Wrasse-ling with Destiny

cleaning_station

Cleaner wrasses at work on a Hawaiian reef. Photo by Mbz1 (see below)

I’d like to apologize for the pun in the title. Unfortunately, I can’t, because I haven’t repented it. I do offer my regrets for any pain that it may cause.

I’m going to tell you about a small fish of a type called a “wrasse.”

This little wrasse was, well, just a bit of a thing when he hatched. He darted about with his many brothers and sisters through the water, and any time something drifted by that looked about the right size for their mouths, they’d snatch at it to see if it was food. Sometimes it was, and sometimes it wasn’t, but you know, when you’re a little fish in a big ocean, that’s as good a way to find out as any.

Come to think of it, human children take much the same approach… Pick up, put in mouth… Yuck!

But I digress.

As he grew, this young wrasse discovered that he had been born into a family business, which is kind of unusual for a fish. His parents and aunts and uncles and grandparents and so on would hang out at certain spots on the reef, where other fish – much bigger fish – would come and gather. The adult wrasses would swim around them, poking at their scales to find weeds and little creatures that latched onto them. Then they’d pick those little things off and eat them.

That was their supper.

Aren’t you glad that you’re not a cleaner wrasse?

Well, this little one wasn’t sure he wanted to be a cleaner wrasse. He’d watch wide-eyed as the older ones would swim right around the huge fins and gills, and even dart between their long sharp teeth to pick the parasites out of their mouths. All he could do was gulp and wonder.

But it was the family business, so…

The day came when he took his place on the reef with everyone else, and up swam a great big fish. He gave the “clean me” signal, so the little wrasse started in. He picked away little crabs and loose scales (and incidentally, he thought they were delicious).

But he still hesitated when he got to the big fish’s mouth.

He stopped, and looked the big fish right in the eye, and asked, “Um. Are you going to eat me if I go in there?”

The big fish seemed to think about it.

“Well, if I eat you,” asked the big fish, “will you come back and clean these little nuisances of critters that are driving me crazy?”

“Well, um, no,” said the little wrasse. “If you eat me, I wouldn’t do that.”

“Oh,” said the big fish. “In that case, I won’t eat you now.”

“In fact,” it continued, “I won’t eat you next time, either. How does that sound?”

It sounded pretty good to the little wrasse, who went back to work in the family business and never looked back.

And that’s how thing are on the reef: In the big ocean, there are creatures who now that they need each other. They need each other just as we need other people. They need each other just as we need every other living thing on this Earth.

Photo credit: By Wikimedia user Mbz1 (assumed based on copyright claims). – No machine-readable source provided. Own work assumed (based on copyright claims)., CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=2660436

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