"The Spring Fishing Dance Revisited," by B. Elwin Sherman

For the record, I'm not a Pisces–yet.

As a humorist, I'm always on the lookout for startling new developments in the world of ichthyology, so when a dedicated reader sent me an article about “a fish that may prefer crawling to swimming, and can possibly see the way humans do,” I was duly startled.

I've also noticed that when scientists (in this case, those of the zoological variety) have a new development to report, they always precede it with the word “startling.”  They do this because they've learned that if they don't, no one pays any attention to them.  Zoology is a lonely business.

I'm pursuing this because spring is here, and we all know how, at this time of year, a young man's fancy turns to ichthyology – that branch of zoology devoted to the study of fish.  I very nearly turned to ichthyology myself in adolescence, when it became clear that my spring fancy was not going to otherwise produce a prom date.  

I should probably be grateful that things evolved the way they did.  If Roxanne the head cheerleader hadn't agreed to accompany me to the prom when Steve the football hero broke his clavicle at the last minute, Mother Pauline might today have to refer to me as “my son, Elwin, the funny ichthyologist.”

Still, because I can't resist a startling new development, then or now, we've arrived at the walking fish that looks straight ahead.  I could go on about Roxanne's startling new developments that ultimately forced me to make a career change long ago, but this is a family show.

This new species of soon-to-be ambulating angelfish was discovered in Indonesian waters recently by the husband and wife professional diving team of Buck and Fitrie Randolph.  They are not certified ichthyologists, (both never had trouble getting prom dates) but when they saw a fish walking underwater and eyeballing them from the front, they knew they had something, and called Theodore W. Pietsch, “the world's leading authority on angelfish.”

Maybe it's me, but if I was ever to go scuba diving, I'd want guides named Buck and Fitrie.  Theodore W. Pietsch sounds like the guy who'd mistakenly send me into the deep with a helium tank.

But, I'd trust any ichthyologist named Pietsch to tell me why this startling new counter-evolutionary development seems to have us re-emerging from the world from whence we came.

When Professor Pietsch writes about angelfish, he says things like: “their eggs are spawned encapsulated within a non-adhesive, balloon-shaped mucoid mass.” Wow!  This is the guy I want around me when I'm talking startling new fish developments.

I tried to follow-up with him on this, but he's apparently off doing all things ichthyological, like making a “revised cladogram for synapomorphies.” Now, I wouldn't know a cladogram from a candygram, but if I had one, and I wanted my synapomorphies revised, I'd call Mr. Pietsch, long as he didn't fiddle with my airtanks.

I'd ask him if he wondered about this logical premise:  If fish are on their way up (again) to making landfall, could this mean that our species might be headed back to our biological beach?  If they're becoming more human, are we becoming more fishy?  Does my unexplained compulsion to spend more time in the hot tub lately mean that I'm fast becoming a mer-man?

Can I expect my agent to start acting like a bottom-feeder who treats my new book manuscript like he has eyes on both sides of his head?  (I can already confirm this.)

And, most importantly, can an ichthyologist ever go fishing without feeling  like he's bringing work home from the office?

Thus far, this startling new angelfish sub-species has not been given a name. In the world of science, the honor of christening a new entity belongs to its discoverer. Scientists call this the “neener-neener-neener” rule.

For example, when a comet was discovered in 1997 by astronomer Jim Scotti, he named it “1997 XF11,” and some experts believe it may crash into the earth in October, 2028, about the time, apparently, that we're getting back to breathing through our ears and Nemo The Clownfish starts rejecting book manuscripts.  This reveals two things:

1.  Jim has no imagination.

2.  He probably couldn't get a prom date, either.

But, he might've been a little less grown-up scientist, and a little more childhood visionary.  Somehow, “CHUNK-OF-JIM THREATENS FISH IMMIGRATION” would be a headline I could really get my gills around when the time comes.

Buck and Fitrie Randolph now have a golden opportunity for a shot at immortality. Oh, sure, they could play it safe and call our new wannabe landlubbers “Randolphicus Fishmanicae,” but I'd suggest something with a little more flipper to it:

I think “Prom Angel 1969” will do nicely.

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Syndicated humor columnist B. Elwin Sherman's prom days are over, but you can still catch him fishing on his website at: elwinshumor.com
Copyright 2008  B. Elwin Sherman.  All rights reserved.  Used here with permission.
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