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A Day of Schooling

The following is taken from a hand written on unlined paper in pencil. The penmanship is mine but I don’t remember when or where it was written. It is a made up story as can be seen. Where I may not have been able to read it because of the light writing I will just fill in what it may have originally looked like. I do not know if this story was an assignment of if I was just writing something at the time.

A Day of Schooling

Mr. and Mrs. Fish usually stayed in the center of the pool. The water there was deep, cool and had a slow moving current. It was shaded by a gnarled oak tree that was showing its age. It had many leaf filled branched which shaded the pool from the hot sun keeping it cool. The base of the majestic oak was of great thickness and because it entered the soil at the water’s edge, its roots formed a tangled maze that harbored small fish and animals near the shore. At the edge where the water was shallower, the sun’s rays gently warmed the water to a comfortable temperature in the morning. Little fish, minnows and other small animals could come here in the morning time and find bugs to eat or soak in the warmth.

On this particular morning Mr. and Mrs. Fish and family were at the edge of the pool receiving (enjoying) the warmth of the morning sun. Mr. and Mrs. Fish were two average sized bullheads. They being bullheads could be proud of their slick golden brown skin. They could also be proud of their long whiskers which would waver when they would swim with short thrusts of their rather small but powerful tail. They could also stop quickly and with ease with their tail. They also had strong, sharp spikes on their side fins and their top fin which might be used to defend themselves. Mr. Fish, being masculine and a little older, was larger, stronger and broader across the shoulders than Mrs. Fish with her long, slender feminine lines. Mrs. Fish, even though a bullhead, was not as bullheaded as Mr. Fish.

The rest of their family, which they called their Mellow Minnows, their little ones numbered only twelve but Mr. and Mrs. Fish were very proud of them and this day they had something very important to tell their little ones.

“Last night your father and I had a talk,” said Mrs Fish. to her attentive minnows, “We have decided that it I time for you to learn the dangers in your life,”

“Danger! What dangers? We have not seen anything that looked dangerous,” said one little minnow.

“Yes, we know we have taken you, so far, only to the safer places of the pool.”

“Why have you only taken us to the safer places of the pool, inquired another small minnow?

“Well, it’s like this. We wanted you to be old enough so you could learn of the dangers before you meet up with any of them.” said their mother in her kind, loving voice.

“Today, you are going to have your first lesson,” said Mr. Fish. “First, don’t think that you know all there is about this pool you are swimming in.. You need more experience to be well qualified and know how to keep out of danger. Go by our judgment or by the judgement of others more experienced and not by what just anyone you may meet on your travels tells you. They may not know the right way. Are there any question?”

“No,” they all bubbled together.

“Now just to follow the first rule is not enough. You will have to follow other rules also,” continued Mr. Fish. “Whenever you are around the places where Sharp Tooth the Turtle, Mr. Slithers the Snake, Long Bill Bird or Shadow the Fisherman may be always be careful of them. They are your enemies and are dangerous. They would like to catch you and eat you.

“What do these enemies look like and where do they live? I want to know so I can stay away from them,” inquired on of the less brave of the minnows as a shiver went from his head to his tail.

Mr. Fish continued his lecture as the little school gathered in close. Mr. Sharp Tooth is a large reptile that is rather flat with broad shoulders with a hard boney green and brown colored shell. He sticks his head out of his shell an in his mouth are his sharp teeth.

When the little minnows heard this, a shiver ran down all their bodies and made their tails wiggle.

Since Mr. Fish had their attention, he again continued his lesson. “You may see Mr. Sharp Tooth in shallow water, the deep water or you might see him sunning himself on a log. He has strong jaws and long claws. He may seem slot but he can hide and then quickly bit what is near him.

Now Mr. Slithers is different. He has a long, round wiggle body with beady eyes and sharp powerful jaws. You may see him any place but he is usually near the top of the water or on the bank. He is very fast and tricky so be extremely careful around him.

“Long Bill Bird is a creature that lives in the space above. You will see him when he and his shadow dives for the water, swopping up just in time to skim the water but still have time to get what he was after. You may see him almost anywhere and he comes so fast you must be very quick to see him and get out of the way of this always hungry intruder.”

“The fisherman is just about the strangest of all the dangers you will meet. Sometimes he tries to catch the larger fish like us but at other times he sets traps for the little ones like you. This means that you have to contend with him all your life and not just while you are little like your do with Long Bill Bird and Mr. Slithers. Usually you can tell if the fisherman is around because you can either feel the vibrations from his very awkward movement on the bank or you can see his shadow. If you ever do see the shadow, follow the Leaders Code which is. ‘If you see him, call out shadow.’ Also never play with or bite on his bait for even some of us larger fish get caught in doing so.”

Now Mr. Fish swallowed hard and said, “In closing your lessons just remember always keep your wits about you and always be alert. If you follow all these lessons, I believe that you will have no trouble in keeping out of trouble with the dangers of the pool. Now because you were such good, listening students we are going to let you do something special. Would you like to tell them what it is Mrs. Fish?”

“Yes, I would, Mr. Fish, We are going to let you, my Little Ones, join the school like you have been wanting to.”

“Oh boy, we are sure going to have fun now.” Said one absolutely thrilled minnow.

“There is just one word of caution we would like to give you. Whether at work or at play keep your eyes open and it will be a safe day. And now be off with you and have a good but safe time.”

