Fren loved breakfast time in the morning. The early light filtered through the water, illuminating all the teensy zooplankton who had come out under the
cover of darkness to find their dinner. Fren and his buddy Mel would dart around like rockets, picking out the stragglers who hadn’t yet made it to hiding from the daylight, or who had been captured by the anemone’s arms. Mel was a fast hunter, but Fren was faster. That’s how Fren had grown up to be the third largest clown in his home.
He lived in an itsy-bitsy anemone in a tiny lagoon off the coast of the small country of Papua New Guinea. Of course, Fren didn’t know he lived in a lagoon. And he certainly didn’t know what a “Papua New Guinea” was. If a teacher had quizzed him on what a “Papua New Guinea” was he would most likely answer that it was a kind of anemone like the one he lived in. Fren would be wrong. But Fren knew what “anemone” meant, because he lived in one! A sea anemone was an animal that lived in the ocean, but looked like an underwater bush, with wiggly polyps instead of branches, and a big sticky foot instead of roots.
Life as a clownfish is different than for other fish in the sea. Big tuna cruise carelessly in the open ocean, silver herring live in shoals that move gracefully as if one beautiful mega fish. But clownfish never leave the anemones where they start out as new recruits, kind of like a fish teenager. Clowns are terrible swimmers. Outside of their home anemones, they are an easy and slow moving tasty morsel. So once Fren found his home as a recruit, he planned to stay forever.
“Hey Fren!” called Mel with a hearty laugh, “Get your head out of the surface water, I’m beating you for once! What’s got you so distracted anyway?”
This morning, Fren found himself drifting between day dreams more than usual. He was imaging watching the sun rise in a bath of red, orange, and blue water with his true love: Ocella.
Mel groaned as he realized this.
“Ugh, not Ocella again. Give it up already, she’s with Percy!”
Fren blushed. “I can’t help it! “ he exclaimed, “She is a magical clownfish,
completely different from all the others. I swear she is more beautiful than an angel fish. It’s like only Ocella knows the only right way to swim, to breathe, to laugh, or to smile. And best of all, she is so smart and strong. I wish I could talk to her every hour of the day!”
Mel rolled his eyes. But he knew his friend was sincere. Everything Ocella did mesmerized Fren. He knew he wanted to spend the rest of his life with her from the moment he first spoke to her. But there was one problem. Ocella was the biggest clown in the anemone, which meant she was already dating another clown, Percy. Fren didn’t like Percy one bit! Percy was a bully, always pushing around the smaller clowns in the anemone because he was the biggest male. Even Ocella didn’t like him. She was kind, and loathed how mean Percy was to the smaller clowns.
Suddenly, Fren snapped out of his day dreams to feel someone shove him roughly.
“Hey!” he shouted as he regained his balance, “Watch it, you almost pushed me out of the anemone!”
When he turned around, he found him face to face with Percy. Percy was huge, and he always had a scowl distorting his face. But Fren was big too, and almost as big as Percy now.
“If only I did. I’m sick of seeing your face around here,” he snarled “I’d love to push you out of here!”
The commotion was starting to draw a crowd, and from the back of the anemone, Ocella emerged. She looked at Fren apologetically. She knew how mean Percy could be.
“Enough Percy, we don’t shove other clowns around in this anemone. I won’t tolerate this behavior any longer. I won’t warn you again!”
Fren saw the anger in her eyes. Ocella was a kind clown, but she was formidable too. Percy snarled at her,
“You can’t tell me what to do, I’m the biggest male here, not you! And I’m in charge.” He faced Fren venomously, “I’m sick of this clown. I want you gone, Fren.”
“Give it a rest Percy, we’re all sick of you bullying us!” shouted Mel bravely, moving to Fren’s side.
And just like that, Percy lost it. Fren’s little heart beat rapidly as he watched Percy dart at Mel in slow motion. Percy’s eyes were livid, his fins waving aggressively. He was going to push Mel out of the anemone! In the background, he saw Ocella move helplessly to stop him, terrified for Mel. No clowns ever survived eviction from the anemone, it was too dangerous out there in the open ocean. In an instant, Fren knew what he had to do.
Mel cowered in fear as Percy moved to strike him like lightening, but Fren was faster, and Fren was almost as big as Percy. He shoved Percy hard away from Mel, saving his friend in just the nick of time. But he didn’t realize how strong he was, and he saw Percy’s angry face disappear as he was lost through the sheltering arms of their anemone, into the outside blue.
After a shocked silence, all of the clowns in the anemone burst into cheers.
Mel hugged Fren lovingly,
“Thanks buddy! I really thought I was a goner there!”
“I’m just happy you’re safe, “ sighed Fren as he embraced his friend. He was relieved.
Silence fell on the anemone, and Fren looked up to see Ocella moving towards him. Suddenly, he realized he was the biggest male in the anemone with Percy gone… that meant he could finally ask Ocella on a date!
But she beat him to it.
“Thanks for standing up to Percy, Fren. It was brave of you to save your friend from such an awful bully. I’m glad you did. Now, our anemone can be filled with happy, kind clowns. No more intimidation.” she paused, and blushed, “Maybe you’d like to hunt breakfast together tomorrow? The sunrise looks beautiful through the water on the eastern side of the anemone.”
In the background Mel rolled his eyes, but smiled, at his friend.
“That would be a dream come true.” Fren said, and he felt his heart warm with happiness.