PONIES AND FISH. FISH-PONIES. A (short) TALE FOR THE WETTEST 1st DAY OF SPRING EVER!

            Hello, FishPony!

There is a fish. He doesn’t have a name because he is a fish. He is a particular type of fish and looks exactly like all the other fish with his particularity. He is smaller than some yet larger than others. Size is the only thing that differentiates him, apart from gender. He is a male fish and as such this is the only other thing that differentiates him from all the other fish of his particularity that look like him but are, in fact her-fish. He spends his life behaving like a fish living in the sea. Feeding, moving in a shoal from location to location, procreating and trying not to get eaten by different types of bigger fish. This should be the end of a very boring story. But I will push through and you will stay with me to see where this is going.

First I will tell you about when I was 6. From this age I was obsessed with writing a book. I would staple together folded paper into a book lookalike and crayon a picture on the front cover. It was always a picture of a horse, behind it a classic 5-bar gate and behind that the field where it lived – and behind that a house where the little girl in the story (usually a blonde version of me) lived. I enjoyed the process thus far. Then I would turn the front cover to the blank first page and begin to write in my neatest writing (which was never neat enough). 

‘Once upon a time….’ The story was always the same and involved the pony’s little girl coming out of her house, walking across the field and riding the pony out of the gate away from their home and off on adventure. There the story stopped. There was no adventure past the gate, the field and the house. There was no conspiratorial conversation between the girl and her much loved pony, there were no other characters met along the way, though I think maybe once the little girl had an argument with her mother before riding the pony out of the gate. I remember that as I was writing these stories I was filled with a sense of longing, with both eyes firmly fixed on a horizon I couldn’t see. The desire to fill the distance between where I was and said horizon became the one lasting outcome to every story. A lusty dollop of desire sprinkled with disappointment, unfulfilment, failure. I would put away the story to nowhere, hoping that next time I looked at it, there would be a shining tale of excitement and beauty upon its pages but sadly, sooner rather than later, I would sneak back hoping I didn’t notice and scrumple it up to bury it in the bin where I wouldn’t find it. I gave myself up to the world of ‘The Faraway Tree’, a place of the real imagination of the redoubtable Enid Blyton who I later discovered with shock was a rather horrid, cruel woman. 

I was, by the way, the world’s worst horsewoman. I had a fat, wicked Welsh Mountain cross Arab midget of a pony. By the time I was done with her I practically rode her like a trike, my feet pretty much touching the ground on either side of her huge girth. She was as difficult to command to ride away from the food source in her paddock as she was to stop from charging at breakneck speed on the return journey. She terrified and bullied me. She thwarted my innocent girlish dream of the beautiful bond of love between pony and proud owner, the one that I read about it many books. ‘Green grass of Wyoming’. Bullshit. ‘My friend Flicka’. Bollocks. 

The crushing experience of our one and only Gymkhana is it’s own story for another wettest day EVER.

Pushing through – the sea is a metaphor for the unfathomable, murky and ceaselessly swirling environment of my brain. The fish is the story that I held for just a moment before it slipped out of my fingers and when I looked for it in the ocean of my brain I always picked another one indistinguishable from the first  and – oh there it goes – it slipped away again. Repeat.

Forging ahead – even if I had managed to hold on to it I would not have seen the adventure in the life of a fish among fish in a never ceasing ocean. I was too young to dive in and swim with it to find out what adventures were to be had in the depths. And anyway, I was looking on dry land –  at ponies – and too proud to tell of my real adventures with my real pony, which were all humiliating and cause for humour. I was too young to appreciate this and too proud to laugh at myself. 

And now? Now I know that if you want to write a story, you just have to keep starting. Keep going. Follow your own footsteps. It’s not the horizon that is important, it’s what’s beneath your feet. Failure, disappointment and unfulfillment are the lakes, mountains and valleys of stories. I can write that medium sized particular fish a rip-snorter of a tale – and nobody, not ANYBODY would talk like Ellen de Generes. Because when you inhabit an ocean, who’s gonna hear you talking? And I will never, EVER try to write a story about a pony. Unless it’s a magical sea pony that falls in love with a particular fish. Everything is stacked against them as they battle barriers of discrimination, evil stepmothers and jealous rivals…….

