

It began very gradually, this decline in knowledge. Day by day, the fish in Kelp College learned less, and forgot more. When it became time to graduate, they held a private graduation for me alone, because every other fish failed. I was tormented for being a ‘nerd’ and a ‘dork’ so much, that I just had to swim away and find a new home.

And that’s how I ended up here.” finished Master Koi.

“Then what happened?” Ozzy asked.

“Why, I waited for you. Well, not you specifically, but you know what I mean. I wrote down all that I knew and saved it for someone who cared, someone like you.” said Master Koi.

“Wow, that’s crayfish.” Ozzy said.

“So that’s what you kids say these days...” Master Koi thought out loud. “Anywho, yes, now you must go in haste and educate your poor school of fish. Go now, and leave my presence!”

“What? That’s it?” Ozzy said.

“Yes, yes, that is all. I have told you my story, now here-” Master Koi said, shoving a pile of books in Ozzy’s face, “take my books and teach to all of your fishmates.”

“But sir, I was actually hoping that you would-” Ozzy started.

“Nope, that doesn’t happen. I’m done here. My job’s done. See ya!” the old fish jumped off the couch, knocking down his cold tea. The remains floated around the room.

Master Koi walked over and grabbed Ozzy, pushing him and the pile of books out the door, locking and shutting the door behind them.

Ozzy turned around, “Sir, I don’t think you understand! I can’t do this alone!”

“Nobody’s home!” the old fish called back.

For such a wise fish, he’s pretty crazy. Ozzy thought to himself as he sadly drifted away, sinking under the weight of all the big books. “Oh well Ozzy, looks like you are the only person left swimming with a drop of common sense.” and with that, he swam the long journey back home.

Lock him up! Lock him up! Lock him up!

The steady chanting could be heard outside of Ozzy’s house. He had swam home, and he began to teach Sandy and Gill how to make Kelperburgers, when a crowd came around to watch them. Ozzy began to hand around samples, but then the head of Seaweed Interoceanal came and put a stop to it. He said that Ozzy was crazy and that he was trying to poison them all with new things, and that Ozzy was probably trying to kill them all off. He started a riot, and Ozzy had to seek shelter in his house to get away from the madness. After a while, some big buff guys who worked for the seaweed production came in with a koral cage and trapped him.

Now he laid, all alone, more of a reject than he already was. The only difference was that now he was trapped with all of his books, so Ozzy immediately went to work learning. He discovered that fish used to change their scales every day, and they had trends. He found out that if you put seaweed over an underwater volcano, you get roasted seaweed. And as it turned out, the shiny metal things that came down from above that gave out free food were not a gift from heaven. He was so involved in his findings, that he didn’t notice when the sea went dark that there were big black shapes moving around the outside of his cage.

“How do we get this thing open? Gill whispered.

“Don’t be so loud, he might hear us. But do you really think that this might just be a bad idea?” Sandy said.

“Are you kidding? Did you hear all of the awesome things he was saying? He holds all of the secrets to life right now, and he’s locked up.” Gill said.

“But why, if he wants to do something so good, did they lock him up so fast?” Sandy asked.

“Well that’s because-” Gill started.

“Because Mr. Seaweed is afraid of people that won’t want to buy his food.” Ozzy said, swimming up to his friends in his cage, his face sullen and his tone low.

“Ozzy! Did you hear all of that?” Sandy cried.

“Shh! Not so loud. I only heard the last part, but that’s not the point. You have to get me out of here, fast!” Ozzy whispered.

“But how?” Gill asked.

“Look at the door, there’s a lock on it, and in this book there’s an old trick that kids used to use to break them open.” Ozzy motioned to the front of the cage. “You have to grab some kelp that will fit in the hole here, and I’ll do the rest.” and so Gill and Sandy went out to find some kelp. Sandy came back a minute later with just what Ozzy needed.

“Thanks,” Ozzy awkwardly said. He realized that Sandy was looking at him differently. Maybe it was because they were alone, which didn’t happen very often. Ozzy suddenly realized how much of an attractive - what was it? - clownfish Sandy was.

But he had a job to do right now, so he pushed the thought aside. He grabbed the stick and, after a few tries, he got the lock to open. He swam out, and the two went to go and find Gill. When they found him, Ozzy became self-conscious of the fact that he was holding Sandy’s fin. He quickly let go.

“Alright, let’s do this.” Ozzy said. They went to the center of town, in the dead of the night, and Ozzy started to read random facts from his book and began to make different foods to be sampled. At first, only Gill and Sandy listened, but after awhile the late night partiers came out and started to listen too, too fascinated to stop him. They went and told their families, and soon Ozzy had a decent sized audience listening. And the people we amazed.

At the crack of dawn, even more people showed up, including bodyguards from the seaweed business. They tried to take Ozzy away again, yet looking at him in wonder, confused at how he escaped. They broke through the crowd and a riot began, because of the fish wanted to hear me of what Ozzy had to say. People began running around screaming everywhere, and at some point a huge bat came out of nowhere and hit Ozzy in the face. He saw Sandy’s face and then all went black, and he remembered no more.
Master Koi looked up from what he was doing in his garden. Out in the distance of the ocean, there was a huge cloud of sand coming from the sea floor. As it got closer, Master Koi saw the silhouettes of maybe a hundred fish, swimming towards him. He quickly swam into his house and packed all of his things, and swam back out the door. But was no match for the crowd. Before he could get very far, they caught up to him, and when they did he realized that they were chanting, Teach us! Teach us! He stopped in wonder. The crowd was then quick to pull him in, and for the first time in his life, he was accepted.

Later on, he saw Ozzy, who had a big thump on his forehead. He was floating next to a pretty clown fish. “How on earth did you manage to convince all of these people to do this?” Master Koi dumbfoundedly asked.

“Well, it wasn’t easy, but when I realized that you were only afraid that you would be rejected again, I realized that it had to be done. Will you do the honors?” Ozzy said, passing the books back over.

Master Koi smiled, “Son, you’ve got yourself a teacher.”
Not long after, Ozzy and Sandy, fully educated, were married, with Gill as their best man. They then lived in peace as children played, no one having to worry about getting mugged in the streets anymore. All were very happy.

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