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The Dirty Fish

Story by Joseph Razon

(Slightly!) edited and illustrations by Annie Kiyonaga

Once upon a time, in the dark depths of the ocean many thousand of feet down, there was a fish. Where he lived, there was barely any light that came through from the surface. He could only see the faint outline of other fish that occupied these depths.

When he would talk to the other fish about how sad and depressing this gloomy space was that they inhabited, they all would reply the same way. “Well this is where we belong,” they would say. “We were made to live in these parts of the ocean. It is all we know. Our scales are dark because that is how we were created. Why would we need to be colorful and stunning when there is no one to appreciate it? Accept what you are. It will be easier on you.”

But the fish couldn’t accept that was the case. All his life he had only known these deep reaches of the sea. But as he swam around, nothing ever felt that familiar. He wondered who he really was and why he was destined to be here. And, how come he had no memory of when he came into being and to whom he really belonged?

When the fish would bring up this feeling of disconnection, the other fish would all reply the same way.

“In these dark depths,” they would explain, “ones memory of where one began or came from begins to fade into the darkness itself. Its only normal to forget when one can barely see. Look at how dark you are. It must be the case that you belong here. Accept what you are.”

After being told this many times, the fish just simply kept on swimming the same looping circles he had only ever known. But his feeling of frustration and unacceptance continued to grow. He would swim faster and faster around his home until, finally, one day when he couldn’t hold back any longer. Suddenly, he swam off into an unknown direction as fast as he could. He didn’t care where it led him or what waited for him in the far off sea. He just kept on swimming.

And then it happened.


Suddenly, the fish was catapulted into a wicked current that shot him at a rocket speed upward. The fish could not see where he was going, but he could feel layers of his body coming off as he went. Piece by piece, bits of dirt and mud were torn off the fish’s body to expose more and more of his true nature; until finally, the current spit the fish out into an unknown place. As the fish came to and opened his eyes, he couldn’t even imagine what he saw. Colors of every shade and shape danced before him. Teams of beautiful and majestic fish darted around playing, while soft, gentle weeds swayed. And then he looked at himself. Colors bounced off throughout his body due to the sun’s rays. The fish glowed in a way he could never have believed possible. When the other fish noticed him, they came up to him to say hello.

The fish asked where he was and the other fish replied, “Look at your beautiful scales. You are where you belong. But you’ve been gone a while. Where have you been?!”

The fish replied, “I lost my way for a time, but that’s all below me now”.

With a smile the other fish nodded. And all together, they danced.

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