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MARTIN
 

"I may be poor," thought the old fisherman, "but I get to go fishing every day. " And, that made the old man smile.

But, it didn't always make his wife smile - especially if he didn't catch something that day. "Four days! Four days with no fish!" she cried. "How do you expect me to prepare a meal if you don't bring me any fish?"

And then, it was day five. However, day five was no ordinary day. Yes, the old man returned home with no fish, but it was no ordinary day, as his wife soon found out! "Five days! Five days with no fish!" she screamed.

"Before you go on," interrupted the old fisherman, "let me tell you about my day."

"Let me tell you about five days with no fish!" answered the old woman.

"Actually, there was one fish," said the fisherman, "a beautiful golden fish. Believe it or not, this fish spoke to me! He said if I threw him back into the sea that I would get a reward."

"So, husband, what did you do?"

"Of course, I threw him back so I could get the reward."

"Now, what kind of reward did you ask for?" demanded the wife.

"Nothing."

"Nothing! I don't see a reward! I don't see any fish! And, I don't see any supper!" cried the wife. "I only see a fool! Don't you see that we have no food in the kitchen cupboard? There isn't so much as a scrap of bread or cheese. Didn't you think to ask for something to eat? Now, get yourself back to the sea and ask that fish about a reward!"

And, that is just what he did.

The fisherman went down to the sea. He cupped his hands over his mouth and called out, "Reward me now, oh, golden fish, and grant me now my simple wish."

The golden fish jumped from the water's edge, light shimmering off his scales, before splashing in the water at the old man's feet. "I gave my word, and that is true, so what reward may I grant you?"

"My wife said that I must tell you about our kitchen cupboards. We don't even have any bread or cheese. And since I didn't bring you home with me, we have nothing to eat."

The fish smacked his tail against the water. Then he said, "Go home now, fisherman. I have kept my promise." Before the fisherman could say anything else, with a flick of his tail, the golden fish was gone.

It was a long walk back home for the old fisherman. "Have I been fooled twice in one day?" he thought. But, all doubts disappeared when he saw the smile on his wife's face. "Husband!" she cried. "We have full cupboards! I've never seen so much bread and cheese in all of my life! Come and feast with me!"

There was so much feasting! The old fisherman had never seen his wife so happy. And, that made the old man smile. But, it may come as no surprise, the old woman soon tired of bread and cheese.

"Old man," she cried, "you really should have received a better reward."

"What do you mean, wife?" asked the old fisherman. "We still have enough bread and cheese to last us for days. We've never had so much food!"

"Well, you should have asked for more!" insisted the old woman. "Look at our house! It's no better than a pigsty and all you asked for was some bread and cheese!"

"But, you wanted bread and cheese!" exclaimed the old fisherman.

"And now I'm telling you to ask that golden fish for the kind of reward you should have had in the first place. Go back and demand a nicer home!"

And, that is just what he did.

Once again the fisherman went down to the sea. Once again he cupped his hands over his mouth and called out, "Reward me now, oh, golden fish, and grant my wife her second wish."

Once again the golden fish jumped from the water's edge, light shimmering off his scales, before splashing in the water at the old man's feet. "I gave my word, and that is true, what second wish may I grant you?"

"My wife said that I must tell you about our house. She said it's nothing better than a pigsty. She says I made a mistake when I asked for food and this is the kind of reward I really deserve."

Once again the fish smacked his tail against the water. Then once again he said, "Go home now, fisherman. I have kept my promise." Before the fisherman could say anything else, with a flick of his tail, once again the golden fish was gone.

The walk home wasn't so long this time. The old fisherman trusted the golden fish. He knew there would be a better home awaiting him. However, he wasn't prepared for the grand home that the golden fish had granted him. His wife was absolutely delighted as she ran out the door to greet him. And that made the old man smile. But, it may come as no surprise, the old woman soon tired of her big house.

"It's too much for me to clean," she moaned. "Yes, we have enough bread and cheese to eat. But, I spend the rest of my day cleaning this huge home."

