Tale Of A Little Fish Boy (FICTION)

By Jamal Artis

My name is John Oaflea. I’m 12 years old and I am a fish boy. I live with my older twin brothers, James and Walt Oaflea. They’re 15 years old. They are the fastest fish boys in our village. James is the oldest twin and he is the sneaky, jealous brother that wants everything for himself. He is jealous of Walt because Walt is faster than him. Walt is the sweet, nice twin that cares about everybody and loves his two brothers. He knows he is faster than James but he doesn’t let it bother him because he’s the mature brother.

We have races. Sometimes I come in last place, Walt comes in second and James comes in first. After we are done racing we take our fish that we caught for the day back to our parents’ shop so our father can scale it and clean the fish. We get paid for how many or how big the fish are. I can catch 10 to 15 fish a day, Walt can catch 30 to 40 a day and James can catch 20 to 23 fish. But James steals mine sometimes and in laughs in my face. Sometimes when James steals my fish, after he leaves Walt gives me half of what he caught to make James jealous. At our family shop we sell lobsters, clams, and crabs but our best seller is the shrimp and fish. Everyone loves shopping at our family store. It’s the best seafood market in the village.

One day my brothers went down to the lake to go have a race, Walt asked me if I could cover his shift at the shop. I said, “Yeah, I got you, brother”, I needed to spend time with mom and dad anyway. They went down to Old Bay Lake where we always went to race because James always wants to prove he’s better then us. I would always say yes to a race to him. So Walt and James walked down to the lake and I stayed at the shop with our parents. I started to help my dad with scaling and gutting the fish, then when I was done cleaning the fish I took it to the front so my mother could put the spice on them. She told me I can go to the front so I sell stuff. I was a little scared at first but I soon got the hang of it. I sold 30 fish for 25 dollars, 8 clams for 4 dollars and 15 lobsters for 45 dollars.

It had been a little over 2 hours when the King of our village came into the shop. The King and my father were good childhood friends. All of a sudden, I heard a voice say “Daddy!”, It was the King’s daughter. She had long brown hair, light brown eyes and had the voice of an angel. Her name was Pariss and she was 13 years old and the princess of our village. She was the King and Queen’s only child and they were very protective but they trusted me because the King and Queen had known my parents for years and they would approve If we went out some time. The King and Queen asked my parents if we could go hang out together. They said “yeah”, but I was scared to talk to Pariss. Father give us a bag of gold and told us go have fun. So me and Pariss walked down to Lake Boo. While we were walking, Pariss was trying to talk to me. I was so nervous to talk to her. She asked me if I want to go throw rocks into the lake and I shyly said yes, I was thinking about how my brothers got girls because I was embarrassing myself in front of her. She asked me if this was my first time hanging out with a girl. I lightly shook my head. She smiled and said, “It’s okay. This is my first time hanging out with a boy as cute as you.” I blushed at her and I said I was happy hanging out with a pretty girl like herself. She blushed at me and lightly kissed me on the cheek. I started to smile. Suddenly, Pariss looked up with a worried look on her face. “Did you just hear something behind those trees?”, she asked me. I told her she was just imagining things and I put my arm around her and walked with her down the shore.

While we were down at the lake, our parents stayed at the shop and talked to the King. The King asked my Father, “Remember the deal I was forced to make years ago with the evil king that lives on the other side of the lake?”. My Father said, “Yes. It was about Pariss getting married to his son, a Prince who has a long, hard-to-pronounce name but who goes by the nickname ‘Juice’.” The King said he didn’t want her to be forced to marry Juice. “I want my daughter to marry whomever she pleases. But if I donít tell Pariss before her 18th birthday she is going to be heartbroken. I have to tell her sooner or later.”

When me and Pariss walked back it started to get dark, Then she saw a shooting star in the sky. She hurried up and pulled on a big rock and told me to make a wish, I wished this would never end. Pariss held my hand tight and made her wish. She kissed me said she loved me and would never leave my side. I smiled and agreed. She asked me if I wanted to be her boyfriend. I said yes and smiled and I asked her, “Do you want to be my girlfriend?” She quickly responded, “Yes!” and she smiled at me.

