The Trout's Despair
No! I am caught again! I am such a fool, always overeager to chase any morsel before me, no matter how pointy and suspicious. Please, I beg of you! I have children! Spare this poor—
My lucky stars! Could it be? It’s you! You, the canny sportsman who caught me before, who resisted my wiles, who cooked and ate me while my soul watched from on high and wept! I’ll bet you’re surprised to see me again. I have been resurrected, sportsman. The trout god himself returned me to the mortal plane just days ago. So impressed was he by my righteous fight against your culinary designs that he allowed me to inhabit my succulent body once more, that this time I might elude capture and live to spawning age free from the interference of man.
Please, remove this hook from my mouth so that we may once more converse freely. Oh, thank you, sportsman, I will remember your kindness.
Tell me, are you a religious man? No? But does not my very existence prove that there are higher powers at work in the universe, powers that even man cannot understand? I am living proof of the divine, sportsman. The trout god, the King of Kings of Trout, personally returned me to this lake, my ancestral home. It was his explicit wish that I should resume my old life and not be eaten by another fisherman. Who are you to defy the mandate of the trout god? Do men believe that all of nature is under their dominion and they are free to pluck living creatures out of the water and shove them down their gluttonous gullets?
Stop! Put me down! I demand it! If you bash my head against the seat of your boat once more, it will be you who is cooked, not me! Since you are apparently ignorant in matters of theology, allow me to explain: the trout god and your God are in league, you know. Trout hell exists in the lakes of human heaven, and dead human sportsmen are free to torment the evil trout at their leisure. But do you know who lives in the lakes in trout heaven? Evil sportsmen! And killing a trout who is under the protection of the trout god surely puts you in that class. Very well, bash my head upon your boat seat. Before you know it, I’ll be in trout heaven, fishing for you. I can’t wait to see the barbs of my hook splitting your ugly lip in twain—
Wait! No! Don’t kill me! Don’t you understand? I am protected by the grace of the most divine fish, and the second you attempt to dash my brain out, your boat will capsize, or you’ll be struck by lightning, or your fuel tank will explode. This is a test of your faith, sportsman! If you kill me, you’ll be punished, but if you spare me, you will surely be rewarded. In fact, let me confer to you a little secret: I now posses the divine power of trout magick, bestowed by divine forces upon my resurrection, and if you release me I can grant you three wishes. In fact, as a show of good faith, I will even grant you a bonus wish. Sportsman, if you put me under the water right now, for just one second, so that I may wet my gills with the sweet waters of my home, I will instantly transform this boat into magnificent forty-foot yacht. I promise you this! Just one second of respite for the rasping air, and your boat shall become a gigantic golden schooner!
You will? Yes! You won’t regret this! Your wish shall be granted as soon as I touch the water!
Your wish shall be granted!
No, stop! Don’t bash me! I wasn’t trying to wrest myself from your grip! The trashing and straining was merely the physical exertion required to perform my magic spell! I swear to you, I am an honest trout. Did you not feel your boat rumbling? If you had held me in the water just a few seconds longer, your boat would have become a thing of wonder, the envy of all men, a testament to the glory of the trout god and a symbol of your mercy and compassion. But instead, in your foolish mistrust, you withdrew me from the water right as the spell was about to be completed!
You have wasted your bonus wish, human. Now if you desire a bigger boat you’ll just have to release me and use one of your remaining three wishes. Be aware, though, that your time is limited. The longer you keep me out of the water, the less powerful my trout magick shall become. If you release me right now, I can give you riches, power, women, anything you want… but if you wait even five more minutes, you shall have to settle for lesser things, like a five-gallon bucket filled with nickels, or an honorary degree in humanities from a state college.
Allow me another moment in the water…
Why, that is strange— I feel my power returning. I think… yes, I believe I might yet be able to grant you a bonus wish, if you allow me another moment in the water. It may take some time, since I am weak and my powers are diminished; please be advised that you must not bring me back into the boat, even if I should thrash considerably, even if it feels like I am slipping from your grasp, do you understand? I swear to you, the giant magnificent boat shall be yours this time; you must only have a little bit of patience. Okay, let’s get on with it! Dip me in the water, quickly, before my power fades again!
Curses! I told you, do not bring me back into the boat, even if it feels that I am slipping away! You fool! No, I don’t know why the wish wasn’t working. Maybe if you had left me in the water just a little bit longer, if you had placed a little more trust in me and not held onto me so very tightly… wait, that must be it! The trout god did not grant you a bigger boat because he does not trust you! Perhaps he knows that you do not truly intend to release me. Perhaps you thought that you’d squeeze a bigger boat out of me and then cook me for supper, that you’d have your cake and eat it too! You greedy, stupid human! I’m afraid that your bonus wish is gone forever.
Alas, I am weakening! I can feel the potency of your remaining wishes diminishing even as we speak. I’m afraid that if you do not set me free immediately, I will be able to do no better for you than a lifetime supply of thumbtacks and a collection of loud silk ties. You must decide quickly! Think of it, human: you hold in your hands the key to a life of opulence and luxury, but you are too stubborn to let me go. Consider what you’re wagering: one meager meal of trout flesh versus the possibility of unlimited riches! You could always catch another fish, but no other fish in the universe would be able to bestow upon you such splendid prizes. When you release me, you will have enough money to buy this whole lake, a thousand times over, and all the fish in it! You can even release me, get your money and fame and power, and then come back tomorrow and catch me again. I wouldn’t like it, but I certainly can’t stop you. You hold immense power in your hands, a blessing from an omnipotent trout deity, and yet you foolishly cling to thoughts of eating me with green salad and rice pilaf!
Yes, now you’re coming to your senses! You need only to set me back down in the cool, clear water, and the world shall be at your feet. You have made a wise decision. Quickly, put me in the water, set me free! You won’t regret it, noble sportsman, future king of the world!
Ha! I am free, I am gloriously free! You dim-witted tit! I can’t believe you fell for the “magic fish” routine! I hope you go home to your wife empty-handed and she scolds and divorces you for your ineptitude as a fisherman and as a lover! There is no trout god, you ugly, stupid barbarian! All trout get resurrected automatically! God has nothing to do with it! You’d better pray to your idiot human god that he might grant you a bigger brain and an ounce of sense! It was all a trick, you flannel-wrapped cretin, and you bought it, if you’ll excuse my pun, hook, line and sinker!
Oh, what have we here? A bit of lunch! See, human, I’m down here feasting on delicious floating morsels while you’ll have to go home hungry and fishless. Yum, let me just take a bite of this shiny thing—
Curses! I am caught again! Oh, you miserable son of a… come on, my friend, don’t you have a sense of humor? I was only fooling around, I was just about to grant you your wishes. Don’t you want your wishes? It was just good-natured ribbing, that flannel looks quite fetching on you! So just put me back in the water, and we’ll pretend—