This is an allegory , a short story for kids and adults about saving the oceans, giving up shark fins soup,being woke to climate change .After a year with the pandemic and tumultous shifts from racial profiling to a bad Presidential breakup,I was longing for talking fish and I hope you are too.The lead shark character is inspired by my music manager,Mishal Varma who used to be Senior Vice President MTV Asia.In the story,he meets a mermaid.
Chapter one “WHOSE YOUR DADDY?" Once upon a time,deep in the ocean near the island of Oahu there was a village of Fish In the village there was a cafe,a post office,a shopping Mall,The Coral Mall,Fish Schools And Colleges, a supermarket and an outdoor street market where Fish kids would run around as their mothers bought kelp and worms, sheets of plankton and things for all the lovely cottages made of seashells and driftwood for the families. In town there were fish offices for many trades.”Salmon to look after me” was a day care for babies,”Harry Halibut,C.U. COD,And L.Lobster LLM was a law firm,a ballet school called Tutu Tilapia and the local newspaper which had been in the family of a Shark called Mishal Shark. He was the chief Editor and he owned “The Fish Times” He had many cub reporters and some senior staff,the distinguished News Editor Joshua Calimari or JC as everyone called him and a phlegmatic elder Eel,E.E.Bass,the sports and IT Editor.Everyone doubled up doing foreign News.This was anything from whale migration to Dolphin gossip.
Everyday,Mishal would talk to his team about what they were writing. One little clownfish was very eager to speak to him one morning. “Mmmi Mish Mishal (he had the cutest stutter)I heard my Friend Coco The Clownfish is having a meltdown down by the reef.Theyve been firing all the clownfish from the construction site be be be Cause.” The Shark looked up “Yeah? “ he said because the Clownfish had simply stopped. “Because they’re too small for the job.Coco is he He he head of the Fishheads Union.And And he won’t Tay Tay Tay take it.Anymore.He’s got three kids in college.And he’s paying alimony”. The Boss was chomping on his signature Havana cigar.We have no idea how this works under water. “I heard he was paying alimony” he said as encouragement. “And he has a heart condition” Fred chimed. “He may not want to mention that to the Contractors er Union,for now” “Right right!” Said Fred frowning.”The Contractors” And he stopped again. “Union” said Mishal.”Look, Calm him down with these seaweed snacks,first,Fred” he said handing a bunch of seaweed snacks to Fred. “Tha Tha fishthanks Boss! I’m on it!” And off he went,fins at double speed. A lovely Angel fish swam slowly by the boss’s desk. “ Beauty Editor of Vanity Fish just called about the New Year’s Eve ball this year.Apparently,the theme is “Crustaceans are Cuddlers” Mishal took his cigar out of his mouth. “Exactly!” Said Angel “Who knows what that means?” And she high fived the Boss as he said “Well,check it out” Angel was very dependable.She wore a lot of pantsuits for a hippie dippy fish but she knew everybody.And it was always Friday when she wore her anchor necklace;a huge gold thing which she’d blown her first pay packet on at “Fishhi”the Gucci Of Oceanah.
For a man eater,the Boss was pretty calm.He attributed it to the fact that he was a Vegan.He wore tee shirts around the office;ordered nice sofas and had piped jazz playing on unseen speakers all the time. The other Sharks were not crazy about the Veganism.” What’s that about? Like an infection?” Said Bill,a bullshark. “What’s with all this ‘plant based diet Mishal? We’re sharks.” Said Bill on the treadmill at the gym “Not sheep” “Have some seaweed,Bill.You need to chill.I ordered online for you.” Mishal would say.”And take some for the kids”. “Online.I get it” Bill Said and turned up the speed on the treadmill.”Excuse me while I take this call” he said.Which was what Bill always said when he disagreed with his Best Friend. At Fish Times,the scholar reporter was a decorated nerd who’d graduated Swimmer Cum Laude from Scale law;the Ivy League Reef college.But wanted to write not practice. Tim was the kind of Tuna who would have made a great lunch except he was too smart for that. He was writing an op ed on the perils of whale hunting in the arctic. He had a habit of walking around the room with his laptop crooked in his left elbow and only pushing up his spectacles after he’d said something fabulously startling like “ The weather guys are suggesting that with these typhoons,it’s going to get harder for the whaling boats.So if we can get that schedule to the Whales they’ll know when they can come up for,you know.Air” Tim would get a round of applause from the newsroom,push up his glasses and then give a punchline which would make any wannabe wildlife conservationist donate “Anything for,you know, Airtime” he said,blandly. The Boss called him “Scale Law” “Hey Scale Law,don’t talk just type” Tim flashed the kind of grin Tuna Mother in laws would give their Pearls for. Just then a young Cod named Coolio appeared with 8 plankton pizza boxes in each hand. The Shark smiled,showing his pearly teeth for the first time today. “I never knew a plankton pizza I didn’t like” he said to Coolio. “you know our tag line well,Mr.S,’ we’re fresh out of pepperoni’” Angel rolled her eyes and signed for the pizza. “Whose YOUR Daddy?” She said to Coolio. Chapter 2 “This is going to be awesome” After lunch,Fred came back to the office beaming. “Boss Boss Fish School is closing for the holidays.And and Guess who wants a holiday job with us? “Tell me” said Mishal “Miss Melba,the Mermaid. “She teaches at the school.” The Shark raised an eyebrow. “I don’t hire Teachers,Fred” “But but She’s swoony hot,I mean I’m kinda swoony around her and she’s hot.I mean cold,cool.She,Sh sh sh sh” And he started to stammer “ she.She Shimmers” he finally blurted out.”She wa wa wa wants to meet you” Fred’s enthusiasm was sometimes the best part of the day. “Well have her come by and we’ll see what we can do” “This” said Fred dashing for the glass doors “is going to be Awesoooome”