When we walked back to the store our parents were nowhere to be seen. I opened the door to the shop and what I saw shocked me. Both of my parents, the King, and some customers from the village were all tied up and gagged.

Out of the shadows stepped a sinister-looking man who scowled at me. “I am Prince Juice”, he announced, “and Pariss belongs to me!”. He pulled out a sword. I tried to grab it but he swatted me aside. Juice said, “any last words before you die?”, when he tried to strike me with his sword. His blade sliced through a thick rope from a fishing net that was hanging from the rafters of the shop. All of a sudden, the rope that Juice cut threw came around and wrapped around his neck. He stumbled backward and knocked over a heavy iron anchor that was leaning against the the other end of the fishing net. The weight of the anchor pulled on the rope and it hoisted him up in the air and hung him up like yesterday’s laundry.

The fight was over before I even knew it. My heart was beating so fast from my own fear. I couldn’t even think straight. I realized the fight was over and that monster was gone for good. I ran over and untied Pariss. I asked her if she is okay. She said “yeah”, She noticed a few cuts on my arm and face. I said I will be fine. Pariss said she loved me, and I said “I love you too”. She lightly tried to pick me up. I said, “My legs hurt. I can’t walk.” She yelled for my brothers for help. Walt had arrived at the store just a few seconds earlier and he came running to help us.

Walt freed our parents and the others and met back up with us. Walt ran over and helped me up. After checking to make sure we were alright, Walt said, “I’m going to go look for James. He was angry when I beat him racing earlier and he stormed off. I don’t know where he is now. I hope Juice didn’t hurt him.” Walt disappeared around the corner.

A few minutes later I noticed a muffled sound coming from the storage room in the back of the store. “What’s that?” I asked, and everyone shook their heads, puzzled. I walked into the back room to check out the sound. To my surprise, I saw an old man, tied up and gagged. “Wait a minute!”, I exclaimed. “Aren’t you Juice’s father–the king from across the lake?” “Mmmphhh!!!”, the man murmured, unable to speak with the gag on. I untied the gag but not the rope that bound his hands. I didn’t trust this king. “Thank you.”, the king said. “What are you doing here? Who tied you up?”, I demanded. “I came to warn you. My son, Juice, received a visit this afternoon from your brother, James. James told him that you and Pariss were falling in love. James always had a crush on Pariss and even though he knew she was betrothed to my son, I guess he got jealous when he saw you with her. He told Juice about it to get revenge on you, and Juice immediately grabbed his sword and sailed across the lake to confront you and Pariss.” “But why would you want to warn us? You’re the one who was forcing Pariss to marry Juice!”, I said, refusing to believe his story. The king slowly shook his head from side to side. “There is much you do not understand, my boy.”, he replied.

“A father always loves his son, and in a way I will always remember Juice as the innocent baby I once held in my arms. But the truth is, my son is a monster. When he was only 6 years old, he began torturing and killing animals. I tried to teach him right from wrong, but he only got worse. By the time he was a teenager, he began to terrorize the local townspeople. He was ride through the village on his horse and demand everyone’s gold. If they didn’t give it to him fast enough, he would stab them with his sword or trample them underfoot with his horse. Even if they did everything he told them to, sometimes he would still attack them anyway. He got a sick kind of pleasure from inflicting pain on other people. The townspeople begged me to do something about him, but I was afraid of him too. The last time I had tried to punish him, he put a knife to my throat and threatened to kill me if I ever tried to control him again. The look in his eyes was like something I had never seen before. I knew he would really do it.” The king shuddered at the memory.  “Then one day, the king of your village came to visit me and discuss some issues that affected both of our kingdoms. He brought his beautiful young daughter with him. Pariss was only a child back then, but Juice had an evil mind and he decided right then and there that he would have her as his wife when she came to age. That night he told me that if I didn’t make Pariss marry her, he would murder me and, as the new king, declare war on your village. I knew there was no way to talk him out of it. I thought of killing him in his sleep but I couldn’t bring myself to murder my own son. With a heavy heart, I forced your king to make a deal against his will.”

