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Storyteller On The Lake
Storyteller On The Lake
Corman had the life. He was the biggest fish in the lake. He had many plump and content wives with whom he wiled away long, warm afternoons in a private cove. Everything was perfect for the carp. But then one night zebra mussels marched into his world. They scattered Corman's females away. Corman woke up the next morning to discover that he was alone. At once, Corman set out to find his lost harem. But his lake was big and it was connected to a series of other big lakes. His girls could be in any one of these lakes. Finding them would be like finding a need in a haystack.
"Corman the Carp" is a series of short stories that follow Corman's forays and follies as he scours the lake country in search of his wives. He makes friends and enemies along the way and learns there is a lot more to the world and life than what he possessed in his cove.
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I’ve got the life,” he sighed as he looked at his private harem of females. They were all fat and round, just the way that he liked them. Who would have thought that he would have ever attained such a prized bevy of fertile and willing cows to see to his every whim way back when, when he was just a nervous and shy inchling hiding under lily pads whenever the Walleye Gang came marauding?
“Times have been good to you, old Corman!” he murmured to himself. The inchling that he was had grown and expanded a thousand fold until now he was a veritable leviathan among his fellow carp. He was four-feet long and fifty pounds of bottom-feeding perfection. He had lips that could suck up a tree stump. The Walleye Gang would think twice before they ever came near him. In fact, they dared not even swim in the same hole where he and his harem thrashed happily about oblivious to anything that might present them harm. Nothing ever did present them harm.
Not even the giant surface creatures with their noisy, buzzing tailfins entered Corman’s domain. Either they had not discovered this niche in the lake or they had heard about Corman’s mighty prowess and chose to stay away. The big carp preferred to think that it was the latter.
“You’re a buffoon, Corman!” Pestro the yellow perch would cry. “The only reason that the giant surface creatures don’t come into these waters are that it is not deep enough here! Their spinning tailfins would get mangled in all of the muck and branches on the bottom. Believe me, if they could get in here they would be going straight after you once they see that fat wallowing back of yours sticking out above the water. I have heard that they like the big ones!”
Corman chose not to believe Pestro. He was just a little perch and did not have a lot of room in his skull to accommodate anything more than the most meager of brains. Whereas his skull was as huge as the shell of a snapping turtle. Plenty of room for a big, smart brain. His big, smart brain told him, however, that it was wise not to wander too far away from his dank, murky cesspool.
And why should he? His harem loved it here. There was plenty to eat on the bottom for all of them. The rotted vegetation was endless just below the mud line. Sure, it stank here to methane, but he didn’t mind and neither did his girls. It was an idyllic situation for carps and Corman was not about to move not even when Pestro who had a proclivity to be more migratory than the carps returned with stories of great devastation happening to other areas in the lake.
“I tell you Corman, all the food is disappearing everywhere and the water is getting clearer and clearer. There are spots now where I can be thirty feet below the surface and I can see the seagulls flying thirty feet above it as clear as if they were swimming in the water with me!” Pestro would cry. “And I’m afraid that they can see me too!”
“So, what does that mean?” Corman would ask.
“It means that the food is disappearing. The only reason the water is murky is because there is lots of tiny little creatures swimming about in it. These little creatures are now disappearing!”
“How does that affect me? What do I care about tiny little creatures?”
This would infuriate Pestro. He had explained this to the big, fat carp many times but Corman would not allow the explanation to filter through to his brain. “These tiny little creatures are the food source to our food source. If our food source has no food then soon we will not have food!”
“Because our food source would die of starvation and when they are gone, we too will die of starvation!” Pestro would rant.
“So, what do you want me to do about it, you annoying little perch? My ladies and I have plenty to eat. This is not my concern.”
“Corman, there are other carp in this lake who had the same attitude as you. They thought that nothing could ever change in their swamplands but they soon found that little by little there was less food everyday for them to eat. In the end, there was no food left in their marshes and they were forced to abandon their homes and now they are hopeless migrants swimming aimlessly in search of even a morsel of debris to stave off their hunger.”
Corman had heard Pestro’s tale of doom before. “Don’t tell me that it is the scourge of the purple loosestrife again.” He laughed. “That was supposed to be the end to my waterhole. But I never saw any come into my pond and if I would have seen any, I am sure that I would have found them most delectable!” he bellowed, causing the water around him to bubble and roil.
“It’s not the loosestrife this time, Corman. You got off lucky that time.” Pestro glowered. “This time it is zebra mussels and I assure you that they are not going to go away the way the loosestrife did!”
