River Wissey Lovell Fuller

The Tail of a Famous Fish

January 2009

A tongue in cheek story for the New Year.

Once upon a time there was a family of sticklebacks living somewhere in the river Wissey. One day, Ma stickleback was really worried - her youngest son Jimmy was missing. He had always been a difficult child and defied all her instructions but he had never been gone away so long before. He had been told lots of times not go beyond the sharp bend in the river and that the sunken tree in the other direction was also out of bounds. He never seemed to listen and was so reckless that he was dangerous!

When he went out with his friends they would often dare him to swim within inches of the old jack pike that lived under the over-hanging bank. They were a bad influence on him and several of his mates had already been eaten up attempting the very same thing but this did not frighten Jimmy - he just always had to be the centre of attention. If he went beyond the sunken tree there was an eddy and he thought it great fun to swim there and to be shaken about in the turbulent water. This was his most favourite thing in the whole world. The other no-go area beyond the bend was very shallow and attracted all the young people from the village. Sometimes they fished there and it was said that sticklebacks would then often disappear. But this didn't worry Jimmy as he would swim right round the bend and even try to touch the bare feet of the children as they paddled. Jimmy would then return home and boast to everyone how brave he was. In fact he was a little sod and his mother didn't know what to do with him.

Unbeknown to his mother, earlier that day, he had swum right round the bend. The children were on their school holidays and several of them had been fishing with nets on sticks. They had made a lot of noise, which scared all the fish away except for Jimmy who, as always, just didn't care! Alas all of a sudden he was swooped up in a net and was put in a jam jar. His capture attracted a lot of attention. The boys and girls often caught snails and insects but every fish was a special treat.

For the first time ever Jimmy was really frightened. He swam round and round but couldn't escape. He swam faster and faster but he just got dizzy. Then he swam even faster and lost consciousness and floated to the top of the jam jar. The children tried to revive him by stirring the water up with a stick. They stirred it so fast that when he did recover be felt so sick and floated to the top again. There he remained gasping away. Fortunately for him the children got bored with stirring and anyway thought he was dead so they threw him back into the river. He drifted away on the top of the surface for several minutes and eventually all life returned to him. He felt really terrible and it took him ages before he realised he was going in the wrong direction. Then instinct took over and he turned around and swam back towards home. He swam and swam. It took a very long time, as he was so exhausted. Eventually his surroundings became familiar and when he saw several fish he knew and they all said that his family thought he was lost forever. When he did find his mum she gave him a real telling off and to her surprise he didn't say a single word.

Now, several years on, Jimmy has become world famous and has even starred in cinema films. He calls his mum 'M' for short and refers to himself by his full name - James. He even has 'Never Say Die' tattooed on his tail. He is still a big adventurer and he still likes to swim beyond the sunken tree but he never ever swims beyond the bend anymore. He always remembers that dreadful experience in a jam jar and when friends dare him to do things he simply says he'd rather be 'shaken but not stirred!'

Shirley Knott

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