{v.3} :: a mess

Barry Barracuda: A Christmas Tale

Chapter 1: A Fish in the Ocean

Barry Barracuda was one of the good-looking fish of the sea. He could look straight in the eyes of the girls without feeling ashamed or embarrassed. When he looked in a mirror, he could be proud of the image it was showing.

The scales covering his body were silver-shining and neatly arrayed, with none at all missing. What he wanted, he usually got. Many of the fish around him meant he should have given the saying (hovmod star for fall) at least one thought.

Without thinking too much on his faults, he was an ambitious fish, and a clever one. He usually achieved what he wished through careful planning, the ìwhat-ifsî and the considering of all possible consequences and outcomes.

He also spared a thought for the ones who weren't in as good a position as his. All the small fish of the reef where he lived was those he cared for. Except for those he ate, of course.

Our story begins on a cold and gray Pacific morning. A poor little fish is eaten in the silence of the ocean. And Barry's belly cries, for if there's one thing he needs, it's another little fish to eat.

The preceding?? year had been a cold one, giving little growth to sea plants. Therefore, there were little plankton eating fish on the reef. Then again, there was a lot of hungry predator fish. Barry supposed it had to be something covering the sun, much more than before, but he couldn't at all reason out what.

A holiday somewhere else, Barry thought, that would be exactly the thing. But where? North, south, east, west? If I go west, I'll just go right onto the shores of the mainland, and that wouldn't be too clever. East? I don't know if that's the place I want to be, I've heard much bad about that. The south is terribly cold, or so they say. I guess I'm left with the north.

North, here I come!

Chapter 2: Old Friends and New

Barry Barracuda left his friends behind him when he left the reef. Dana, jolly orange and white clownfish, offered to come with him, but he refused. She didn't really want to, she was worried about him and didn't want anything to happen. She was a very good friend, but she could never take anything serious. That was a little ñ or maybe not so little ñ tiring. With a flash of orange and white, she was gone.

Pietr was a nervous moon fish. He bade Barry a stammering fare-well with a wish that he should not encounter the demons of the north. The barracuda laughed silently to himself. Pietr was the most supersti-tious fish in their part of the sea, and Barry supposed the moon fish soon not sleep in night. The big, blue fish disappeared from his view as he swam on.

ìGoodbye all known!î he shouted in arrogance. Enthusiasm rushed through his body, he was so excited! He was going away, exploring new territories, leaving all behind.

The water was refreshingly cool, turquoise and salty. Barry swam in a loop just for the joy of it. There were much more oxygen here, and the sleek silver-gleaming fish felt new with life.

At the edge of a forest of seaweed, an old-looking red fish with a white collar was swimming around himself, mumbling, as if he had forgotten or lost something.

ìUmmmÖ Hi,î Barry said. ìMumble rumble... where? Ö How? Ö Er, what!î the fat red fish exclaimed. "Are you there? Oh, no, it's not you. Or, I mean, it is of course you, but you're not him, if you understand. Of course you aren't him, I really sorry, I'm a little confused. You see, my assistant and my apprentice have got some sort of virus, and both are carefully tucked into bed. My dragging animal, Rudy, a sea horse has gone missing. All this makes everything a terrible mess for me. By the way, I'm Claus.î He reached out with his fin, and Barry took it with his own and shook it.

ìI'm Barry Barracuda,î he said, ìis there anything I can do to help?î

Chapter 3: A sea horse Called Rudy

Claus had a long white beard, which he scratched now.

ìLet me see,î he thought aloud. ìYes. I think you'll do. Rudy's gone. I don't know whether he's split, or been taken away, or anything else. I think you look like an honest fish. I trust you with Rudy's fate, and the fate of many others. But say to him that he hasn't got to come back, if he gives me his resignation it is OK.î

ìErÖ thank you.î Barry was a little awed by this strange fish. He surely was important, maybe even a VIF. ìAre you sure?î When Claus nodded, he added, ìhow's he looking?î

The other fish looked nearly astounded, but then he laughed. ìWhy, I'd forgotten that. Well, he kinda looks like every other sea horse. But in a way, he's oozing ëI'm Rudy', so I think you should have no problem when you've found him. And by the way, his nose's a bright red. That should separate him quite clearly from your other candidates. And, here's my card. Just give me a call if you have any problems.î

Barry took the card, and without a glance laid it in his inner pocket. He was all too excited to read something as small and insignificant!

