Arthur had never had a beachfront apartment before. He didn’t know what a tide was. Oh, he’d noticed that sometimes the water in the channel was high, and sometimes the water was low, but he had already begun to grow up, and was not as prone to logic as other children are.

He didn’t even know what waves were, or that they were alive and loved chasing and being chased. He discovered this, however, very easily. One morning when there weren’t very many dogs, he was chased off of the beach by a particularly active wave.

He looked back, and the wave was running away into the ocean. So he went back onto the beach.

The wave came back and chased him off again.

When he looked back, the wave ran away.

This time he chased the wave back into the ocean. Just when he’d chased it all the way back, its brother jumped right out at him and caught him. He fell down and splashed for a bit, and then the wave went away. When the wave came back, he splashed some more. He decided he liked splashing, and he decided that chasing was almost as good.

He spent the rest of the day splashing, chasing waves, and being chased by waves. He took some time off in the afternoon to sneak vegetarian sandwiches from the picnics of people who had conveniently turned their backs.

After half a day of playing with the waves, he was very tired, so he went to sleep right on the beach.

The little waves decided they liked him so much they came in with the tide and floated him out to meet their parents. When Arthur awoke, he was no longer on the beach. He was bobbing up and down on the backs of giant waves. He couldn’t even see the beach. He had no idea even which the direction the beach was in.

It didn’t matter, because he’d never learned to swim. He was only a little boy, even if he had begun to grow up.

So he did what he was trained to do in situations like this. He panicked. That turned out to be the wrong thing to do. Your body has an amazing feature. If you stay relaxed, you can float. If you panic or tense up, you will sink. Arthur didn’t realize this, but he sank nonetheless. You could have told him that all he really needed to do was relax, but it wouldn’t have helped: it would’ve just made him panic all the more. Then he would have sunk faster.

Breathing water is not very easy to do, and not very many people really get the hang of it. Arthur was no exception. He breathed the water in and he choked, so he breathed more water in as he choked and he choked harder.

A fish went by, breathing water quite well. It bore a placard that read “Vote Republifish”.

Arthur was a bit surprised by this. It took him a while to work out how to pronounce “Republifish” while he was drowning. He’d just sort of figured it out when an identical fish went by with a placard that read “Vote Fishiecrat”. This was much easier to pronounce, which was a good thing because Arthur didn’t have nearly as much time to figure this one out before he went unconscious from lack of oxygen. Just as the lights went out, he saw a third fish, somewhat smaller, whose sign read “Vote Piscetarian”, but this was much too much for Arthur to figure out before he went unconscious.

When Arthur awoke he was at a political rally.

Well, it looked like a political rally. There were signs everywhere saying “Vote for Sole” and “Blackfish have rights, too!” The politicians and spectators were all fish. There was a small fish right next to him, and it spoke:

“Oy, mate, y’allright?”

Arthur wasn’t sure. He was still underwater. He was listening to a talking fish. But he felt okay. Since he didn’t have to worry about going to school or not, he took the safe route and said he did in fact feel pretty good.

“I didn’t know I could breathe water,” he said.

“Y’can’t, mate. You’re breathin’ air. This here’s the Republifish Oceanal Convention. Y’re breathin’ all the hot air from th’ candidates. When it’s over, we’ll have to head on over to the Fishiecrat convention. As long as the election season’s here, y’ll have no problem breathin’. After the voting, you have to go home.”

“Are you a Fishiecrat or a Republifish?” asked Arthur.

“Oy’m neither, mate. I’m Piscetarian.”

Even though Arthur heard the fish say it, he still wasn’t sure how to pronounce it.

“What’s… that?”

“We’re the altern’tive to th’ Fishiecrats and Republifish. Or, as most people like to call ‘em, the Republicrats and the Fishiefish.”

“Why?” asked Arthur.

“Oy, because they’re the same party, really, they just have different members.”

“My dad’s a Republican, but he used to be a Democrat.”

“Exactly the same here. When one side starts to win, the politicians switch parties. The voters see all the same old politicians and votes for the other side in the next election. So the politicians jump ship again and the voters vote the other way. Voters aren’t stupid. Blind perhaps, but not stupid.”

“My dad says voters are stupid.”

“Y’r dad’s a politician. ‘E thinks everyone except himself is stupid. Are you a politician?”


“I’ll bet ‘e thinks y’re stupid as well, am I right, mate?”

Arthur had to admit that this was true.

“But aren’t you a politician?”

“Piscetarians aren’t really politicians. We think the voters are smarter than we are.”

“Do they vote for you?”

The Piscetarian had to admit that they did not.

“I think th’ voter prefers someone who pretends to know all th’answers over someone who admits that there are none.”

“Maybe they just don’t like to vote for someone who claims to be stupider than they are.”

“Y’have a valid point, mate.”

Arthur walked up to one of the fish in the politician’s audience.

“Hey, fish, why don’t you vote for this guy?”, he said, pointing at the Piscetarian.

“I dunno, who are you?”

“Oy’m Ron Pollock, I’m a Piscetarian.”

“Oh, them. I can’t pronounce your party name, why should I vote for you?”

“Have you considered running Republifish?” asked another fish. “I’ve heard your views, I’d vote for you if you were a real politician.”

“You mean,” Ron the Piscetarian asked somewhat dubiously, “if I pretend I’m smarter than you, lie, cheat, and steal to win public office, then you’ll vote for me?”

“Sure,” said another. “We’ve got to know you mean it. But I think you should run Fishiecrat. You’re far too liberal for Republifish.”

“The Fishiecrats are socialists who want to take all of our money away and give it to people who didn’t work for it!” yelled the first fish.

“The Republifish are fascists who want to take all of our money and build bigger prisons and lock everyone who disagrees with them away!”

The two fish jumped at each other. Other fish joined in and soon a brawl had erupted. The politician lost his entire audience to the fight. Ron Pollock and Arthur stepped back and watched.

“I suppose it’s worth a try,” said Ron. “D’you have a coin, mate?”

“Sure”, said Arthur, and he handed him a flat pebble with crayon drawings on it. He sometimes used them at the Belmont area.

“Heads: I run Fishiecrat. Tails: Republifish.”

Ron flipped the pebble and slapped it down on his fin.


“Fish tails?” asked Arthur.

“Nope, tails, I’m no longer a Piscetarian. I’m a Republifish fascist.”

“I can live with that,” said Arthur. “What’s a fascist?”

“Republifish, Fishiecrat, they’re all the same. One wants to control you because you’re stupid, the other wants to control you because you’re evil.”

“Which are the Republifish?” asked Arthur.

“I can’t remember. They keep changing places. Sometimes its the Fishiecrats calling you evil, sometimes its the Republifish. Then the other ones think you’re stupid for believing it. Maybe I am stupider than everyone else. Maybe I should just hang it and move up to Tunagon. Ah me, I’m a Republifish now. I’ll have to go register, start practicing kissing police officers. Have a good time, mate, and make sure you leave before the election season’s over!”

Ron Pollock the Republifish swam away.

A novelist who has to defend his creation by telling a reader But that’s what really happened, is a novelist who has failed. — Samuel G. Freedman (Letters to a Young Journalist)