Outside the Tank
"Ever since I was put in this fish tank, it's gotten dirtier and dirtier," complained the algae-eater to the goldfish. "This tank's just too big for me to handle: I can't seem to make any progress. If this keeps up, one day we won't be able to breathe anymore, there'll be so much guck in here."
"Hey man, relax! Don't worry about it," replied the goldfish. "I've heard that every time, just before things get too bad, there's this big creature outside the tank that'll reach down, pull us out of the tank, clean it, and then put us back in again. Stay cool. It'll all come out in The Wash."
"What, you really believe that stuff?" scoffed the algae-eater. "You've never seen anything like that, nor have I. The only thing we've ever seen is this tank getting worse and worse, and it'll just keep on getting worse until we all end up just floating on the surface with our bellies in the air. There is no Great Cleaning Man in the Sky, or if there is, He doesn't care about us and our situation. It's up to us to get ourselves out of this mess."
"You're right that you and I haven't seen anything like that," said the goldfish, "but my old man, before he did the backstroke up into the sky, said he'd been through a Cleaning, and that the tank had been cool and clear for a long time afterwards."
"And you believed him?" inquired the algae-eater incredulously. "Your father and his generation were a part of the problem. Their wastes and the rotting carcasses of both them and their ancestors are what have made this tank as algae-clogged as it is. They wanted you to believe that there'd be a regular cleaning, otherwise you might realize what they had been doing and critique their life-style. If there is a Cleaner, how come He hasn't dealt yet with all the scum you see accumulating around you day by day? Face the facts, gold-man: there is no Cleaner. The truth is, reality just sucks."
And the debate continued, inconclusively until a hand reached into the tank and, right before the algae-eater's bulging, incredulous eyes, plucked the goldfish up out of the water and into the air. The algae-eater swam scurry-darting in terror to cower in the porcelain castle that stood in the middle of the algae-infested tank. Thus, when the fish-tank was finally cleaned, the goldfish was saved to live again in the new tank, while the recalcitrant algae-eater perished inside his palace, amidst a flood of corrosive cleaning fluids.
THE END and A NEW BEGINNING
Original copyright © 1997 by Ed Hewlett.