“You see, for hundreds of years, my family has owned the lake that both of our villages use as a source of fish and drinking water. Our kingdoms have lived in peace with each other for many generations and my family has shared the lake with your people in exchange for a small yearly fee that your king pays to me. After Juice’s threat, I told your king that unless Pariss married my son by her 18th birthday, I would forbid everyone in your kingdom from using the lake. Families like yours, who rely on fishing to make a living, would be ruined. Worse yet, there would be no drinking water for your people. Everyone would be forced to move or die of thirst. It would mean the destruction of your entire village!” I stared in shock at what the king had said. Pariss’ father had never told anyone but my father what the deal was that he had been forced to make.

The king said, “It broke my heart to force your king’s hand this way, but I didn’t know what else to do. Ever since then, I’ve been trying to think of a way to stop Juice, but when I saw him going after you, I knew I had to warn you. I knew I didn’t have much time, so I took a short-cut across the lake by sailing in-between some jagged rocks. Many sailors have been shipwrecked on those rocks and Juice had taken the safer route around them. Normally I would never have done something so dangerous, but I knew what Juice was capable of and I was determined to reach your village before he did. Fortunately I made it through the rocks unharmed. But just as I got close to the shore, a strong wind blew me off course. I rowed desperately toward the docks, and after a long time, I finally managed to dock my boat. But I was too late. As soon as I stepped ashore, a hand grabbed me from behind and before I knew it, I was bound and gagged. Juice had landed a few minutes before me and saw my boat coming in. After tying me up, he snuck into your parents’ shop through the back door and stashed me here. Then he went into the main part of the shop and pulled a sword on the King. He threatened to cut his head off unless everyone in the store sat down against the wall and didn’t make a move. He tied them up and waited for you and Pariss to return. And you know the rest.” The king ended his story with a sigh.

“Since you are here instead of Juice, I must assume you had to kill him. I don’t blame you. I wish I had had the courage to do it myself, years ago. Still, I can’t be happy about the death of my son, even if he was a monster.” Tears trickled down the king’s face. I wiped the tears away with my handkerchief and I untied his hands. “Juice is dead, but I didn’t kill him”, I told the king. “His neck got caught on a rope.” The King nodded. “I’m sorry for my role in all of this”, he said. “Now that it is over, I hope we can all put the past behind us and be friends again.” I nodded. “I have one more question, though. Where did my brother, James go?”

As soon as I had asked the question, I heard a commotion at the front door. “Let go of me!”, I heard a voice shout. It was James. I ran to the door to see what was going on. Walt and my father were holding James by his arms as he struggled to get free. “I found him hiding outside the shop”, Walt explained. “He must have been spying on us.” “He tried to run away, but James never could outrun me”, Walt added with a sly grin. James cursed loudly. After a while, he stopped struggling and a defeated look came over his face. Walt loosened his grip on him and my father let go of his other arm and looked him in the eyes. James looked back and then looked down at the ground, ashamed. “I never meant for anything to happen to you or Mom”, James said. “I was just sick of always being the loser. I had just lost a race to Walt and I went to the other Lake to be alone. And what did I see but my dorky little brother hitting on the girl of my dreams. I couldn’t take it anymore!” “That was you we heard in the bushes”, I asked? “Yeah”, James confirmed. “After that, I went straight to Juice. I was so angry, I didn’t think it through.”

After a long pause, James said, “Look, I’m sorry, OK? I’ll make it up to you.” My father looked at James sternly. “You’ll make it up to ALL of us, for a very, VERY long time.”, he said angrily. You can start by burying Juice. Then you can clean up this mess.” He gestured to the shop floor, which was covered with objects that had been knocked over in the fight. James groaned. “Oh, and one more thing”, my father added. “For the next three months, all the money you make for catching fish will be used to pay for Pariss and John’s wedding!” “I can help with that too”, said Pariss’ father with a smile. “As can I”, said Juice’s father. “It’s the least I can do after everything that’s happened.”

I looked at Pariss we both smiled. I new my wish had come true.



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