Friday 17 August 2012

Jonah and the Big Fish

“Fish,” said Jonah, as the big fish opened its mouth as wide as it could, “you don’t have to do this, you know. You could carry me on your back, or something.”

“Shut up.” The fish wiggled its jaw around to try and fit Jonah into its mouth without biting him in two. “Couldn’t you have dieted at least to get into something like shape? Talk about morbid obesity.”

“Sorry,” Jonah apologised. “The food in that ship was so damned good, you see. And besides...”

“Yeah?” The fish had just managed to get Jonah into its oesophagus. “Uhg. You’re fat, you know? I wouldn’t be surprised if you scoffed down all the food on that ship.”

“That’s what I wanted to say,” Jonah confessed. “When I thought we were about to sink, I thought it would be a pity if all that food went to waste.” He felt a tight squeeze and then suddenly was inside a large space. “Am I in your stomach?”

“Going by the sudden – ouch – colic I’ve developed, yes.” The fish squeezed hard on the longitudinal muscles of its stomach wall. “You stop wiggling around or I’ll just go ahead and digest you. What did I do to deserve this anyway?”

“What do you mean, what did you do to deserve this? What about me? I’m the one in a fish’s belly!”

“Big deal,” said the fish. “Here I am, swimming along happily, looking for a mate, and all of a sudden some old white guy with a white beard wearing a white nightgown, sitting on a cloud – a cloud, yet! -  tells me to go swallow a defector and take him to Occupied Palestine. At least he might have warned me that I was supposed to gulp down a Sumo wrestler.”

“Will you stop talking about my fat?” Jonah asked crossly. “I’m hungry as it is.”

“You’re hungry after that meal? I rest my case.” For a while the fish was silent, nursing its sense of grievance. “You know what really infuriates the hell out of me? Two thousand three hundred years from now, morons will call me a whale.” If the fish could have looked Jonah in the eye, it would have glared at him. “I ask you, do I look like a whale?”

“How do I know? All I ever saw is the inside of your stomach.” Jonah struck two flints together. “My, do you stink. And you have a big belly,” he said. “Big as a whale, I might say. Ouch!”

“Next time,” said the fish, attempting to grit its teeth, but failing because they were not the sort you could grit, being adapted for cutting, not grinding, “you mention the word ‘whale’, I’ll forget what the old man said and begin digesting.” It sped on through the water. “You still breathing?” it asked.

“Yes, of course. Why?”

“Oh, just wondered. The old guy didn’t specify in the con tract, sorry, contract, that I’d have to provide you oxygen. Or food, for that matter.” The fish paused to let that one sink in. “Unless you want raw fish paste,” it said maliciously. “Half-digested raw fish paste, with maybe some raw seal thrown in.”

“Please,” Jonah begged, “don’t. Just the thought of it makes me want to die.”

“Good,” said the fish. “Go right ahead and die. Then I can digest you and have done with it. Of course,” it added gloomily, “with my luck, you’d probably give me diarrhoea.”

“See here,” Jonah said, “why are we quarrelling? We have to live together for the next three days, don’t we? So why don’t we...compromise?”

“Compromise? How?”

“You don’t understand? We could be friends. We could help each other.” Quickly, Jonah explained how.

“You’ve got a point,” said the fish. “I’ll consider it.”

The next morning the fish, directed to the area of ocean with the richest pickings by Jonah, ate the first man. It wasn’t much of a meal; the man was a Greek fisherman, thin and poor, so neither Jonah nor the fish got much out of him. But the next was a fat merchant, carrying many riches, and both of them were happy indeed. And the next was even better, being a government official laden with his bribes.

Afterwards, when the fish vomited out a thinner and healthier Jonah, and after Nineveh had been pacified and the people subject to mass punishment, Jonah made a killing on the markets with all the loot from the people the fish had eaten. He may have been a lousy prophet, but he was good at turning a profit.

And so was insider trading born.

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