“Zebra mussels? Now that sounds quite tasty!” the carp laughed. “I’ve always enjoyed shellfish.”
“You couldn’t eat them fast enough to stop them from multiplying. Soon they would be layering any surface with their sharp little shells. Your fat lips would be ripped apart by them and then we will see if your cows stay with you!” Pestro bubbled.
“I’ll still have you, little buddy!” Corman dropped a fin upon the back of the little perch. Instinctively, Pestro’s dorsal fins rose up in a series of sharp barbs. “Ow!” the carp complained.
“That’s what your lips will feel like when you start eating the zebras!” the yellow perch exclaimed. “And you won’t have me, Corman. I’m not sticking around when the water gets so clear that you can’t distinguish it from the air above it. There’s lots of fishing birds up there and even if they show no interest in you, I’m sure that my little yellow body will stir up some hunger in those creatures.”
“You’re going to leave me? Oh, come on, Pestro! There’s no place better in the world than right here!” the carp anguished. He had taken a liking to the panfry fish and enjoyed the stories the little perch brought to him.
“Sorry, Corman! I like you too but I like living better.” The yellow perch swam away in the direction that would lead him out to the open waters.
“You’ll be back!” Corman said to himself as he watched his friend disappear into the murky waters. Some how or other, he felt an inkling that he would never see Pestro here again.
Several days had passed since the perch left. Corman thought of him from time to time and even wondered if his friend had been ensnared by the long, dangling tentacles that were connected to the buzzing giant surface creatures. Pestro had been caught that way once before but through some miracle, he was able to escape the mysterious creature and return back to the water. The perch had said that there was a fleshy part to the surface creatures and that one of their oddly shaped fins had wrapped itself around his body and started jerking at his mouth. Then suddenly he was free, flopping in the air and then splashing back into the lake. Corman, at first, did not believe him but Pestro had displayed a hole at the side of his mouth where the tentacle had caught hold of him.
The carp hoped that the surface creatures did not catch his wayward friend. His worry almost caused him to depart his familiar hole and go in search of the perch but his cows were able to allay his fears by pampering him with body massages and coyish displays of affection. Soon Corman forgot about Pestro and was relishing his little private paradise cove in the lake.
One day while he and his cows were splashing about in the shallows at the pond’s edge, one of his cows, Carpathia, suddenly shrieked. A stream of blood was flowing from her underside. “I’ve cut myself!” she cried.
The other cows tended to her wound while Corman went to investigate what caused the accident. There was nothing sharp here before. They would not have chosen this spot had there been any pointed objects that would jab or slice them. At first, the carp did not see anything but on closer look, Corman saw a small shell attached to a flat rock on the bottom. This shell was striped and had a very sharp edge to it where it opened and closed.
“What is it?” he wondered and then he remembered what Pestro had said all that time ago. “Is this a zebra mussel?” He placed his thick lips over the shell and began sucking. The mussel was not giving in to the suction that the carp was producing. It took a gargantuan effort on the part of Corman to haul the creature from its lodging. And as soon as it entered into his throat, the carp tasted blood, his own blood. The razor sharp edge of the zebra mussel had sliced the roof of his mouth. He spat it out at once.
“What is it?” Carpathia asked him.
“It’s what Pestro called a zebra mussel.” Corman explained. “The little perch never told me that they are so sharp! He warned me that they were coming and that they would soon take over everything. To me, I thought that it was going to be nothing but a feast for us. You know how all of us love shellfish! But those little buggers are sharp! They’d rip apart our insides if we ever swallow them.”
The other cows at once became worried. “Should we be packing our things and getting ready to go?” they inquired.
Corman shook his big massive head. “No, I don’t call one miniscule shellfish an invasion. There’s no reason for us to go.”
“I wonder how that one got here?” Carpathia looked at the tiny shell that was now sinking into the ooze.
“It probably attached itself to one of those turtles that keep coming here to sun themselves.” Corman replied.
“Maybe it is a good precaution that we put a stop to any turtle or other creature that wants to come into our pond. That way we can ensure that no zebra mussel is going to hitch a ride into our little domain.” Carpathia said. She was always a planner and schemer. It made her an excellent nester and her nest was Corman’s favourite resting spot.
All the cows in Corman’s harem agreed with Carpathia. They were going to close the doors to migrants coming into the pond and they decided that it was going to be Corman’s duty to stand guard over the waterhole.
This did not rest well with the big, male carp. He had been used to an idyllic, lazy lifestyle in which all that he had to do was frolic and eat. Now, his harem was expecting him to actually do something to earn his keep. Things were not going to be the same.