Juan Swann ran the Guaranteed to Catch a Fish Pond that was just outside of Ringerville on the way to Bartlett, in Echo Valley, but business wasn’t good. For that reason he was petitioning to rent some property right on the highway close to the bridge, where the tourists stopped because of the petting zoo, the fruit and candle stands, three fast food outlets, and now the bouncy castle (only $1 for half an hour, space permitting, age 4 to 11 only).
Business was slow at the Fish Pond despite the new neon sign he’d bought, which animated a blue fish leaping out of blue water (it was cheaper to have just one colour). He had forgotten that the neon was not as effective in bright daylight as it was at, say, midnight, when no one was interested in catching a fish out of a converted above-ground swimming pool.
But he was battling the district, who, under pressure from the Pearheads in the town of Bartlett, wanted to cap the activity on the Ringerville side of the bridge before it became, as they put it, tacky. The protesters had given up on eliminating the tourist “mall”, and now simply wanted to contain it. They pressured the district board members hard; they brought new energy into the concept of lobbying, which, to be honest, had never before been a staple of the Echo Valley District.
So Juan Swann decided to take a chance, a big one.
He asked to rent a small parcel on the Bartlett side of the one lane bridge instead of the Ringerville side, for his Guaranteed to Catch a Fish Pond enterprise. Now this was risky, as the protesters from Bartlett were a ruthless group, having recently stolen all the animals (four llamas, six goats, two old sheep, and Fancy the Chicken) from the petting zoo. These animals had recently been found roaming the fenced acreage of Jason Hock’s miniature pony ranch, in good condition except for the peace sign shaved into one of the llamas. What mischief would they get up to with Juan’s Fish Pond?
Juan fervently hoped his proposal would appease the naysayers. His Guaranteed to Catch a Fish Pond concession would be elegant, it would blend with the natural environment, it would be mostly hidden behind a copse of poplar trees, with only the subtle (in the daytime) blue neon sign announcing its presence. He would take out a bank loan and build a real wood deck to surround the pond, and would let the wood weather naturally. He would put out pots of flowers and herbs, and only sell soft drinks and water. The whole operation would be tasteful, and, he hoped, profitable for both the district and for Juan Swann.
Then one evening, as Juan settled in front of the television to watch CSI Miami, there was a pounding at the front door of his white panelled prefabricated bungalow. More curious than alarmed, he went to the door and to his horror, found a dead fish wrapped in newspaper on the porch.
It was only a goldfish, perhaps five centimetres in length, but the message was clear. Beware, Juan Swann. Your Guaranteed to Catch a Fish Pond is not wanted, and we will do what we have to do. Beware, or you swim with the goldfish.