“Dear wife, I’m taking the fish for a walk,” the gnome shouted. “Put the kettle on and when I get back we’ll have a nice cup of turnip tea.”
“Deepbarrow, you be careful,” the gnome’s wife called back. “You remember what happened last time you took Rainbow for a walk?”
“I’ll remember, dear, only if you remember the turnip tea.” With that said, Deepbarrow closed the door to his underground home behind him.
Wait—a fish? A fish? How do you walk a fish? Attach a leash to its collar of course: haven’t you ever walked a dog? Now dogs can swim as well as walk, but fish can’t walk, they only swim. So to walk a fish, put it in a river or a pond, then jog along as it swims along.
Rainbow, Deepbarrow’s fish, had coloured scales that shone so brightly they made the water glisten like rubies, emeralds and sapphires. Just the sort of coloured gemstones your mother wears on her fingers. Oh, Mother doesn’t wear ruby, emerald or sapphire rings? Then she most certainly is not a gnome, for all gnomish ladies wear such bright jewels, even to bed. And, if Mother has no fingers, then she is probably a worm, a worm that can read—a bookworm.
Anyway, Deepbarrow wore a sapphire hat that covered his silver hair and pointed ears. In fact, he liked the colour blue so much, he dressed himself entirely in different shades of blue. He wore a navy cloak draped over an azure waistcoat, the colour of the sky. Don’t ask me why. The azure waistcoat he buttoned up over a periwinkle shirt, which he tucked into a pair of turquoise trousers. No, not tortoise trousers—turquoise trousers. To wear tortoise trousers would be very silly, wouldn’t it? You wouldn’t walk very quickly, would you?
Deepbarrow loved blue, but he didn’t like red, because the gnome’s big nose burned flame red. Gnomes love to smell trees, shrubs and flowers as they ramble across their lands, you see. Sometimes, their nosy noses upset bees, who sting! And on this day, Deepbarrow’s nose burned so red it glowed. And as he walked Rainbow along the Giddy-Up Brook, he had to stoop below willow trees that overhung the stream. His bulbous nose made seeing the ground difficult, and he tripped over a root. “Ah!” the gnome cried, falling into nettles and brambles. “Ouch!” he shouted as his nose got stuck in mud. “Help me!”
With no help near, Deepbarrow let go of Rainbow’s leash so he could do a press up and pull his nose free. “Urgh!” He struggled. “Arh!” he squealed at the pain of his pinched nose. “Hoo‑arr‑ay!” the gnome yelled as with one mighty push—POP!
Deepbarrow tumbled back into a heap. Sitting up, he looked cross-eyed down his sore nose and sneezed not once, not twice, but thrice. Trying to untangle the roots tangled around his nose, he looked around in time to see Rainbow swimming downstream. “Stop! Rainbow, come back!”
But Rainbow did not listen. How could he? Fish don’t have ears. So off Rainbow swam beneath the glistening water, with his leash floating behind him.
Quickly Rainbow swam, so quickly Deepbarrow ran, and tripped over the vines wrapped around his legs. Thinking Deepbarrow’s chase a game, the fish circled a whirly whirl pool, and chased his tail. Then, as the gnome stood up and began to run, the fish leapt out of the water. A trail of bright colour followed Rainbow, left behind by his glistening scales.
Just then, along the Giddy-up Brook walked another gnome. From his copper hair, brown robe and yellow boots, Deepbarrow recognised his friend, Jollylocks. Jollylocks, however, did not recognise Deepbarrow. Instead, the gnome’s eyes widened, for towards him ran a creature with a gooey mud-caked body, a nose of dangling dirty roots, and hair of stinging nettles. Vines snaked around the monster’s legs, and thorny brambles sprouted from its back like bat wings. “Monster!” Jollylocks cried in fright, before leaping into the stream.
“Oh dear,” said Deepbarrow. “Oh dear, Jollylocks. You have jumped into deep water, you silly gnome.”
“Ha! The monster is going to eat me!” Jollylocks cried. “Help! Help! The monster is going to blub—blub—blub.” Jollylocks disappeared beneath the water.
“Jollylocks, I am no monster; it is me, Deepbarrow. Why did you go and do a silly thing like jump into the stream? You can’t swim.”
“Blub-blub-blub,” replied Jollylocks, before gurgling, “Ug—blub—ug, blub.”
“Well, I don’t know whether I should save you,” replied Deepbarrow.
“You might well say that, but it wasn’t me who jumped into the Giddy-Up Brook, was it?”
