Grade 6, St. McCall Middle School, Winchester
Ms. Higgins, Teacher
“I remember, I remember,” the ancient fish mumbled poking his cane.
“This harbor was a wasteland, terrible place, some things happened that I can’t even talk about, but I will tell you a little story young ones,” he said catching his breath.
“It all started 60 years ago when I was a young weakling, just like you. It had always been a nice harbor, peaceful, calm, not clean but not bad. Then one day in the middle of town at sandiest parlor shop a traveler came in bearing terrible news. He was a clown fish, but this time he was serious. He warned us waving his fins back and forth like a tornado. He said that the storm was coming, a huge monster of blacks, greens and browns. The way he spoke made you shiver to hug your gills in fear. Then he said it was Pol-lu-tion, a word I had heard my parents use only two or three times in a whisper when times got tough and food was scarce. He told us to leave and move away, go to safety. By then the whole school was crowded into the one salon. Some started crying and others just laughed, little did they know what would soon come next.”
“Well what happened did everyone die, was it bloody, gory or …happy?” Mickey the Minnow asked ,jumping up and down, but pronouncing happy with full disgust.
The Ancient gave him the angry eye, and he then went into a fit of coughing. “Suffering is nothing to laugh about or be excited about. Heartbreak is the only thing in life that keeps us alive.”
“But there was no blood or anything gory just in our hearts. Some people moved as told, but my family stayed believing it was a joke. The storm did come slowly, but fast enough to swallow us like a shark. The sun would leave us for days, covered by fragments, the shore swimmers reported. But the news became shorter and shorter, as they stopped coming back. Sometimes there would be floating bodies. I covered my little sister’s eyes, but what I saw was awful. Fish strangled to death by plastic rings; others ripped apart by other desperate starving fish. The water was a mud brown, almost green, that you could taste glued to your tongue. There was no more savaging; just picking up scraps of trash, and starving. Little by little fish started dying, not waking up. The food chain changed. The minnows started eating remnants of the sharks all weak from lack of food.”
“There was one dark day that still burns in my mind to this day that was when my father was sent away.”
We all stood silent waiting for him to start again.
“He said he was going to the surface. It was time he stopped being a coward and to really face the music. He went up that day, and we prayed. Time had passed, and we had assumed the worst. Then, finally, he came back more than a year later. It was the most horrifying sight I had ever seen. His face was deformed. There was an eye on his head, and a tiny creature attached to his right fin. My mother was never right again. She sent him away saying, that the children could not be around it. It was not right for us…”
“Slowly things started getting better. There were teams of humans coming from somewhere called MWRA. They collected the scraps of waste that others had left behind. We knew the humans were sorry for polluting our harbor, throwing the poop and waste into rivers that led to our estuary. Populations began to grow once again; there were fish coming home. Time passed, and though there were still some chemicals and other constant struggles, our home was once again safe for us,“ he said, ending with a smile.
Fish started asking questions, but I swam out of the crowded seaweed patch. I breathed the fresh water and looked at the blue water seeping all around me; it was fresh and clean. I could almost feel the differences and changes that the Ancient went through. I smelled the kelp and tasted plankton. I heard the rush of racing fish laughing, teasing, and showing off colors in this wonderful place I could call home. I was thankful for fish like the Ancient who suffered through those hard times, so that I may have this good time. I now realized what this harbor meant to me. More than family or a teacher, but a home, somewhere that I was always welcomed. From that day forward, I pledged to do my part to keep the harbor clean and safe for myself and my grandchildren.
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