The water was refreshing, and Barry was glad to do something useful. He was not the kind of fish to lie in the sofa in front of the TV watching finball a whole day. What he enjoyed was going reef climbing, hiking or watching a basketball match. He couldn't stand sleeping past nine in the weekends, and always went to bed early enough to sleep all he needed before work. That way, he always had the energy to do everything he liked, and even had the surplus to do more than he would have.

Chapter 4: A Clue

No holiday without something to do, Barry Barracuda thought as he swam further and further from home. He didn't miss it a bit. Well, maybe just a tiny bit, though, but it was good to be away.

The old, red fish Claus hadn't given him any direction to begin his search for the sea horse Rudy. So he just went around asking incidental persons whether they had seen a sea horse with a bright red nose. Nobody had.

At least until he came to a cozy little inn. The fat, bright yellow fish governing it told him, ìRed nose? Aye, I think I've seen ëim. He's in company with two of those fish, you know. Black ties, black hats, black sunglasses. Them ìFish in Blackî, kinda, they ordered ale, but they didn't drink nothin'. Your sea horse had a meal, an' ate like he'd never seen food before. He finished in less than, in fact, Ö nothin'.î

ìDid you hear anything they said?î

ìOh, I'm sorry. The black ones spoke with hushed voices, an' that sea horse said nothin' but ëthanks'. In fact, he looked quite fearful, if you ask me.î

ìDid you, by any chance, see where they were heading?î

ìNope, sorry. I was quite busy at that time. But please tell me, is this sea horse criminal or somethin'? Since you're inquirin' abou' him, I mean.î

Barry was nearly dumbfounded. He hadn't realized how this must look to the other fish around.

ìRemember me when there's tax time!î the innkeeper shouted to Barry's tail fin as the barracuda swam out the door.

Chapter 5: Swimming in the Night

Now he had got a clue. But only a very little clue. The fat innkeeper couldn't say which way Rudy and his companions, whether voluntary or not, left. The only thing he could do was to continue his search for eyewitnesses. He questioned barmen, traffic wardens, postmen, cashiers, no profession was let out from his inquiries.

Slowly but surely he got more information. Rudy never said any-thing without permission from the black ones. He usually shot them a anxious look and, if they nodded expressionless, answered in mono-syllables. They were heading north-east, straight away from Barry's home reef, and the place he'd met Claus the red fish.

It was all Barry could do to follow them, and he gained in. After two days his reports were only one day old, and then he decided to go on at night too. He swam slowly, nearly sleeping, only listening to his gut feelings. They had never let him down. Yet. Right now he doubted them. What if he swam past? But he had to take the chance, he wouldn't catch them if no risks were taken. But enough of that.

Swimming in the dark is a wonderful experience, you should try it once yourself. Even though Barry was dazed, but yet awed, he could see the moonlit shapes of sea plants, underwater mountains and various sea animals.

In the opening of a cave he could see a tentacle, and hastily shied away. To meet with an octopus normally ended with you being hurt.

Everywhere Barry looked through his half-open eyes, he saw blue. Night wasn't black, as he had always imagined, it was a mystic sapphire! He found he never wanted to be asleep again, to miss this revealing of the true nature of the ocean. He had to tell himself that he was on a quest, saving Rudy, important matters.

In the distant he could see a school of small, silvery herrings. There was something strange about them, and Barry did not feel hungry at all, as he usually did.

Chapter 6: Like a Fairy-Tale

The water itself felt magical. Something made it seem to glitter, and make the silver gleam in the herrings. Barry found himself again awed. Everything seemed so grand, so Ö everything.

The blue water twinkled with stardust, like some shrewd fairy had gone berserk. Maybe she had. Barry could see her for her for his inner eye. A slim, mysteriously blue (sypike), swimming around in this area. He hoped he would see her. He wished really badly for it. She would be neat, pretty, everything a fish could hope for. He should have thought of bringing sea anemones in his suitcase. Then could have given her them, just because she deserved it. Her eyes would twinkle like, like what? Yes, just like the pearls in their (muslinger), or as mother-of ñpearl did in the morning with the right light. That was practically magic, just as she would be.

He swam on all night. Somehow he got the strength to do it, without eating or drinking energy drinks or anything. It was almost as the little fairy had thrown her magical powder over him, making him a kind of super-fish.

Dawn drew nearer. The water lightened, and things regained their colors. The magic was broken, and Barry wished it was night again. He could not push her out of his mind. If he had ever wanted something, it was to meet her, he wished that more than anything he had wished before, together!

