Be Very Careful What You Wish For
Updated: Feb 7
Sometimes we really should listen to the crone. She possesses more life experience and it may be that she can bring wisdom to a situation where we have been blinded by our own greed.
In other words, I've finished another fairy tale rewrite.
The Fisherman and the Magic Fish
Once upon a time, a fisherman lived near the bayou with his wife of many years. The two were poor but they'd always been content with their simple life and their love for one another.
The fisherman, Pierre Lebeau, went out in his rickety old pirogue every morning, intent on catching enough fish to feed himself and his wife, Marcella. On his good days, he caught extra which his wife would sell in the local market, along with any extra vegetables from their small garden.
Recently his wife's elderly mother, Evette Marchand, had come to live with them as she'd found it increasingly difficult to live on her own. The extra mouth had put a bit of a strain on their resources so his wife and her mother had started a small baking business bringing muffins and fresh bread to the market along with their vegetables.
When Pierre Lebeau, left in the early pre-dawn hours on this particular morning, he felt out of sorts. His wife had been too busy making muffins to send him off with a nice hot breakfast. He found he didn't like this new arrangement but didn't have any ideas on what else they could do to make sure that they all had enough.
His thoughts drifted as he floated into a less familiar area of the bayou. The banks were filled with the early blooms of beautiful purple irises. He felt his mood begin to lift as he felt a tug upon his pole. Eagerly, he struggled with the fish on his line.
At last, he pulled the fish to the surface and gazed in open-mouthed wonder at the large, sparkly fish that emerged from the cloudy depths.
The fish struggled ineffectively for a moment before it met the eyes of Pierre. To his astonishment, the fish began to talk, "Greetings, fisherman," the fish said, "I am a magical fish and if you release me, I promise to grant your dearest wishes."
Pierre stared for a few moments, trying to process the words of the fish.
The fish continued, "My name is Augustin. If you return to this spot and call to me, I will come. Then, say the words 'I wish' and I will grant your wishes."
His hands shaking, Pierre reached to cut the fish loose. The thought of having his every wish granted danced uncontrollably in his mind, not that he'd be willing to eat a talking fish in any case.
"You're being serious and honest with me?" Pierre asked uncertainly as the fish began to swim slowly away.
"I am," the fish assured him gravely. "And, I thank you for my freedom."
When he reached home, Pierre couldn't wait to share the momentous event with his wife. He pulled her away from the stove and insisted that she sit at the table with him. Her eyes widened as he told her about his adventure.
"You can wish for anything you want?" his wife asked in astonishment.
Pierre assured her that that is what the fish had said. The two began talking and planning, their wishes spiraling larger and more grandiose with every passing moment.
"You will wish for nothing," ordered Evette Marchand, his mother-in-law, as she shuffled slowly into the room. "Magic always has unforeseen consequences."
"Not wish for anything?" Pierre said in disbelief. "We could have a big house and servants. We could be young and beautiful. We can have anything we want."
Evette Marchand shook her head. She pulled the forgotten overcooked loaf of bread out of the oven.
"Every wish comes with an unexpected cost," she elaborated, "Wish for wealth and a big house, your cousin suddenly loses his job and his house burns down. Wish for youth and beauty, your niece will sicken."
She dropped the burnt loaf on the table with a grunt. "The fates always balance the scales and the cost is always higher than you want to pay."
Pierre Lebeau frowned at his mother-in-law as his wife, Marcella looked suddenly concerned.
"You don't know what you're talking about," he growled. He picked up his hat from the corner and started lacing his boots back up.
"Pierre, maybe we should think about this some more," Marcelle began thoughtfully.
"I'm done talking and thinking," Pierre shouted back. "I'm tired of living in this shack and not having two pennies to rub together, and I am definitely sick of your crone of a mother."
With that, he strode out the door and headed back out toward his pirogue barely noticing that the coolness of the morning had shifted into the heat of early afternoon. Still shaking with anger, he began to row his pirogue out toward the part of the bayou where he'd met the fish that very morning.
As he rowed, his temper began to cool and he thought long and hard about what his mother-in-law had said. Maybe there was something in there. He rowed a little more slowly as he schemed in his mind. By the time he reached his fishing spot of the early morning, Pierre believed that he'd come up with the perfect wish.
Tentatively, Piere called out, "Augustin? I'm ready to make a wish."
After a few moments, the sparkling fish reappeared near the pirogue.
"How can I help you, Pierre Lebeau?" the fish asked. "What wish can I grant you?"
Pierre smiled a little slyly. "What I want," said Pierre, "what I wish for is to have the power to grant wishes."
The fish regarded him carefully. Slowly, the fish asked, "You are wishing for the power to grant wishes?"
Pierre felt a sense of satisfaction. If he possessed the power to grant the wishes, then there didn't need to be negative consequences to any wishes. He'd found the loophole.
Impatiently, he repeated to the fish, "I wish for the power to grant wishes."
"So be it," said the fish. He shook his tale three times and a swirling cloud of magical energy encircled Pierre and the fish. Pierre felt himself floating up over the boat as he and the fish were caught up in the magical forces.
The magical energy began to circle faster and faster and Pierre found himself losing consciousness as the energy moved faster than he could comprehend.
At last, Pierre began to return to himself. He shook himself, feeling confused and muddled. Why do I feel weird, and wet? he wondered. He reached out with his hands intending to stretch but realized that he had no hands. He opened his eyes and everything appeared strange and distorted in his vision.
He began flopping around in his growing panic, noticing that what had been his legs seemed to sparkle with his movements.
"Calm down, Pierre," a human voice sounded from the distance above him.
Pierre managed to focus, slowing down his movements. Gazing in the direction of the voice, he realized that he was gazing at himself, or at least, who he'd been. He was looking up at his old self, sitting in his own pirogue.
"You have no idea how long I had to wait for someone to wish for wishes," the new Pierre said from inside his new Pierre suit. "I was stuck in that fish body for years and years."
"I don't understand," Pierre sputtered from his new fish body. "Why am I a fish?"
"Only magical fish and djinnis possess the power to grant wishes, and never for themselves." The new Pierre smiled broadly. "Don't worry though, I'm sure you won't have to wait too long for someone to make the same mistake I did, and well, that you did."
"So you're just going to take over my life?" the old Pierre asked feeling a wave of despair. Would Marcella even realize that he wasn't he any longer?
"Certainly not," the new Pierre responded, sounding horrified. "I've had enough of fish and water to last me the rest of your natural life."
"What about my wife and her mother?" the old Pierre asked desperately. "What will they do for food?"
The new Pierre laughed. "Not my problem." He gave the old Pierre a saucy wink and began to row the pirogue away. "I've always wanted to learn to play the saxophone. Maybe I'll move to New Orleans and start a Jazz band."
The old Pierre watched helplessly as the new Pierre rowed away in his pirogue, suddenly aware that in his new fish body, he couldn't even cry over his new miserable situation.