Chapter 3 Later,From his glass walled office (with no ceiling) Mishal Shark saw Fred the Clownfish talking to a human. She was Swimming toward the office.There was a cloud of shimmering light which followed her. “She has a tail” he said out loud. The water became very bright and silvery as they approached.Mishal got up from his chair,cigar still firmly clamped between his teeth. The mermaid had Long dark hair almost to her knees.It billowed as she swam with Fred.When she came closer,he noticed her eyes were flecked with Silver.Her lips were Like the coral at the reefs.From her hips,the silver scalloped scales hugged her body like a glove. And then he saw it.A tail the size of a table for ten with all the colours of the rainbow fanning out behind her. In fact,Mishal had never met a mermaid before. He was a workaholic.Just came to work earlier than everyone else and was always the last to leave after putting the paper to bed. Melba was breathtaking. His first instinct was to clamp down on her mid section and shake her.But she began to speak. When she did,silver lazer lights darted out of her eyes.It was the weirdest thing. “Hi.I’m Melba.” ZZZZZ ,ZZZZZ.The room blazed as his cheeks buzzed from the light. You must be Mr.Mishal.Shark” “It’s just Mishal” he said and the chomped cigar fell out of his mouth! Fred caught it with a shriek “Oh Fishcakes B-b-Boss”He placed the cigar in Mishal’s fin. Melba laughed softly.Not a mean laugh but one which broke the ice. “Are those Cuban?” She drawled. “Yes,I have a friend swim Me these from Havana when he goes for the Muddy Gras” “There’s a Mermaid Contingent there.One day I will take part” said Melba and her tail made a swoosh like hook sending shivers of light up her body. The sand turned to pale green glitter.
“This one belongs to the follies begere Of Mermaids.” He thought.She was sultry and salty and those silver lazer beams from her eyes were giving the eels a run for their money.” “Geez honey,Angel said holding a Mug “I bet YOU get a lot of Math done at school” He forgot what he was going to say. “Yeah Boss” “Lai Lai lai like. I said.Melba wants a holiday jjjjob” “What stories would you write about?” “Well I was hoping to write about fashion.I Know some designers,they’re dolphins.They run an atelier called Dolphin Dolls with the cutest outfits and accessories. We could get the girls to wear some of their stuff at the water park and take nice pictures.It would help to sell the clothes. “So a couple of fashion and beauty pages huh?” Said Mishal “D-uh” said Angel,fake arranging the stuff on his desk.She’d inserted herself into the office. Melba gazed at him,so grateful for a chance to write. And four silver lazerslivers shot out from her eyes and lanced his cheeks stinging like static.Shockwaves of pleasure. “Oh I’m sorry.It happens when I get excited about something” “See I’d like to do that.Just shoot that stuff from my eyes” said Angel as the air rearranged itself. “Kind Of Like Zorro the Fish” Fred chimed “You know Zorro? He rides a huge Seahorse named Tonto.Nnnnnever mind” “She must have broken alot of Mermans hearts” he thought “No no.Just one.But he died”said Melba “What?”Mishal said “Oh didn’t i Tell you?? we can Hear what youre thinking” “Whatever.Mr.S” said Angel waving as she left the room. Melba’s hair suddenly fanned Away from her face with An incoming current and Mishal found himself staring at the place where her body met the rainbow scales.An inverted cockle shell for a belly button then days of blue,green and pink shimmer. And then she smiled.Quite the most expensive thing he’d seen in his life. She lit up the office. “It’s like telepathy.I heard you think” “I’m sorry about your Friend” he said.”What happened?” “He followed a treasure boat out to sea because they’d taken alot of things from his island.But the current was too strong and he was caught in the engines.It was a long time ago.Now he just speaks to me in my head” “wha wha wha what does does he ssssay?” They both were suddenly aware of the Clownfish. She fixed her gaze on the little one and said lightly “Oh this and that” she said as she stroked his head. Fred closed his eyes.And opened them once Mishal had shoved him with the back of his tail. “Fishsauce” he mumbled,stumbling on the Director’s chair in Mishal’s office. Mishal was now unsure what to think or say in case she could hear everything.Which she could. So he focused on jellyfishcake. “Jellyfishcake?” She asked “May I take you to my favourite Fishbakery sometime? She makes pretty good jellyfishcake”.Then he looked down at his phone. “Um,I’d love that” and she lowered her eyes before 2 silver slivers would have sliced his cheekbones. “Great.” His voice got loud and expansive and she knew the meeting was over. They said goodbye. When she swam off fast he stared after that cloud of silver and rainbow and fairy dust light and her body swimming in an “S”.She made swirls of light with her tail.
She knew he was looking at her.Near the Reef Cafe,She turned in the water and waved to him as slowly as her hair moved.
“I think she Lai Lai La
i likes you Boss” said Fred waving frantically. Mishal did not wave back.He lifted his head.Then he turned to his friend and said “What do you think mermaids eat for breakfast,Fred?” “ I dunno Boss,” said the little one “Egg White omelettes and oatmeal.Seaweed salad.You know,” And he sank into a chair staring at a photo of Melba on his Ifishphone “the usual”