But he was on an important quest. He couldn't allow himself to forget that. Claus needed Rudy. And Barry would find him.

Suddenly, he heard shouting. He couldn't make out the words, but the voices were somewhere in front of him. The argument heated up as he drew nearer.

ìIt's mine!î

ìNo, it's mine!î

ìYou big buffoon! Of course it's mine!î

ìThe Great One gave it to me! It's mine!î

Now Barry could see who did the arguing. It was the fish the innkeeper had described. Fish in Black. Barry wondered what they were shouting about. He swam a little closer, and hid behind a rock. Now he saw everything.

Oh no! he thought.

Chapter 7: Back Again

Now we will take a look at what Barry's friend Claus did. After Barry left, he hurried back to his (verksted). His assistant and apprentice sneezed over and over as he entered.

ìAaatsjo! Welcob back, Baster,î Erian, the apprentice, said.

ìPleath thut the door!î This was his assistant, Nolwhim, that exclaimed.

ìGlad to see you too, Nolwhim,î Claus laughed, ìI presume you've had a wonderful week-end with me gone.î

The two ill fish laughed until the pain in their throats got so big that they had to stop.

ìLet me think. The Rudy Problem is taken care of.î

ìIs it? Oh, so wonderful, Master!î Apprentice cried.

ìIt is, but we have an even bigger Problem here. The (yngel) all around, they'll be expecting gifts.î

ìThat was a little harder. Have you got any Ideas?î

ìNot yet,î Claus sighed. He put a kettle on the hest, and prepared a cup of coffee. Then he (slumpet) down in the old and worn (lenestol), laid his feet on the rough table, and drew a deep breath. Finally he was home again.

We switch back to Barry Barracuda's point of view again. He crouched behind some rocks, watching two Fish in Black arguing over something he could not see. What he could see, was a sea horse's snout pointing skywards. This was in its own mostly unnatural, because sea horses like their vertical position. What made it all even more suspicious, was the color of the snout. It shone brightly red! Barry had at last found Rudy the Sea Horse!

Chapter 8: What To Do When You Have No Idea

What should I do now? Barry Barracuda thought over and over. I don't know how these Fish in Black are, whether they're friends or foes. If they are friends, and only wish the best for Rudy, everything is okay and I don't need to worry. But if they are foes, and have captured Rudy, I'd better make up a plan to rescue him.

What shall I do? he cried silently out in the light blue, silent water. No one answered.

In the workshop, Claus was silently despairing. How could he be finished in time? There were only a few days left, now, and thousands of small children-fish were expecting presents. And he could not let them down. That had never happened in the many centuries he had delivered packages in all corners of the seven seas. But the flu that had taken its hold on his assistant and his apprentice was not likely to let go of them for such a small thing as Crossmas Eve. What should he do now? he asked himself and felt the question's echo somewhere out there with Barry.

He paced back and forth on the very limited space that was left on the workshop floor.

Barry was in perplexity too. How could he know the intentions of the Fish in Black? There, behind the big, dark rocks he watched as the argument began to fade away, and the snout he could see slowly returned to life. It twitched and sniffed and even hopped.

Explains ñ Rudy: confused, thought it was after Christmas, gods-need to go back to Claus.

Chapter 9: When to Catch a Cold and When Not To

It's really cold here, Barry Barracuda said silently to himself as he watched and wondered what to do. I hope I don't catch a cold.

That was precisely what Barry had done, and in the now utterly silent water, he felt a sneeze growing in his nose. There was no way to stop it, and the inevitable happened. It made such an echo that Barry thought grumpily that the cods up in the North Sea must have heard him.

He heard heavy footsteps coming nearer. Or, maybe not footsteps, but the sound fish make when they move. The sounds came from behind too, not just from where he had seen the Fish in Black. Who could it be?

It was sometime after noon, and dusk drew nearer. The brightest colors of the ocean hade began to fade a little, and the nightly hunters were beginning to try to make themselves get out of bed. That was not an easy job, it was winter and much warmer below the bed sheets than everywhere else. Barry felt a new, horrible sneeze rise.

ìBless you,î a thin, nice female voice said behind him.

ìThank you,î he breathed thoughtlessly. Then he realized it. Who could it be?

He turned around slowly, both fearing and hoping for what he would see. He was truly amazed.

© Tone Rossow 2003 Back to the Prose section

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