Tuk and the Water Story by Ivo Hardies_bupabopi Jason Pym Illustration

Tuk was a cat fascinated by water. In all states. Water in a glass, in a pond, bottled, dripping from the faucet or the toilet murky swirl. He could lay motionless for hours, his yellow gaze fixed on that transparent substance that breathes other airs. What he most wanted in the world was to know how to swim, so he could get into that other dimension. That moving freely without gravity, as did the fish. The poor fish were terrified because they confused envy with murder instinct.

Tuk soon grew bored with water in its more domestic forms and went to investigate. He found water in a sewer but it was too disgusting and meeeeow! he ran out. He found water in several fish tanks and was amused by the bubbles from the air pump, but he eventually found it too immobile.

Finally he found the water that most inspired him. It was a mighty river with lots of backwater corners, where it flowed, crystalline, among rocks and pebbles.

He could spend hours there, contemplating huge fish swimming majestically when they were not aware of his presence and suddenly became terrified when they recognized his feline silhouette beyond the mirror of the surface.

He started going every day, always to the same haven of the river. It got to the point that the fish almost starved for not daring to leave their shelters to eat. Furthermore it was precisely in quieter waters where food was abundant that the cat would hang out. Nor could they venture into other pools because they belonged to other fish clans. Each clan had its area and could not get out. It was Fish Law.

One day, the bravest and biggest of all fish, sick of seeing his own kind suffer, decided to confront the cat. He swam ostentatious by the shore, expecting to see the black and agile silhouette with yellow eyes. When he finally saw him, he approached. “Here I am, eat me, you can see I am a delicious bite, I’ll give myself to you so easily that you’ll barely get wet, but in exchange you have to promise me you’ll leave my family alone and go hunting in other parts of the river, where I guarantee the fish will be more succulent.” (In the animal kingdom, unlike the human, promises are kept.)

Tuk, flattered that one of the fascinating creatures of water would deign to talk to him, was both surprised and amused. “Me, eat you? But I just eat cat food!” “Then why do you come every day?” “To see how you swim, and if you are not swimming as unfortunately has been the case lately, to dream that I can swim like you.” “Are you a cat who’s not afraid of water?” “Cats do not fear the water, they fear drowning! It would be the only death that would prevent us from being reborn, exhausting at once our nine lives.”

The fish had an idea. “If I teach you to swim, would you swear me friendship and loyalty through all your nine lives, and to my family when I’m gone?” (Fish, if they lead a good and smooth life, can live much more than we imagine).  Tuk accepted enthusiastically, and from that day on his swimming lessons began. At first they held him up and allowed him to feel the water and its movements. Soon they taught him to move and use his muscles to stay afloat and propel himself, as well as holding the air in his lungs and press it against the nose to keep water out of his nostrils, and even to hold a reed in his mouth to breathe beneath the surface.

Tuk soon became a great swimmer. He also ended up being close friends with the fish, and unwilling to avoid it, he scared the other clans of the river, who had to migrate to the sea.

The river turned into the kingdom of this fish clan, with fishes stronger and larger than others of their species. They had many, many children and ended up being a native species known as the “catfish” because they could meow and were able to speak to all cats that came to see them, who were many.