Deepbarrow understood everything his friend had said. Every gnome learns Underwaterish at school by sticking their head in a bucket of water and singing. Yes, I know, I know, fish don’t have ears. So why do gnomes learn Underwaterish if fish can’t hear what they say? Because, silly, everyone knows that fish can read lips.
Anyway, back to the story. Deepbarrow learned Underwaterish by submerging his head in a bucket of water and singing bird songs. One day, he tweeted, chirped and whistled so beautifully that all the nearby birds flew through the classroom window. The teacher, happy listening to all the birds perched on her head, gave Deepbarrow a prize for his singing. And that is how Deepbarrow won a sapphire-blue hat.…
Now that wasn’t the story I was telling, was it? No, I was telling you about … about … oh yes, now I remember. Oh yes, indeed …
Deepbarrow stared at his friend, who bubbled and gurgled and splashed his armed frantically. Listening carefully, Deepbarrow could just make out what Jollylocks said:
“Blub—blub. Blub, ug, blub, blug!”
“Now listen, Jollylocks,” Deepbarrow replied, “I am not a monster but your friend, Deepbarrow.”
“Yes, I am. And I promise I am not going to eat you.”
“Blub, blug, ug—blub—blub—blub?”
“Oh, all right. Just wait a minute.”
Now the best way of saving a drowning gnome is not to jump in after them. No, you do what Deepbarrow did, and find a long stick to reach out with.
“Take hold of the stick,” Deepbarrow yelled.
“What stick? The stick I’m sticking into the water. Now stop your blubbering and grab it.”
Jollylocks did as asked. Deepbarrow heaved.
Jollylocks did not budge. Again, Deepbarrow heaved.
“I can’t pull you up,” Deepbarrow cried.
“Blub—blub—blub,” Jollylocks said sorrowfully.
“Your legs are tangled in weeds?”
Deepbarrow wondered, should I jump in to help my friend and untangle his legs? Will I get trapped too? Should I run for help? Will it be too late by the time I get back? Frantic, Deepbarrow yelled, “Jollylocks!”
Jollylocks’ arms stopped flapping. His voice faded. Deepbarrow watched his friend sink deep beneath the water.
A few bubbles, but no “Blub …”
SPLASH! From the water leapt Deepbarrow’s fish with a rainbow trailing behind him. So high the fish leapt he reached a tree above, and got stuck between two branches. From the water a hand appeared, and grabbed the rainbow rope the magical fish had left behind. Slowly, Jollylocks pulled himself up and gasped for air.
“Jollylocks!” Deepbarrow reached to him with his stick. “Quickly, take hold of this.”
Jollylocks held tightly the offered stick, and Deepbarrow heaved. Out of the stream and onto the bank came the gnome. First appeared copper hair; then a bulbous nose. A round tummy, swollen with swallowed water, followed. Finally, yellow boots kicked the air as Jollylocks fell on his back. On seeing Jollylocks’ swollen stomach, Deepbarrow did what any friend would do: he jumped high into the air and … Gush! The water in Jollylocks’ tummy shot out of his mouth and into the air, soaking them both. Deepbarrow leapt up and down until certain that all the water had been pushed out. Then, gleeful, he bounced on his friend’s stomach for fun.
“Blub blub!” Jollylocks cried.
“What?” Deepbarrow shouted between giggles.
“Blub blub, blub blug.”
Deepbarrow replied, “You are not under water now, Jollylocks. You can speak.”
“Blub? Really? Oh, yes. Now get off me Deepbarrow, and I mean now!”
With a final bounce, Deepbarrow leapt so high that he landed on the tree branch in which his fish remained snagged. Whilst petting the fish, he grinned down at Jollylocks and asked, “Did Rainbow save you? Did his magic free your legs?”
“Yes,” Jollylocks said, coughing.
“You are lucky then,” Deepbarrow said, waving his finger at his friend. “You shouldn’t go swimming if you can’t swim.”
“Swimming? Swimming? Why run at me with muddy clothes, roots for a nose, and a nettle bush stuck on your head? You looked like a troll, a goblin, or some other naughty monster. I was going to fight you.”
“Why didn’t you?” Deepbarrow asked as he freed Rainbow from the branch.
“Because my feet are not as brave as my head, and jumped me right into the water.”
“Oh. Well, that is lucky for me: I would have hated to be nibbled by your brave head.”
After leaping down, Deepbarrow offered a hand and helped Jollylocks back to his feet. Then, the two friends hugged and laughed. Together, they wandered along Giddy-Up Brook, with Rainbow swimming in the water beside them.