The lights were dim. They always were on the ocean floor. The Angler’s light was flickering on and off. He had worked a fourteen-hour shift. It was hard to keep lit after a day like that. I wasn’t a surprise. Nearly every fish in this dive was out of luck. I see it on their faces every night. It’s the look you get when you don’t have any hope.
I’ve lived the high life. Yea, I’ve been to the reefs. I even spent three years in an aquarium. Not a little Mom and Pop joint. No, it was the real deal. It was downtown Seoul, South Korea.
But that was another life. I got run out of the tank in Seoul. They never asked who started the fighting. They just rounded us up and dumped us twenty miles out into the ocean. You get the name aquarium fish and soon no one wants to be near you. I did some things on the reef I’m not proud of. You’ll do almost anything to survive out there. I got on the wrong side of an unholy mackerel one evening and I’ve been here ever since. I play my saxophone for barnacles. I’m just like every other chub in here. I’m just sticking it to The Fish.
I was between sets when the bell over the door rang.
“Hello, Angelfish.” The squid cleaning the tables had said a mouthful. We’re use to drifters floating in, but this was no drifter. This angelfish was classy. I wasn’t the only fish in the joint straightening out his tail fin. Behind her came a large sturgeon.
“Figures, classy dame like that’s got to have a guy already.” The squid shined up the table closest to the stage and the two sat down and ordered a couple of waters.
“You know the water around here can really clog your gills. You ought to get something a little stronger, something with a little algae in it, if you know what I mean?” I could tell the two had no idea what I meant.
“Do you play?”
“Down here, sweetie, it’s only soul. I’d like to know what you’re playing at. You two didn’t just drift down the current.”
“We’re traveling against the current.” The angelfish brushed back her flowing fins.
“You’re a regular salmon.”
“No, we just have a purpose. My name’s Charles Haddon Sturgeon, this is Angel.”
“If you’re looking for a porpoise you won’t find any around here. Only fish in this place, no mammals allowed.”
“No,” the sturgeon continued, “I came to ask you if you have given much though to the condition of your soul.”
I wasn’t the best fish on the bottom of the sea. Sure I had a few tattoos, a couple of hooks in my lip, one in my eyebrow, and I was getting a little out of shape, but that was life on the 20,000 leagues under. “If you’re looking for a sole, I’ve already got a gig.”
The angelfish giggled. I wasn’t sure I actually like it much. Charles continued without noticing Angel. “I’m not looking for a fish. My purpose is to get people to consider the condition of their eternal soul.”
I honestly hadn’t given it much though. Sure I had heard a few Catfish spin a yarn or two about God, but that wasn’t for me. I was my own fish. I didn’t swim in a school. What did God have to offer me?
“Are you happy?” Angel was talking.
“As happy as ever.”
“Not too happy then, huh?”
It was like she could read my mind. But I had been in this dive too long to think that she had anything for me.
“I bet you think that you’re a pretty bad fish. What if I told you I knew someone who could clean up the dirtiest soul?”
“I’d say you hadn’t been around sister. I’ve seen some pretty slimy fish in my day.” I met a gang once that had come down from the Valdez spill. Honestly I don’t think they were as messed up as me.
Sturgeon began to talk again. “It’s time you know the truth. No mater how toxic the water Jesus can help.” That night Sturgeon shared with me a wonderful truth and at a dirty table in back corner of an old dive this soul playing sole from Seoul had his soul changed forever. I’m no longer solo, now I travel up current. I swim against the flow.
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