Thoughts from the Gutter

A few years ago, live fish were seen flopping around on the streets of Manna, India, which quite some distance from the Indian Ocean. They were carried there by a waterspout. This is the story of one of those fish.


Well, Mother was right. Here I am, flopping around along the side of the road in Manna, India. She always said if I didn’t straighten up, I’d land in the gutter some day.How was I to know? I’m a fish. Until today, I’d spent all of my short, uneventful life in the Indian Ocean. Have you ever seen a gutter in the Indian Ocean? Neither have I.

This morning, I was feeling jaunty and looking mighty dapper, if I do say so myself, as I set out for the spawning grounds. It would have been my first time, but then I was scooped up by a waterspout. Lifted from the ocean and carried gloriously aloft, I thought at first it was the intoxication of love. Alas, it was but a fleeting thrill, and this day, that was to be given over to youthful, lusty, masculine desires, came to an ignominious end when I fell from the sky.

Dorothy was swept away to Munchkinland; I wind up in Manna. I wish I had landed along the Yellow Brick Road. I can see it now; a yippy, furry creature would rouse me with its cold nose. A moment later, I’d hear a girl screaming.

“Toto! Leave that nice fish alone,” she’d say. “He’s so cute.”

She’d kneel down and gently lift me from the gutter. A tear would drop from my eye. She’d kiss me and tickle my dorsal fin. I’d try, but I wouldn’t be able to force a smile.

“Why are you so sad?” she’d ask.

I’d tell her I was hundreds of miles from the ocean, and that I didn’t have any way to get back. She’d tell me we were just a few miles from the Emerald City.

“It’s an easy walk,” she’d say. “And there’s regular bus service from there to the beach. You’ll be home by the weekend.”

With that, I’d break into song:

“It’s ever so sad a story

When you are born piscatory

And haven’t got two legs.

I could sashay and amble,

I’d go in the woods and ramble,

If I only had two legs.”

“Oh, you poor thing,” the girl would say. “You can’t walk, can you?”

“Well, duh. I am a fish.”

“I’m sorry. I’m from Kansas, and we don’t have many fish there,” she’d say. “But if you are curious about corn, just ask. Say, Toto and I are on our way to Oz to see the Wizard. He’s a very great and powerful wizard, and I’m sure he could give you legs if you ask him.”

I’d agree, of course. And eventually, after a great many adventures, the little girl would click her heels, and I’d finish my life as a goldfish, swimming around a bowl in the parlor of a forlorn farmhouse in a desolate corner of Kansas where everything is in black-and-white. But I wouldn’t die in the gutter, and that would make Mother so proud.

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