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Fish upon the land

Phished on July 18, 2021.

We are all really just fish adapted to the land.

We have legs and fish have fins. We walk on our fins.

We have eyes. Fish have eyes. We have lungs and blood and feet. Fish have all these too.

Fish have scales. We don’t have scales, but we have fingernails, which are the same thing.

These profound revelations set in motion everything this week: A week of fish, fish, and more fish. All things fishy, piscine, and even piscatorial, I would have.

My freezer was now fully stocked in every imaginable fish, fish product, and fish-like product the local Spend-O-Mart sold: White fish and oily fish, from cod to scrod, sunfish to starfish, catfish to dogfish, and swordfish to billfish. Sardines, anchovies, and fish made entirely of salt. Natural, organic, grass-fed tuna alongside 100% processed fish sticks, fish balls, and potted fishmeat. Fish and chips, fish tips, and fish lips. Bony fish, bonefish, and boneless fish. Fish heads, fish guts, and fish tails. Flounder, clownfish, flatfish, roundfish, squarefish, and dodecahedral fish. And finally, a sizeable bag of ithyphallic geoducks. Fish by the box, the bag, and the can. Fish all around. Over a thousand pounds of fish.

My newly acquired aquarium was fully stocked with every imaginable fish that wasn’t worth eating: Goldfish, silverfish, and bronzefish. Lionhead, firemouth, and zebrabutt cichlids. Siamese fighting fish and Cappadocian dueling fish. Guppies, do-guppies, and do-guppy-guppies. Fish by the school, the flock, and the herd. Over a thousand individual fish shoulder-to-shoulder in a big glass tank.

Fish have shoulders. We have shoulders too.

And lastly, my newly acquired post-graduate degree would prove to be the most useful thing of all when dealing with my new fishy friends. I had studied at one of the premier online pisciversities in the world for a PhD in ichthyiatry with a specialization in trout brains in spring. They called it piscine scientography. I just called it my new fish doctorate. “Just call me the fish doctor,” I had started telling my neighbors and friends, often at the most offbeat and inappropriate times. But I had to get the word out, lest my new fish-mending skills obsolesce before I had a chance to use them. I was now Dr. Pnårp, Fish Doctor.

“Bills… bills…” I muttered as I went through the stack of mail that the postman had just hurled against my front door in a fit of rage. “Bills… more bills… duckbills… fishbills?” I stopped.

Billfish? I looked closer. No, fishbills. I opened the envelope carefully—lest it leap from hand and give me a fatal paper cut—and gingerly unfolded the paper within. It was a fishbill all right. A very large fishbill—almost the size of a whale. I scanned the paper with my beady, fish-like little eyes. “Fish boots?”

My mouth hung open, equally fish-like, agape and agulp. I hadn’t the foggiest idea why I was being billed €717 for a pair of stingray boots from Finland. This wasn’t as weird as that time I had consulted Wikipedia in place of the directions on the back of the box, and ended up with a condom hopelessly stretched over my rather pointy head, but it was close.

“Finnish fish boots?” I made that fish-gulping motion with my piscine mouth again. Apparently so. And apparently some Finn thought I ordered a pair from him, and I now owed him €717 (plus €9.95 for shipping & handling).

I decided there was only one thing to do: After amusing myself teasing my poor, suffering paper shredder a bit, I shredded the fishbill before it had a chance to cut me to death with its sharp, sharp edges. I then stuck the duckbill on my nose so I looked like a duck. Finally I spun in circles quacking and chootling like the magnoramus that I am. A better plan had not yet inserted itself into my mind, but doing something is always better than nothing, so this is what I did. It seemed like a good idea at the time.

Perhaps shaking my fishy fist at the sky in impotent indignation would also be a good idea? I did it, and it was not. I still had my €717 fishbill, albeit in a thousand little strips.

Perhaps another walkabout ’round the neighborhood, now wearing a turgid geoduck on my nose, reminding every Bouillabaissian: “Just call me the fish doctor”? I did this, much to their chagrin, yet still had the €717 fishbill when I returned to my own abode (albeit in a thousand little strips).

Or perhaps a trip to Finland was in order, in order to personally confront this fishbootmonger about my alleged order. But Finland was a big place—where would I make landfall? Uusikaarlepyy? Or Uusikaupunki? Or perhaps Kankaanpää or Järvenpää or even Äväkääkäää? I winced at the bout of umlaut I was suddenly facing—or was it diaeresis diarrhea? No matter. I didn’t speak Finnish and never would: My own Pnårpy Å was too precious to me to overload my synapses with dotty languages such as this. I decided to book a trip to Finland at once. By fish or by fin, I would get to the bottom of why I owed someone €717 for Finnish fish boots.

I closed my browser and chootled merrily to myself under my breath. My trip was planned: After driving a great distance over hill and dale in my trusty Trabant, I would take another ride on the back of a really, really big fish across the Atlantic, landing at the thankfully dotless Helsinki, then finish my journey again by Trabant.

My ceiling clock hooted like a blowfish: It was time for bed. I went to bed; I slept and I dreamed—of thousands of jagged little strips of fishbills crawling out of paper shredders in the dead of night and attempting to paper-cut me to death while I dozed.

I awoke in a cold sweat, leapt out of bed, hit my head on the floor, and tripped against the ceiling. I spun, sat up. No gnomes accreting along the door jambs. I quickly scanned my wainscoting. No gnomes there. But something was wrong, my horrifying comical dream unmistakably announced. My fish!? I bounded down the stairs and upon laying eyes upon the tank, gasped—again agape and agulp. In place of the thousands upon thousands of shoulder-to-shoulder fish, there floated a single, very large, and very satisfied-looking kerfrumpt. When she saw me, her eating-snout shot up and she started queeging contentedly.

The sudden elimination of 32,767 fish from the Universe by this very, very hungry beastie wasn’t as depressing as that time I had consulted Wikipedia in place of the directions on the back of the can, and ended up thinning my hair rather than the paint I had intended to thin (toxic indeed!), but it was close. And that little mistakeroo did end an embarrassing bout of buttocks dandruff, so I had to give it some credit.

I queeged back at her. My snap depression gave way, equally as snappily, to elation: My scaly ol’ kerfrumpt had returned! I was still baffled regarding where the missing piece of Sirius had gone, or when (or if) it would ever be back. At this point, I decided to write Sirius off as a lost cause and just try to collect the insurance payout. But my purpurineal old kerfrumpt, missing in the swamps of the Thattagawatchee for years, had somehow scuttled on her six little legs all the way back to her old home. I queeged again.

And, there was one other piece of good news to be had!

“At least half the Moon is back,” I remarked to a neighbor on his doorstep this morning. He was probably wondering what I was doing there at 7:17 a.m., his newspaper in my hand, but I had more important things to talk about than that. “Indeed half the Moon is back. That’s all that matters. Oh, and: Just call me the fish doctor.”

P.S.: The lizards finally departed on Friday. After the geckos had eaten all my golden cockroaches, I was cheesed. After the skinks started taking lessons from my perfidious oatmeal cookies on how to get under my skin and truly vex me, I was fed up. And after I caught a clutch of chameleons gluing my shattered garden gnomes back together and arming them with miniature trowels, I had had more than enough. So I set fire to my orangery in a last-ditch effort to smoke them out. It worked. The whole lounge of ’em slithered out through the crevices whence they came. And, as luck would have it, my fiery orangery didn’t burn my house down. My PhDs in herpetometry and herpehepatology may as well have been a B.S. in herpaderpery, for all the good it did in my efforts to rid myself of these scaly beasties. I made a note to phone the Fish College at the University of Ouagadougou next week and demand all my francs back.