The Pilot Fish

from The Cosmic Balancing Act

An ambitious fish – seeking to better its lot – managed to secure employment working as a pilot: a pilot fish, no less, for a huge and intimidating shark.

“Shark coming through!” the fish would chirrup, as they made their way along the reefs and the trenches of the ocean. “Just to the side, if you would. Thank you sir. Back a bit everyone – shark approaching!”

And though the fish had a naturally officious manner, and was prim and proper in its ways, its words were quite pointless: for when the shark approached – everybody shot off anyway.

“Shark coming through, thank you madam!”

Ah!” it would murmur to the shark, “rather nice tuna, just behind that rock . . . ”

“Snap!” the shark would snap.





– as it acted on the tip offs from the pilot fish and seized another victim.

“You’ve got a bit of fin on your chin,” the pilot fish would chuckle – cleaning the shark’s face like a nursemaid. “Lobster at three o’clock – ”

“I don’t want a lobster at three o’clock. I want a lobster now,” the shark would growl (for it was very stupid).

Well of course, the other fish and molluscs and crustaceans and cephalopods were extremely annoyed by all of this: the shark gobbling up everything in sight, and the pilot fish visibly collaborating.

“He’s a disgrace,” some of the older creatures would curse.

“He’s a turncoat,” the more sophisticated would add.

“He is not fit to bear the name of fish!” spat the really indignant and articulate.

And so it was that the other fish got together and decided to have a word with the pilot fish.

“I’m just going to investigate in here,” the pilot fish told the shark – one day as they were passing a shipwreck. “If there’s anything worth eating, I’ll chase it out for you . . . ”

But inside the wreck there was nothing to chase out, just a mob of very angry fish, none of them about to go anywhere.

“Right, you,” growled one of the big ones. “You, pilot fish. What the hell do you think you’re playing at?”

“Hmm?” said the pilot fish. “I’m only doing my job.”

“Don’t give me that,” said a vicious one-eyed crab. “You are assisting the enemy, and we don’t like that.”

“It is cowardly,” said an octopus.

“It is duplicitous,” added a squid.

“It is betrayal,” spluttered a cuttlefish.

The pilot fish sighed. “Well it’s all right for you,” he answered. “You’ve got shells. You’ve got territory. You’ve got camouflage! You’ve got ink! You’ve got eight arms! I’ve got to live by my wits!”

“Pah!” said an oyster.

“Pah?” said the pilot fish. “I’d like to see you go it alone. We haven’t all got a fortune in treasure stashed under our tongues. And when was the last time you saw a shark eating oysters?”

“It’s the principle of the thing,” the oyster snapped back. “There are higher motives in life than self-interest – ” which flummoxed the pilot fish as it didn’t actually know that.

“Well at least I am contributing to the general welfare of the ocean,” it opined. “Instead of just lying around helping myself to whatever floats by.”

This drew gasps of dismay as it was, of course, an acceptable livelihood for the most of them.

“What I think we’re trying to say here,” said a very old and slow-moving turtle. “Is that it is a question of ethics and you are failing us. As a fish it is your role to side with your fellows – ”

“Says who?” sneered the pilot fish. “Don’t give me that brotherhood nonsense. It’s so seventies.”

“Fair enough,” said the turtle. “But just keep out of this wreck.”

The pilot fish could hardly wait to break this solemn order and returned to the shark straight away.

“Where’s my dinner?” muttered the shark.

“Worry not,” said the pilot fish. “I’ve something special for you today. Follow me!” – as it guided the shark back inside the shipwreck.

“What do you fancy?” asked the pilot fish, whetting the shark’s appetite. “Squid? Nice crunchy crabs? What about some octopus? Tell you what – ” as they nudged their way through its gloomy corridors – “I may be able to rustle up some oysters, and possibly a bottle of champagne!”

But alas, the corridors of the wreck were far too narrow for the massive shark, and it soon became wedged in the dining room entrance.

“Where’s my dinner?” said the shark.

“Un moment!” wittered the pilot fish. “I’m sure there is room to reverse. That’s right, left a bit, I’ll just tap you on the nose . . . ”

And “Squalp!” went the shark – swallowing its accomplice, whole.

Try as it might, the shark could never break free from the dining room entrance; the little pilot fish was its final meal. Indeed, in double-crossing its partner in crime it had sealed the fates of both of them.

The curse of hunger soon enough saw to the greedy shark. And in due course, a magnificent feast was enjoyed by all the other creatures.

Moral: Up the workers!

© Adam Acidophilus 2020