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The Wrong Fish

On a beautiful clear bright summer's day a woman sat in her little wooden boat atop a glassy calm sea fishing for her dinner. She was peaceful as she sat very still, her line disappearing into the bottomless blue and her gaze fixed upon the horizon in blissful reverie. The sun smiled warmly on her shoulders as she waited in silence, confident that soon the sea would gift her a fish for her evening meal.

Every day she would come, every day she would wait, her eyes fixed on the place where sky and sea exchanged greeting. She would drop her line into the bountiful depths and wait patiently for a bite. Before long, her wait was ended and as she drew her line from the water, she would pluck her fishy reward from the hook, squirming and silvery as it glistened in the summer sun. She would then place the fish in the woven basket at her feet, as she always did, pack up the line and tackle and row back to shore, where she would haul the boat onto land and make her way back home, as the sun dripped liked molten gold into the sea behind her.

And so it would be on this day too. Later she would pull her boat into line with the others on the beach, left there by fishermen, some of whom she knew very well. She had seen them haul great nets of teeming fish onto their boats, throwing the tiny ones back and taking the rest to feed their families and friends. Many times the others had offered her fish but always she politely declined, 'she would rather catch her own'.

Responding to a firmer than usual tug at the line, the woman heaved her catch onto the boat in a fury of salt spray, as a huge colorful fish flapped about on the hook. It was a heavy rounded fish. Colored stripes adorned its gleaming body and its tail jerked wildly as the creature gasped for air. But the woman was used to these horrors and remained unmoved while she freed the hook from the fish's mouth. She was however, rather surprised to have caught such a fish herself. She had seen its kind trapped in the nets of the others but continued to be content with the modest silvery variety she was accustomed to. It was not usual for this fish to be attracted to a baited line and was rather a rare catch. Nevertheless, failing to be swayed by the mystique of the event she dropped her line once again in the hope of landing something more suitable for dinner, while the fish gasped its last breath and lay still in the woven basket. This she did and satisfied returned to shore with her bounty. As she heaved her boat to safety on the sand, she was hailed by a fisherman who had also returned to land.

"Hello there, friend," the man said in recognition, "How did you fare today?" he asked the woman as he loaded his fish into canvas sacks.

"Fine thank you," said the woman, "I have enough for my dinner, but would you like this one?" She held the colorful fish out to the man offering it to him.

"Oh, well I have one or two of those in may catch already…" he hesitated, "Why not keep it for yourself?"

"Well…" she did not really know why, though it seemed that the fish was much too big for her to eat alone. The woman stalled searching for a reason, until finally she burst out desperately, "Well it's just not me. You take it. Please!"

"As you wish," the man cheerily replied and he picked up the fish by its tail and loaded it into his sack with the rest of the day's catch. Swinging the sacks up onto his back the man thanked her as he trotted down the beach and around the rocks out of sight, whistling as he went.

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