The Golden Fish

Jonathan hooks his hundredth-something worm, desperation mounting with the waning of the sun. Time is running out. His grandfather’s health is rapidly deteriorating, and there’s no telling he’ll survive another day. Jonathan glares at the sea as though offended by its serenity, knowing full well that he’s being unreasonable. Here he is, a grown man of twenty and nine years, angry at the sea for not spitting out a goddam golden fish. It’s ridiculous. 

And yet, he cannot help but wonder, what if? What if the golden fish truly does reside in these waters? Jonathan knows his grandfather to be a reasonable fellow; would his last wish be without substance? The young fisherman allows his gaze to wander the sunlit sea, taking in a few deep breaths before, at last, brandishing his fishing rod. 

The hook slices through the surface, descending into the deep unknown. Jonathan embraces the calm focus of a predator, alert to movement neath the sea. The sun has traveled far when, at last, he notices a slight tug on the line. Jonathan skillfully reels the fish, pulling it overwater with a mighty swing.

The fisherman’s prey lands on the rear side of the boat. Jonathan turns to examine his catch. Holy fuck. He is put face to face with a gigantic golden fish. He trails the back of the fish with a quivering finger, plucking a scale and putting it between his teeth. It’s gold alright. 

A grin spreads on the young fisherman’s face, but his joy is short-lived. The sun has almost faded completely, and ominous shadows race across the still waters. He puts the golden fish in a small ornate box and seizes the oars with a firm grip. It is time to go home.

Jonathan arrives at the bridge drenched in sweat. He anchors the tiny fishing boat to a pole and hurries up the road. Gravel pounds his bare feet, striking them red, and It feels an eternity has passed as he finally arrives at his grandfather’s hut. Inside, he finds his beloved grandfather, sitting on the edge of a small bed, looking miserable. 

“Chin up, look what I’ve got for you!” Jonathan puts the box on the floor in front of the old man, opening it. 

A golden gleam covers the old fisherman’s hut, painting it in hues of warmth and passion. 

His grandfather’s eyes widen. “You did it, now quick, slice it up.” 

Jonathan scurries to the small stove with the fish in tow. He peels the fish, noting the luxurious shine of the meat inside before putting it into the pan.

Meanwhile, his grandfather props up his pillows reverently and lays down on the bed. “That’s good, Johnny. Please bring me the picture along with the fish.” 

Jonathan is brought out of his euphoric state, understanding it is time. He removes the family photo from its frame, gently wiping the dust off before handing it to his grandfather.

Jonathan moves back to the stove and prepares the remainder of the dish. He puts some fish onto a silver plate, dicing it into smaller pieces before moving over to his grandfather’s side. 

The old man reaches for the fork with a trembling hand, placing a spoonful of fish into his mouth. For a while, he just lay there, quiet, clutching the family photo hard onto his chest.

And then, suddenly, he turns to look at Jonathan, settling into a wide grin as he utters his last words, “thank you, my boy, it was delicious.”

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