 

A SHOVEL FULL

Shovel with Daisies

Shovel with Daisies

There was once a woman, three wise men and a fool. They lived in a kingdom by the sea, under the sky and near the forest. But that doesn’t matter.

One day the woman woke up in her bed and couldn’t arise. Feeling afraid and a little strange, she placed her hand where her heart should be and couldn’t feel it beating. Now she was very afraid – and quite confused because she wondered how she was still alive. She could not stop crying!

The first wise man was called. He came with his bag of important, shiny thingamejigs, and his quiet assistant who stumbled apologetically behind him. Behind the quiet assistant skipped the fool with a shovel over his shoulder, humming a pointless tune and smiling at the daisies.The first wise man stroked his long beard (all wise men have long beards) and muttered “hmmmm”.

He reached for his one of his shiny thingamejigs and proceeded to place it on the woman’s body, over where her heart should be. She looked at him. He did not meet her gaze but muttered “hmmmm” again.

He turned to his quiet assistant and said out very loud “Tell the woman she must stand on her head for twenty minutes at the dawn, at midday and at the dusk. This will cure her of what ails her.” The quiet assistant did as he was told. The wise man swept out of the room followed by the quiet assistant, stumbling. The woman watched them go and turned her face to the wall, crying silently. The fool tiptoed over to the woman and patted her on the head. He left a daisy on the pillow by the wall.

The woman did as she was told. She hurt her neck quite badly and gave herself a powerful headache.

The next morning the woman awoke and tried to arise out of bed. Again she found she could not do it. She put her hand over where her heart should be and still could feel no beat. Instead, she felt a small lump. It was quite hard. It didn’t move when she pressed it. Her tears flowed like a river over her hand, over the lump.

The second wise man was called. He arrived with his bag of powders and herbs, accompanied by his proud assistant and the smiling fool whose cartwheel crashed into the door jambe because he was carrying a shovel over his shoulder. The fool rubbed his leg and sat watching the sunbeam move across the floor.

The second wise man harrumphed a bit and stood with one hand underneath his chin and the other on his cocked hip. He took some powders and herbs out of his bag. Turning to the proud assistant he pontificated very loudly, “Tell her to take a teaspoon of the powders dissolved in the water taken from wilting the herbs over a low heat – once at the dawn, at midday and at the dusk.” The proud assistant pompously announced the woman’s treatment.

The second wise man and his proud assistant both swept out of the room. The woman turned her pale face back to the wall and clutched the sheets around her for warmth, sobbing with little control. The fool left his shovel by the door, tiptoed over to her and sat down on a little stool by the bed. He hummed a pointless tune very quietly and stroked her hair before leaving a fresh daisy on the pillow by the wall.

The woman did as she was told. She spent the next night vomiting and was overcome by violent chills.

On the next morning, she awoke late and couldn’t turn her face from the wall. With her hand, she felt for the lump where her heart should be and instead of a lump, there was now a hole. There was no pain, just a space where her heart should have been. She was all out of tears and had no breath left for sighing.

The third wise man with his bag of books and his mean assistant were called for – and the fool came behind them, hopping and spinning round occasionally, as he expertly balanced the shovel in his outstretched hand.

The third wise man muttered and frowned and scratched his head. He reached for his bag and took out a book. He opened it and pored at it with his long bony finger (all wise men have long, bony fingers) and growled a few expletives (in a wise way of course).

“Woman, you must say these words everyday for a week three times at the dawn, at midday and at the dusk. Furthermore, you must face the eastern window at the dawn, turn around on the spot at midday and face the western window at the dusk. You must summon great joy and determination as you recite these words and you must do all this with a blind faith that the outcome will be the one you need because these are the true and correct words to say. If any questions arise, you will forward them to me and I, or other wise men trained by me will answer them”.

The mean assistant went over to the woman and poked her with his finger. “Did you get that, woman?” he demanded to know. Still looking at the wall, she nodded slowly. “Right then” he said and strode out of the room following the third wise man.

