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The fish jumped out

Lead Summary

HCP columnist

I have been checking on the rice paddy daily. Slowly, the small white gains seemed to grow more plump; and then one day, I noticed two little white shoots emerging from one end of many of the kernels. Several days later, I noticed that one of the shoots turned green and was reaching for the surface of the water, while the other shoot stayed white and dug down into the muddy bottom.

The rice was growing.

That evening, I sat down on the edge of the float bed for a closer look.

It was warm in the creek valley. As I sat still, I realized that there were no mosquitoes bothering me, or larvae in the paddy’s water for that matter.

The goldfish had taken their mosquito dining task to heart. I reached out and touched the surface of the water. It felt warm. I let a few drops fall onto the inside of my wrist, much as I had tested our children’s baby bottles many years before. The water felt as warm as my own blood. Alas ... it had already occurred to me that this might be a problem.

I looked for the fish. I was relieved that I could still see them through the murky water, swimming easily in a group, at the bottom of the bed, but I knew that the water was no more than six inches deep at the most. I also knew that it would only get warmer as the summer wore on. But these were supposed to be hardy little fish. I leaned closer and could clearly see that their bellies looked quite fat and that they looked a bit bigger than
they had a few weeks before.

Optimistically, I wondered if goldfish were fit for human consumption. I brushed a loose strand of hair back from my forehead and stood up to leave, but as I slowly straightened up, I noticed a small golden body lying on the green grass on the far side of the bed.

Hands on my hips, I leaned backwards, to work the kink out of my float bed sitting back, and walked around the bed. There, to my sorrow, lay a pristine, quite dead, brightly colored goldfish, beautifully silhouetted against the brilliantly green grass.

I leaned down and picked up the little fish. Its body was still limp. It could not have been out of the water for long. I reached over and lay the limp fish back in the float bed’s warm water, but it floated on its side, belly up. I opened its small mouth, thinking that if I let some water in it might revive, but there was still no sign of life.

I carried the small orange fish over to the woods and gave it a toss. I wondered, had it jumped out of the bed looking for cooler water? I returned to the bed to ponder.

Many of the rice kernels had embedded into the soil at the bottom of the bed, but others were floating on the surface. I pulled an imbedded kernel free, and as I pulled the loose soil swirled around in the warm water. The rice root was over an inch long and the slender green blade was close to two inches in length.

I was not quite ready to give up on the experiment. If the rice could grow tall enough to shade the water, then the temperature might not get so hot. The fish could survive and the rice could grow.

I turned to walk back up the hill to the cabin, and as I walked it occurred to my lawyerly mind, that this jury was still out. I had learned long ago never to guess what the verdict might be.

The trial might well be over, but there was no guarantee as to what would become of the seeds that I had planted during my closing argument. My client and I might think one way, and then the jury would return, having thought the other. So I have learned

to wait and see.

It is supposed to rain tonight. That should cool down the float bed’s water. So I will wait and see, and time will tell if we someday have rice and goldfish for dinner. I promise to let you know.

Christine Tailer is a columnist for The Highland County Press.

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