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By Christine Stoddard
Once upon a time, there lived a bright blue and red fish who longed to fly. Little did he know that, neighing in the pasture only a few feet above his rock in the sea, lived a pony who longed to fly, too. All day and all night, the fish would stare at the sky for the sight of a gull or owl. Sometimes he saw flocks of geese or even murders of crows. The little fish never seemed to notice the other fish around him. He cared not for scales, only feathers.
Meanwhile, the pony yearned and yearned just the same. She squinted at the clouds and stars until she spotted a cardinal or hawk. Regardless of the hour, regardless of the weather, the pony wondered when she too would fly. She regretted that she had been born wingless. And, like the fish who swam right past fellow fish, the pony never seemed to notice the other ponies around her.
One day in June, shortly after the summer carnival in the local town, a hot air balloon soared just above where the pasture met the sea. First, it floated, then it spun, and finally it danced.
The hot air balloon had not flown for an entire year. The fattest man in town, Mr. Riggby, had given up a week's salary to have it patched. Within a fortnight, the balloon was ready, and all the townspeople chattered about riding it at the summer carnival.
But, not two hours into the carnival, a few pranksters—none other than Mr. Riggby's nephews—untied the balloon the moment the attendant left for the funnel cake cart.
It did exactly what hot air balloons must do: it flew.
The fish and the pony saw the balloon twirling in the sky the very same instant. Suddenly the fish leapt out of the sea and the pony leapt out of the pasture. Miraculously, they both landed in the balloon's big basket, practically facing each other eye-to-eye.
At first, the fish and the pony harrumphed. Each one wanted the hot air balloon to himself. Birds, after all, do not share their wings. Why should they share their balloon?
They argued. They spat at each other. They even threatened each other. Neither one agreed to leave.
The hot air balloon, so recently renewed from top to bottom, continued soaring. Only a hummingbird lunging at it headfirst at full-speed with its beak for a needle could have punctured it. A hummingbird never came along.
So the fish and the pony remained in the balloon's basket for days, maybe months. The townspeople never knew exactly how long, but later evidence suggested that the pony and the fish eventually ended their quarreling.
The townspeople only knew for sure that the stories of the pony fish began when Mr. Riggby's niece, Scarlett Knowles, turned ten.
The pony fish was a creature who, true to its name, was half pony and half fish. From its nuzzle to its front hooves, it was a pony. It flicked its fin with a fish's hasty wiggle.
Scarlett first glimpsed the fish pony while picnicking with her doll, Betsy, by the sea. She saw it again while visiting Mr. Riggby's horse stables a month or so later. Somehow between then and the time Scarlett graduated from high school, she had become the pony fish's best friend—or so she said.
That was how she knew that the pony fish could not only gallop and swim but it could fly, as well.
After Scarlett told the townspeople this, soon everyone started seeing the pony fish in the sky. The priests saw it. The teachers saw it. The bankers saw it. Everybody from babes in arms to the most ancient of citizens saw it.
And if you go to the town of _____ on the coast of _____*, it is said you can still see the pony fish today.
*Editor's Note: Upon recently receiving a request for privacy from the town mayor, the editor has decided not to reveal the town's name or location.
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