“Oh, thank you, Mother dear. We will always remember your words. Good bye.” And with that all 12 of them swished away to find the big school. Now that the little ones had gone to find the school, a tear came to the eyes of Mrs. Fish for she knew from experience of past years that even after being warned about the dangers, the little ones that just swam away will not remember the words that were spoken to them when they are at play. Mr. and Mrs. Fish now swim slowly away from the warm shallow water into the deeper cooler water of the pool where they will stay thinking of their little ones.

By this time the little ones had caught up with the school that was just starting out on its daily rounds of the feeding stations. This is what the school sometimes called the places in the pool where food was usually abundant. In just a very little time after they had joined the rest of the little minnows in the school they were just like one big happy family. This school was a company or group of about a hundred minnows. All were playing with each other when not eating anything they could find. Some would chase each other, some played tricks on others and some played hide and seek. One of the many minnows of the school started a joke that turned out to be a bad thing. This one would yell “shadow” and then laugh when he would see all the minnows fearfully dash for shelter. After a few times of doing this the minnows no longer sought cover so his little game was over.

One of the minnows was a little boisterous and teased the other minnows into going on daring excursion. They were swiming near where Sharp Tooth the Turtle lived. He said, I’m going to show you how to be brave. I will go up and swim around him just to show you that I am not afraid of him and that he isn’t as dangerous as everybody thinks him to be.” When the school came to the place where the turtle lived they saw Sharp Tooth the Turtle in his regular place. He seemed to be sleeping and didn’t look dangerous. Just as the minnow that said he was going to swim around him he came close to it and the turtle woke up. When Sharp Tooth saw that the little minnow was within reach, he quickly stretched out neck and snatched the minnow with his sharp teeth. After swallowing the first one he dashed after the rest of the school, but because they saw what had happened to that one, they were already swimming away in fright.

They soon forgot what had happened to the first one and went on playing games and eating as if nothing had happened. They forgot again about being careful and alert and were not watching. The school tired of the depth and decided to come up closer to the surface.

When one minnow saw small ripples on the top of the water, he asked another one close by, “What is causing the ripples in the water?”

The one close by hadn’t listened very closely in his school so he didn’t know it could be Mr. Slithers so he laughed it off and said, On, I don’t care what it is. It is probably just a breeze blowing across the pool.”

The first one then said, “If it was a breeze it would ripple all the water over all the pool.”

“Oh, I don’t care what it is, I’m sure that it is nothing to be bothered about” Did the last one say it was nothing to be bothered about? If he had known what was above them he would not have said that for above them following the school was old hungry Mr. Slithers. He saw the carefree minnows and decided they would be easy picking from the school for lunch.

When Mr. Slithers thought the time was right he swiftly descended into the midst of the school attacking the closest one with his mouth wide open. As the minnows dashed headlong away from the intruding party, a small group became separated from the rest. These thinking, they were lucky and would not be hurt forgot about the excitement before and became easy going and carefree again. Among this small group were the 12 little ones of Mr. and Mrs. Fish. Here again the little ones did not remember the words of Mr. and Mrs. Fish. They were not alert. Usually during this time of day Long Bill Bird had a craving for young minnows. Today was not any different. He was circling above the pool looking for some unsuspecting minnows. The ones he sighted were the group that the 12 were in. After circling once more he made his most rapid dive after his prey. The little ones were not selected by Long Bill Bird but they were very freighted and they quickly swam away to safety. They would think of the words of their mother and father but would soon forget to be alert just like the times before and went on playing.

Cousin Carp had seen what had just happened and because she could see the little ones were not being alert she went to find Mr. Fish to tell him. After learning of the danger that his little ones had been in, he got Mrs. Fish and they started looking for the 12. He figured that the little ones would still not be as careful as all minnows should. They did not get hurt when chased by Sharp Tooth, nor when they were separated from the school by Mr. Slithers. They thought they were lucky also by not being the chosen prey of Long Bill Bird. But they could still be in great danger. Mr. and Mrs. Fish decided that after all the work outs their Little Ones had in escaping from dangers, they would be hungry so they went looking for them in places where there was plenty of food. After looking in part of the pool, they decided to try to look for them in the smaller flowing channel where there was usually plenty of food. Upon swimming here they came upon a sight that made them terrified. There upon the channel floor was a glass jar which was not really unusual but what they saw in it and the shadow they saw caused them the fearfulness. There in the clear jar were their little ones, trapped by the fisherman whose shadow fell across the floor of the channel. With the quick thinking of Mr. Fish and with the even quicker planning of Mrs. Fish they decided on their next actions. They knew that every fisherman always had his eyes out for some of the averaged sized bullhead and acted accordingly. They swam within full view of the fisherman hoping that what could happen did happen. When the fisherman saw these two, the excited fisherman quickly picked up the jar with the trapped little ones in it and started towards the larger bullheads. As the fisherman did this, he lost his footing on the slick rocks and fell letting the jar fall.The little ones prison broke, setting them free. Then Mr. and Mrs. Fish and the little ones quickly swam right past the wet fisherman and headed to the safety of the deep pool.

That evening the little ones were very quiet. They felt very embarrassed about their actions that day for they had not been alert like they had been taught by Mr. Fish.

As darkness settled in Mrs. Fish asked, “Would you rest better if you told me what you are thinking?”

“Yes, I think we would but we did not know how to tell you how sorry we were about not practicing what you taught us about the dangers of the pool” spoke up the leader.

“Oh, Mother, we will never go against your word ever again, “blubbered all twelve of them being very sorry minnows confessing their wrong doings. From then on the little minnows always did what they had been taught until last weekend when one was caught by a fisherman on his line just 10 years after their day of schooling.

“Do you know how I know all this? I was the fisherman and the fish I caught told me their story.”

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