"But, it's what you wished for," said the old fisherman.

"And it's all your fault," snapped the wife. "You didn't give me time to clearly think about this. Now I know exactly what I want. Go back to that golden fish and get yourself a proper reward this time."

"I'm almost afraid to ask what that might be," replied the man.

"It's quite simple," explained the old woman. "Go back to that fish and tell him I want to be queen of the land. I want a palace filled with lots of servants. Lots of them! Now, go and get it right this time."

And, that is just what he did.

For the third time the fisherman went down to the sea. For the third time, he cupped his hands over his mouth and called out, "Reward me now, oh, golden fish, my wife has made another wish."

For the third time the golden fish jumped from the water's edge, light shimmering off his scales, before splashing in the water at the old man's feet. "I gave my word, and that is true, so what reward may I grant you?"

"My wife said that I didn't give her enough time to correctly think about the reward. Now she wants to have a palace with lots of servants and to be queen of the land."

For the third time, the fish smacked his tail against the water. Then he said, "Go home now, fisherman. I have kept my promise." Before the fisherman could say anything else, with a flick of his tail, the golden fish was gone.

The old man shook his head as he walked home this time. "The golden fish truly has kept his word. Every time I've talked to him, he's granted my wish. But, I just don't know what to expect when I get home."

The fisherman had good reason to be concerned. Sure enough, a palace awaited him where lots and lots of servants bustled about. In the middle of the grand hall was a golden throne. And, sitting on her throne in her royal gown with a golden crown, the queen looked down at the old fisherman in disgust.

"Old fisherman, this is a royal palace filled with the finest jewelry, gold and treasures. You, however, look like someone who lives in a pigsty. You do not belong in my palace. Go find some pigs to live with!"

And the old man smiled. "At least the pigs are not going to make ridiculous demands," he thought. "There's nothing happier than a pig in a mud hole."

It may come as no surprise, but the old queen soon became bored. She sent servants to find her husband. Although none of the servants wanted to get mud on their new clothing, even more than that, none of them wanted to upset the queen. So, the old fisherman was escorted from the pigsty to the throne room. As they hurried to clean up, the servants still heard the queen scream, "This is all your fault!"

"Whatever do you mean, my queen?" asked the old fisherman.

"I mean that I don't have a big enough kingdom. Go back to that fish and tell him I want to be queen of the sea too! I want all the fish to bow down before me."

"I'm not sure the golden fish is going to like that request," replied the old man.

"I am sure it is not a request," snapped the queen. "It is a royal decree."

"As you wish, my queen."

And, that is just what he did.

Yet again the fisherman went down to the sea. Yet again, he cupped his hands over his mouth and called out, "Reward me now, oh, golden fish, my wife has changed her royal wish."

But this time, no golden fish jumped from the water's edge.

So one more time the fisherman cupped his hands over his mouth and called out, "Reward me now, oh, golden fish, my wife has changed her royal wish. She wants to rule the ocean blue . . ."

And this time, no light shimmered off golden scales.

One more time the fisherman cupped his hands over his mouth and called out, "Reward me now, oh, golden fish, my wife has changed her royal wish. She wants to rule the ocean blue, o'er everyone -- including you!"

And this time, the old fisherman was not surprised that there was no splash of water at his feet. Along the horizon, the old man thought he saw a flick of a golden tail, and then it was gone.

The old fisherman shook his head all the way back to the palace. "My wife is going to be so angry. I'm just not sure what will happen."

And, there was no way the fisherman could have expected what he found back at the palace. There was no palace. There were no servants bustling about. There was no throne or crown or bread or cheese. He only saw a rundown home, not much better than a pigsty, and his wife standing on the front porch.

"You lazy fisherman!" she cried. "What do you think you are doing, returning home with nothing for us to eat? I may not be dressed like a queen anymore, but I am queen of this house. And, I am certainly your queen! Now turn around this very instant and go get us some fish for supper."

And, that made the old man smile.

MARTIN
Copyright 2011 by Phillip Martin All rights reserved.