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fish: a person of little emotion or intelligence; a "poor fish".

The clear, early-morning sunlight bathes a small, unkempt pond, overgrown by grasses and weeds around its banks. Though the waters of the pond are murky, we can see through them well enough to know that no fish swim in this pond. The waters are still and mirror reflections of the crisp, blue autumn sky. Years of footsteps, baby-buggies, rollerskates, and bicycles have worn a rough dirt pathway into the grass around the pond, which run along the bank on it's right-hand side. The rumble and exhalations of nearby traffic dispel any notions of an idyllic pastoral setting, betraying rather the hum of suburbia.

Fragments of the crisp, blue, autumn sky and passing clouds are reflected in the still, brown waters of the pond, as is the blurry outline of a small duffel-coated boy, (Tom) of about nine years, whose scraggly dark hair is badly in need of a cut. Tom is holding a length of twine, on which a jamjar is suspended, submerged and barely visible through the brackish waters of the pond.

Suddenly, a half-eaten jam sandwich appears from the sky and splashes into the pond, smashing Tom's watery reflection and sending shockwaves across the heretofore-undisturbed calm of the pond. The heckling laughter and hooting of a small gang of schoolboys erupts a short distance away.

The twine hanging into the pond begins to move as the jamjar is pulled out of the water. Bits of soggy bread are captured with the water in the jar, and some cling to the twine. Tom pulls the jar clear out of the water with a blank expression, unperturbed by the disturbance as he catches hold of the jar and empties its contents back into the pond, pulling soggy bits of bread from the twine. As he is doing this, the gang of schoolboys straggle along the path that runs beside the pond, jostling each other, pointing, laughing and sneering at Tom. Teasing him for being a freak and a loner. They pick up their boisterous way down the path beyond the boy, kicking stones, and pushing each other as they go. One of the boys, Darren, looks back for a moment at Tom, who is calmly lowering his jamjar back into the water.

That evening, Darren lies awake in bed in the semi-darkness of his tiny box-bedroom. The bedroom is dimly lit by a small lamp with a Liverpool FC lampshade sitting on the bedside locker, which casts puddles of light around the room, throwing into relief the pockets of old toy cars, computer games, schoolbooks and clothes which litter the floor. Lying in bed, Darren's head is slightly raised from the pillow, straining to listen. The house is completely silent, except for a deep, wheezy, regular snoring coming from one of the other rooms. In his parent's bedroom, Darren's mother and his big, angry-featured father sleep soundly. His mother sleeps with earplugs in her ears to try to drown out his father's bear-like snoring.

Secure in the knowledge that the coast is clear, Darren carefully, quietly, pulls back the duvet and creeps out of bed, wearing his vest and underpants. He opens his bedside locker very slowly, trying not to make a sound, and takes out a jamjar. Holding it in his hand, he tiptoes across to the door and, wincing, pushes down very gently on the handle. The door opens with the faintest of creaks, and still wincing, he sneaks out into the landing.

A narrow shaft of light escapes through a half-open bathroom doorway across the hall. Darren slips noiselessly, ghost-like, across the darkness and sneaks down the stairs. As he slinks down the stairs, the snoring stalls, stopping Darren dead in his tracks. He holds his breath. For a moment there is complete silence, before the snoring splutters back into its regular nasal drone. Darren visibly relaxes a little, and tiptoes to the bottom of the stairs.

Downstairs, Darren creeps into the living room of their suburban home. The only light entering the room is the orange glow of the streetlights outside through the window. On a black wooden shelving unit to the left of the window, there is a gigantic brandy-glass half filled with water. An exquisite exotic fish swims around a coloured glass ornament buried in the tiny stones that line the bottom of the glass. From the street outside, the sound of a group of teenage boys laughing, talking and kicking a football around can be heard . Darren looks petrified and awe-struck at what he is about to do. The sound of the boys outside the house unnerves him. Without wasting any time, he crosses to the shelving unit, unscrews the lid on the jamjar and, using a little net that is lying on the shelf below, scoops out the fish and plops it into the waiting jamjar. He screws the lid on the jar and puts the net back where he found it. Hearing the boys outside laugh loudly, Darren quickly scurries out of the room, up the stairs, and back into his own bedroom, closing the door behind him.

It is early morning, and our young duffel-coated fisherman, Tom, is walking towards the pond he frequents, down the rough dirt pathway worn into the grass. A few trees are dotted along the pathway, and a small cluster of chestnut trees shelter the opposite bank of the pond. The early morning sun shines through their red, gold, orange, brown and green leaves adding warmth to the otherwise frosty morning. Tom is carrying his schoolbag on his back and his jam-jar fishing net in his wooly-gloved hand. He breaks off the path when he reaches the pond. Taking up his usual position at the edge of the water, he shrugs off his schoolbag, and lowers the jamjar into the water.

The stillness and tranquillity of the early morning settles upon Tom as he stands there. He looks around him at the sunlight coming through the trees. A single leaf falls, twisting down to the ground in the still, clear air. Birds sing in the trees, and the sound of the nearby traffic is low and rhythmical, almost melodic. Out of the corner of his eye, Tom notices something moving in the water. He stares for a few seconds at a tiny circle of ripples which only barely disturbs the surface of the pond, before resuming his dreamy meditations. A bird hops along the path nearby, and he follows its curious behavior for a few moments.

Suddenly he jerks as he feels something tug at the jamjar fishing line, and the bird he had been watching flies away. He looks down into the pond. Another tug at the line sends crazy ripples across the water. Surprised and bewildered, Tom begins to pull up the twine tied around the jam-jar. To his amazement, the jar seems to be moving beneath the water. He pulls it out to clear the water and is totally astonished to see a beautiful, rainbow-coloured exotic fish has been captured in his jar.

He looks around to see if there is anyone around, hiding in the bushes, or waiting to push him into the pond. He takes the jar in his hand and stares in disbelief at the fish. He looks around again, and back at the fish. Realising he is completely alone, he looks at the fish in the jar and smiles. Tom kneels down at the edge of the pond and releases the fish back into the water again and watches the colours dart away.

It is another day, and Tom’s familiar duffel-coated figure stands alone at the edge of another small fishless pond. He holds a length of twine, on which a jamjar is suspended, submerged and barely visible through the brackish waters of the pond.

See also, poor fish

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