The funny clownfish
“Hahahaha..," Delma could hear the sound of uproarious laughter from the Assembly Area of Aquatic School.
She was late for assembly because she had been busy helping the Aquatic School principal, Olly the Octopus, with some last-minute arrangements for a field trip.
"What's the matter?" she whispered to one of her jellyfish friends as she squeezed into a row of her classmates just as Assembly was drawing to an end.
"What's the joke?" she added.
"Remember the new fish which started coming to Aquatic School last week?" said the jellyfish, wiping away tears of merriment from his barely visible eyes. "The one who lives near the coral reefs and has to swim for an hour to get here? Well, he is a comedian! It was his class's turn to make a presentation in Assembly today and he had the audience in stitches with his witty dialogues."
"Oh! I missed it!" remarked Delma, her face falling.
That day during break time, Delma was in the Aquatic School library where she was searching for a parchment on plant life when she bumped into the clown fish.
"Hello!" the clown fish said cheerily.
"You are the 'hugely' famous Delma - protector of the lake!"
Delma seemed taken aback. Then her face broke into a smile as she understood the clownfish's pun.
"Thank you. I've been hoping to meet you too," Delma replied with a grin. "I heard your presentation in the assembly was hilarious. Everyone in my class was talking about it."
"Well! I just laugh at my own jokes," the clownfish said ruefully. "Luckily, everyone else laughs along!"
Delma decided that Capri the clownfish was one of the most unique creatures she had ever met. Before long he became one of the most popular creatures at Aquatic School. Everyone wanted to sit beside him during break time and wherever he went the sound of mirth and gales of laughter followed.
"I wish you could meet him," said Delma to her friends Din Din and Dazel one evening at the lakeside where the three friends met up regularly. "I have never met anyone with a better sense of humour."
"He does sound like an intriguing fish!" giggled Dazel as she heard Delma recount one of Capri's jokes. "He is. And his bright orange and white striped appearance perfectly reflects his vibrant personality. But you know he lives so far at the coral reefs. It takes him an hour to swim from his home to school. Also, he has to rush home as soon as school's over. He doesn't even hang out with any of us after hours. I wonder why he doesn't move to a place nearer to school," wondered Delma.
"Maybe his family doesn't want to leave the reefs," quipped Din Din.
"Yes, maybe! But that's a very long way to school," mused Delma.
The next day Delma couldn't help but observe how tired Capri looked when he reached school.
"It's no matter! I need the exercise!" Capri joked but Delma could see he was panting from the exertion.
"If you don't mind me asking, why don't you and your family move to a place closer to school," Delma asked awkwardly, hating to be nosy.
Capri's usually smiling face froze. For the first time since she had known him, he seemed speechless.
"I...I can't," was all the dumbfounded clownfish could stammer. He swam away without saying another word.
Delma felt wretched about making Capri feel bad. "Why did I ask him? I should have just kept my mouth shut," she cursed herself. "I will find Capri after school and apologize," the dolphin decided.
But when Delma got out of class after the final lesson of the day, Capri had already left the school premises.
"He just left," said Sally the salmon who was the gate monitor that day, when Delma asked her about the clownfish.
"Sally, do you know where the coral reefs are where Capri lives?" asked Delma morosely.
"Yes," replied the salmon and explained the route to Delma.
Without any other thought in her mind, but to apologize to her new friend, Delma swam swiftly towards the reefs, ignoring her rumbling stomach.
It was evening by the time she found the exact location where the clownfish family lived. The coral reefs were breathtaking and filled with exotic flowers with colourful and long petals.
"Capri," Delma cried when she spotted her school friend among the petals of one pretty flower. "Delma?" Capri was startled to see the dolphin in his home. "What are you doing here?"
"I came to say sorry for my nosy questions this morning," explained Delma shyly.
"Don't...don't come too near," warned the clownfish.
"Why not?" Delma asked, surprised and hurt at the rebuff.
"Delma, please understand," Capri said. Then with a sigh the clown fish explained, "Meet the sea anemones."
When Delma looked confused, Capri pointed to the flowers around him, "These flower-like creatures are actually a group of water-dwelling, predatory animals. Their tentacles have hair which can inject a venom into your body. That is why I asked you to stay away."
"Oh!" said a stunned Delma, taking a step back. "Then why are you living in its tentacles?"
"A special mucus on our body protects us from the sea anemone's stinging tentacles," said Capri. "You see, clownfish and sea anemones have a mutual symbiotic relationship. That means we are both dependent on each other for existence.
Clownfish protects the anemone from anemone-eating fish, and in turn the stinging tentacles of the anemone protects us from predators. And this is the very reason I can't live anywhere except where these anemones live."
"Oh!" said Delma, realization finally sinking in. "I'm sorry Capri. Everyone has their own way of living. It's fascinating really!"
"It’s okay, Delma. Thanks for understanding. And thank you for coming all this way just to say sorry," grinned the clownfish. "Although you too need the exercise!"
Delma threw back her head and laughed. "Would you like to come to my lakeside home to meet my best friends, Capri?"
"Sure, let me ask my parents," replied the delighted clownfish.
And finally, Din Din and Dazel were able to meet the acquaintance of Capri the clownfish too.
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