The Fish and the Stone: A Fable for Gem Connoisseurs
It happened in 1979, and I remember it as if it was yesterday. I was on my little boat, overlooking the deep and liquid expanse of Fenton Lake, near Los Alamos, New Mexico. I had just been trolling by lantern-light, trying to attract the fish that had eluded me all day. The sounds of the night -- the crickets and singing bugs -- had started up.
After at least an hour of waiting patiently, there was a tug on my line, and I pulled in a wriggling yellow perch. I raised my knife to cut its head off, to end its misery of drowning in air, and did so -- quickly. The head fell off into my little plastic bucket, but at the same time, something shiny tumbled out. I couldn't believe my eyes. I didn't know much about gemstones, but that's what it appeared to be. Rough cut, but with sparkling lights coming from its depths, like an opal! I rowed back to the shore, excited. My wife Roberta was already in the tent, having eaten a can of beans for dinner in case my bad luck continued.
"Roberta, look!" I said, pushing back the canvas flap and holding the stone out for her to see, my lantern casting yellow light on the darkness around us.
"What is it?" she asked.
"I don't know, exactly, but I think it's an opal. I found it inside a fish I caught."
Roberta took it in her small hand and turned it this way and that in the light. "I can't believe it. It was inside the fish?"
"Yes, in its mouth, or maybe its head. It fell out when I started to clean it."
"It looks valuable," she said. "Let's put it someplace safe for now."
So we did. We wrapped it in a paper towel and then put it in a collapsible plastic cup we had with the dishes, and took it home. Being the very busy people we were at that time, we promptly forgot about it. We moved into a different apartment, then after seven long years of saving our money, a humble little house.
One day, Roberta found the stone in a dusty box she had been unpacking. I decided I wanted to put it in a ring for Roberta. We went to a dealer of precious metals and gemstones. The owner of the shop seemed too busy to pay much attention to us, but eventually he looked our way. When he saw the stone, he became very interested indeed.
To be continued...
If you enjoyed this blog post, you might also enjoy 'the post 'Funny Bead Story'.