The fool stayed with the woman all that week. She lay in bed facing the wall and he covered her pillow with fresh daisies every day. He stroked her hair and sang the pointless tune until she became familiar with it and started to rock gently to its rhythm. He sat beside her as she told him in a whisper that she could not perform the instructions of the third wise man because she could not even get out of bed, or summon the voice or the will to say the words in the way he had recommended. So he read the words to her and together they put together some questions, which they attached to a copy of the text and sent it to the third wise man. That done, they turned their attention to pulling the text apart until the world it created became no more than a collection of letters, randomly assembled so that they told of another world with new possibilities of interpretation. When they had done this once, they rearranged the letters again, and again – and again, each time creating a different world resplendant with new meaning.

The next day, which was the 6th day, they received a reply.

Woman,

‘It is good that you understand some of the text. The bits that you question you do not understand. I have rearranged the words for you so that they they actually say THIS instead.’ And the text had become a different and new arrangement of the previous version of the text, just as the woman and the fool had been able to accomplish themselves by rearranging the letters on the page. ‘But most importantly, you must understand that my version of the words is now the correct one. You must simply believe in these words. You must have faith and trust because they are the right words because I say they are the right words.

Sincerely

The third wise man

Ps are you reciting them as and when I prescribed?’

That night the fool hugged her in the silence of the twinkling stars, and in the drumming of the rain, and in the wail of the wind.

On the 7th day, the woman, who was now sitting up in bed warming herself in the sunshine and eating soup made by the fool, the woman with warmth in her cheeks, despite having a space where her heart should have been, the woman said to the fool “Do you believe the words can make us happy?”

“Good question” said the fool and told her a Yo Mumma joke. She laughed, despite its lack of political correctness.

The woman continued. “The words that the third wise man gave to me are sometimes too hard to understand.” She went on. “They confuse me and they make me feel afraid because I do not understand. Some of them I can’t believe because they tell of things of which I have no experience. Now he has confused me even further because he swore by the validity of the first version of the text he gave me. Now he has changed it but the message is still that I just have to trust and have faith in what the words tell me.”

“Ahurb’dy hurb’dy” chortled the fool.

The week came to the start of the next week and the third wise man and his mean assistant returned to receive thanks from the cured woman. The mean assistant approached ahead of his master. The fool stood in the doorway.

“Fool, you are in my way. Get out of it!” The mean assistant shoved him in the chest. The fool sprang back a large pace at his punch but returned back to the doorway with an alacrity that surprised both the wise man and his mean assistant. The mean assistant took out the fool’s leg from underneath him but the fool managed to execute a perfect backflip in the air and landed not one inch from where he had stood before. Enraged, the mean assistant fell upon the fool with blows, kicks and bites. The fool became a blur with the mean assistant so that you could not tell where one finished and the other ended. A cloud of dust engulfed the two men.

The third wise man and the woman cried out for the fool to spare the mean assistant. It was all happening so quickly, and the roars of the mean assistant suddenly turned to strange high pitched squeals. As the dust began to clear, it became apparent that the mean assistant was laughing and that he was laughing because the fool was tickling him in all the tickliest tickle spots that a human body possesses. Nobody seemed to notice that in place of the pieces of paper with the words written upon them were soft flakes floating down like pieces of ash from a blazing fire that crumbled into atoms when trod upon or brushed away.

“Stop! Stop it, stop! Please!” The mean assistant panted. The fool released the assistant and went to pour him a glass of water. The third wise man stepped forward to help the gasping assistant take the drink and ushered him away, chuckling also and patting his back.

The woman meanwhile was on her feet, out of bed holding her hand over where her heart should be. She turned her face to the fool, mouth agape with surprise, eyes shining with tears.

“There is no lump, there is no space, there’s a beat!” She said.

“There always was, you fool,” said the fool swinging his shovel to the floor and trying to heap great spadefuls of the soft grey ash, which crumbled to atoms as he tried to remove it. “You just didn’t believe it. You don’t need the special exercises, the herbs or the words. You just need to listen to your beating heart and keep shoveling, every day. Your shovel can be full of daisies or it can be full of dust, it’s up to you.”

The woman looked down into her hand as a  penny dropped into the centre of her palm. She turned to look at her pillow, which was covered in daisies . “Oh and go get a job….” She heard the fool say. She swung round with a big smile to thank the fool, but he was gone.

The door swung gently on its hinges and a shiny shovel leant against the frame, with the evening sun glinting on its bright, shiny surface, in a most bedazzling way.