A Fish and Some Chips: Clara the clown fish’s big day
For as long as she can remember, which isn’t actually very long at all, Clara has wanted to be famous.
Not living in the sea, but rather in an extremely large tank in an aquarium, Clara knows nothing of the fame of other ocean-living clown fish. Not that this matters for every fish should be able to seek their own time in the spotlight if they wish to.
The aquarium that Clara and her shoal call home is a very important one. The humans who work in it study the fish and the sea-water plants to try to understand how to better look after the earth. The tank were Clara swims, plays, eats and dreams is a wondrous thing, for in some places the water is really rather warm, and in others it is almost as chilly as ice. The men and women and girls and boys that pay to crowd around and point and stare are able to see what life is like on a warm-water reef and in darker, colder bits of the ocean without having to walk very far at all.
This visitors do not upset the tank dwellers because of the special one-way glass which means that the people can see the fish but the fish cannot see the people. Peace is disturbed a little every now and then by some odd looking creatures, who dressed all in black with tanks on their backs, flap their flipper-like feet in order to swim. The scientists, for that is what these beings are, do not bother Clara and her friends very much for they forget the humans almost as soon as they leave the water.
Life goes on much the same, with day becoming night, and night becoming day, outside of the aquarium, time after time. That is until one different and very strange day. There are usually only two or three humans in the tank at once - to treat a sickly shark or tend to the seagrasses - but on this particular morning the water is darkened by the number of rubber-clad swimmers. They search the nooks and the crannies, just for what none of the fish can imagine at first. Soon however they become aware, both from the whispers that pass around, and the dirtiness of the water, that there is a blockage somewhere that if not sorted could lead to changes in the salt-water that could make some of the fish very poorly indeed.
Thrilled rather than scared by the adventure Clara swims in and out of the legs of one of the humans. She follows her into a dark corner and then out again. Something makes Clara turn and swim back. Then she sees it. A small pipe, no bigger than a straw and with jagged edges, is poking out of some ferns. There are stone chips stuck in the top of the pipe and the water around it is full of tiny bubbles and an ever growing amount of dirt and gunge.
Clara tries hard to catch the attention of the woman. Having no luck she swims back to her shoal and leads them to the scene. As Clara and her brothers and sisters push and pull at the pipe a shared fishy memory pops into her head. Somewhere, in a country far away, she is sure that another clown fish did something similar, or maybe a little different, in a tank, that she believes was, somewhat smaller than this one. There are words too which she hears again and again as the shoal try to loosen the chips; ‘just keep swimming, just keep swimming’. So she does. After a while a human comes to see what is happening and gently brushing the clown fish aside is soon able to unblock and mend the pipe so that the tank and all who live in it are safe once more.
So momentous is the occasion that for a least a couple of minutes after the scientists get out of the water the tank is buzzing with talk of Clara; the bravest, cleverest clown fish that anyone has ever known. Things soon return to normal though and after a calming swim up, over and around her favourite rock Clara is once again happily dreaming of a day on which she might become famous.