This is the conclusion to the story…
“Freddie the Fish & The Lure of Old Scotch”
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“So… What’s your name, fish, if you have one?” asked Old Scotch.
“Uh…” began Freddie, still dazzled by the dragonfly. “My friends call me Freddie the Fish.” Then voicing his greatest confusion, Freddie asked innocently. “But why would you choose me, Old Scotch?”
Chuckling softly, the dragonfly answered. “Maybe because I saw something special in you, boy! It’s my job to know who is ready to receive the secrets of the universe, Freddie, because not many are. I recognize you as someone who could benefit from what I know.”
From far below him, Freddie heard the Old Fish’s voice. “Don’t listen to him, Freddie… It’s a trick! He will only lead you astray and you will get hurt. Come back to us, boy, for we are your friends and family. We know what’s best for you. Be a good fish and come back to us now.”
“Hah!” laughed Old Scotch. “If they really cared about you, Freddie, wouldn’t they be encouraging you? If they wanted what was best for you, they wouldn’t try and distract you this way, would they? After all, I’m promising you the secrets of the universe, boy! What fish in your pool has ever known them? What fish has ever had the chance to learn them?”
“I’ve chosen you because I believe you are special,” the dragonfly continued, more seriously than before. “It’s a great honor to be chosen by a dragonfly, you know. Your friends are trying to confuse you because they are jealous, Freddie!” Waiting only a moment to allow Freddie the chance to process what he had said, Old Scotch pressed on relentlessly. “After all, would your real friends prevent you from bettering your lot in life, just because they didn’t have the same opportunity? Are they really your friends if they would deny you this chance, Freddie?”
Terribly bewildered now, Freddie could not answer at first. Anxiously he glanced at his fish-friends below, and the mysterious and beautiful dragonfly above him. Who should he believe? He’d known those fish his whole life; surely they would not mislead him now… Still, he had always known he was different from the others somehow, deep in his own heart. Sure, they’d always treated him the same, but he’d never really belonged here, had he? And he’d questioned himself about the futility of his life in the pool, so Old Scotch was doing no more than echoing his own thoughts. Surely a creature that beautiful and wise could not be truly dangerous…
Maybe Old Scotch was right about the others! Maybe they were jealous of him. Maybe he really was different, special even… Oh, how he wanted to believe that! Besides, what did he really have to lose by listening? If he returned to his friends, he would only go on swimming silently until he was too old and weak to fight the current anymore, and then he would die like all the other fish before him. The dragonfly offered him something different, something more – wisdom, adventure, knowledge… Surely that was worth more than an eternity of safe, silent swimming in this tiny pool he called home…?
And with that thought, Freddie turned toward Old Scotch, never to look back again… “So, what do I have to do?” he asked eagerly.
Old Scotch smiled and answered warmly. “Stop fighting the current, Freddie boy, and let it carry you away to a bigger, brighter, more exciting future!”
“But…” Freddie began, confused. Finally, he went on. “But if I stop fighting the current, I will be smashed against the southern wall, and I will die… How can there be a future in that?”
Laughing, Old Scotch reassured him. “Trust me, Freddie! I didn’t say the journey would be easy, but I did promise it would be worth it. And it will! The trick is to stop fighting the current, to flow with it instead.” Old Scotch stopped a moment, looking away into the distance. “From up here, I can see what you can’t, Freddie,” he continued. “And I see that the water rushes over the top of the southern wall and on down the gorge. Just beyond your pool the stream spreads out into a wide, gentle place where you can rest and observe the outside world. When you’re ready to move on, all you have to do is slip back into the current and let it carry you onward to the next place you want to stop…” The dragonfly took a deep breath before promising Freddie more. “Beyond your pool there are no traps, my friend, just wide open spaces, beautiful scenery and magnificent creatures. And I will travel along with you and tell you all about the wondrous things you will see!”
