Gone Fishing...

# "We've waited so long for someone to take us back home, it just takes so long... And meanwhile the days go drifting away, and some of us sink like a stone, waiting for mothers to call" # - Counting Crows 

This is a story about a land beyond our own, where humans can't survive but can only watch from afar...  It is a fast-paced tale of a race against time between rivals and rascals where survival is fought for day by day...  Colourful characters populate this world and even though their adventures span a tiny stage, they play out on an epic scale...

That first paragraph rather sounds like the makings of a damn good work of fiction now I read it back to myself but I must apologise, dear reader, for misleading you from the outset a little - although the descriptions made there are accurate - this is from an epic TRUE story told on a very small scale, but one which still resonates with me to this day...  It was on a recent trip back to the old homestead, journeying to the village I grew up in, to visit my parents that I was informed as soon as I entered the front door (no "Hello, how are you"!) that the old family fish tank had sprung a leak.

Now, as I sat and chatted with my folks and tried to catch up on the week's events in their lives, my gaze kept being drawn to the "second television" as I used to see the fish tank as a kid...  and strange feelings of melancholy began to well up inside me.  You could put this down to pure sentimentality or not wanting to let go of the past (I'll freely admit I do both of those things!) but this was something different - you see, staring into that 'other world' as a child, and to some extent as a teenager, I realised were where some of my formative storytelling tendencies were born...

I used to just drift away, staring into the that fish tank as a kid, daydreaming and imagining myself in an underwater realm a bit like the Water Babies (1978) and create my own lands of adventure among the soggy plants and dusty gravel.   There were worlds within worlds inside that tank, as I looked past the watery depths and saw the reflection of our own world - the cabinets and picture frames, the TV and photos on the walls of the family living room - all mirrored and turned around, back to front, giving a different view to the life I knew...

Then there were the times that I'd rush to watch my dad with the ritual every few weeks of cleaning the tank - syphoning off the old grimy water with a tube and a bucket, and then topping up the tank from about 3/4 full with fresh water...  There was a razor cleaning tool as well that we kids weren't allowed to go near but which Dad would use to scrape the green algae gunk off the inside of the front of the tank.  Then at the end, and this was the exciting bit for me as a kid, he'd sweep the razor rod through the gravel at the bottom of the tank to throw up lots of good stuff for the inhabitants of the tank (which they always seemed to love!)
Talking of those intriguing inhabitants of the tank, they were a motley crew that populated the waves of "the deep" vortex that sat in our lounge corner. At various but regular times there was a population boom as guppies, the mainstay of my dad's tropical fish collection bred and bred again, spawning literally hundreds of young which we watched developing in the bulging mothers until finally one morning we'd come downstairs and check the tank and the guppy puppies would be swimming near to the water's surface waiting to be fed.  But there were other characters in this saga too who stood out against the sea of ordinary everyday mild-mannered guppies...  

Around half-a-dozen neon tetras flew about the tank, zipping across the water and in and out of the plants that at times formed a jungle backdrop depending on whether my folks had got to the pet shop to renew the foliage on time.  A few goldfish were popped into the tank every so often but always looked like giants compared to the tiny guppies.  And then there was the old man of this underwater utopia, the sage guardian of the deep, a solitary catfish who my dad said always helped him to keep the tank clean.  I always sort of identified with that fish, working on his own, getting on with things and ignoring everyone else around him (yup, I can be a bit of a loner at times!)  He'd often hang on the inside glass of the tank and it'd be a challenge to see how close I could sneak up before he'd take exception to me and swim away.  And it was always a mystery where he was when he was nowhere to be seen.  I'd try to look at the tank from all angles (a challenge in itself as it was stuck inside an alcove!) but his elusive lair is still a secret to this day...  I did always wonder if the day that we stopped seeing him appear was in fact not due to the fact he'd died somewhere at the back of the tank of old age, but because he'd found a secret watery way out of that world into another... 

This particular childhood signpost holds so many memories for me and there's so much more to this story that I could go on for a few post-lengths about it - like the guppy feeding frenzy every time we'd scrunch up some fish food flakes into the top of the tank, or the "angel-fish incident" where someone gave my dad one of these large fish for the tank and then day by day and one by one, the smaller fish began to disappear... Or the thermometer sticker from the front of the tank that I would try to change by pressing my finger to it and watch the temperature rise... temporarily.   Having pet fish and coming into the house to hear that tank bubbling away in the corner really added something to the place I called "home" as a child but it also helped develop my storytelling tendencies by the imaginary worlds it inspired my mind to make up...  So that's why I found it particularly moving that it was being thrown out - we may never see its like again... except when it emerges in some future story that I scribble down...

To round off this mid-summer post, here's another one of the trailers I've been having fun creating using Animoto to help spread the word of my growing "Short Stories in stunning 3D!"  This time, since I've been spinning my yarn of tiny epic stories in this post, it's the turn of my collection of "Flash Fiction", which you can find across at my Official Writing Homepage by clicking on a grouping of objects which might be made by splitting apart a big rock... 

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