Still Freddie hesitated, held back by a lifetime of warnings. The southern wall meant certain death. The whole point of living was to avoid being smashed into that end; that’s why they all swam so diligently against the current. But could he return to his fish-friends now, after he’d ignored their advice?
Recognizing Freddie’s distress, Old Scotch pushed on, trying to convince him. “I know what you’re thinking, boy!” he claimed. “You’re thinking your friends might be right, aren’t you? But the truth is, they don’t know any better, Freddie. The reason your fish-friends die on the southern wall is because they continue to fight against the current until it destroys them… The secret to surviving the journey is to surrender to the flow and let it lift you up and carry you away. You must not fight the current, Freddie! That is the secret that will deliver you safely beyond your world.”
For a moment longer Freddie hesitated, remembering his life. He thought of the many friends he had known and loved, and lost. Always they left him, to be smashed against the southern wall. Maybe, he thought, if he could do this right, the other fish would see. Maybe he could save lives by taking this journey! Maybe this was his destiny! After all, he was the one chosen by the dragonfly, wasn’t he? Perhaps this was his reason for being… And with that thought, Freddie stopped swimming for the first time in his troubled life. And the current quickly caught him and carried him away…
For an instant all was right in Freddie’s world! As the current lifted him with the gentle caress of a lover, he knew a joy he had never known before. He felt light, alive, buoyant and free! Euphoria rose like laughter in his belly, bubbling up to be released into a world of perfect peace and happiness… But his ecstasy was ripped from him, before it could be expressed, by the hard, jagged point of a rock in the southern wall.
Stunned by the sight of his own blood around him, awakened by pain that throbbed through his tiny body, Freddie felt fear grip his heart. Driven by the terror of his own fleeting mortality, Freddie began to swim again, swimming harder than he ever had before. Far away he heard the voices of his friends and family encouraging him. “Swim, Freddie, swim! You can do it! Come on!”
High above him, he heard Old Scotch yelling. “Let go, Freddie! Stop fighting! Trust me, boy!”
But Freddie struggled on, trying hard to swim against the current. But here, at the southern wall, the current was too strong and chaotic, even for Freddie. It swirled around him, sucked him down, then smashed him hard against the rocks. Over and over again, the water threw his bruised and broken body against the wall. Freddie swam valiantly on, lost in the nightmare of rushing water, distant voices, sharp rocks and searing pain… Until, finally, with a last faint kick, Freddie gave up the battle.
As the welcome relief of oblivion reached up from the stream depths to claim his tired soul, Freddie thought lovingly of the friends and family he’d left behind. “I’m sorry,” he thought to them. “I tried. I really tried! But the current was too strong for me… Good-bye.” And as his last breath was driven forcibly from him, Freddie sank one last time to the stream bottom…
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Then, miraculously, the current reached for Freddie’s body and lifted it with gentle fingers. Moving with love and joy, the stream carried his still and lifeless form high above the rocks of the southern wall, and sent him effortlessly beyond the confines of the little pool he had called home for so long. And the world beyond was everything that Old Scotch had said it would be – with its wide, open spaces, gentle pace, beautiful scenery and wondrous creatures. But Freddie’s eyes were blinded by death, and so he never saw the promised land he’d sought.
The Creator of All-That-Is looked down upon this scene and a single tear was shed in honor of Freddie and his brave, but seemingly fruitless journey. Then the Creator smiled and turned away, knowing that all was right in this Universe, that Life survived in perfect balance, that Purpose triumphed again, and always.
And far below, in a small park in western New York, in a small pool created by a restless current, a community of fish swam diligently on, made more determined by Freddie’s fate. A lone dragonfly buzzed along the brook humming a song in Freddie’s honor. “Peace, brother Freddie. Peace, my friend.”
The wind rushing through the gorge picked up the song and carried it to the four corners of the Earth for All to share. And so Freddie’s destiny was fulfilled…
— © Lisa R. Palmer, 1996