Motherbone and Koi

Motherbone knelt on a stone that protruded over a crowded koi pond. She had eagle-colored hair, which she wound daily into a loose braid that tickled her toes. Motherbone visited her koi pond each morning with a jug of magic that was passed down to her by her mother, which was passed down to her by the sun. Motherbone was bony and fairly hollow, meek and wimpy, but her magic jug gave her more power than fourteen plowing Palomino ponies at once. You see, when she spilled the magic into the pond, her arm releasing gracefully from her elbow’s port, the koi fish waggled their tails, puffed their lips, and tried to be first in line for a sip. There was only enough magic for one koi a day, so the fish swam zealously, cutthroat, and like sassy luge riders to be the lucky drinker. From above, the pond looked like a pea green oval with glinting umber scales and pineapple-toned fish heads flashing fitfully, a reflective pool of jewels. It made Motherbone giggle when the koi bumped into one another, nipping and nudging for the magic sip.

Every day, Motherbone’s magic jug contained something new and delicious. Sometimes, Motherbone fed the koi humility. Other times, they suckled on humor. On holidays, she spilled gratitude with flecks of tranquility into one lucky koi’s kisser. The koi especially loved when the jug was filled with affection. It tasted juicy, like a Thanksgiving hambone or a deep dish of chocolate cream. Even though Motherbone could only feed one koi a day, the magic seeped out the gills and steeped the pond completely. So, if one koi sipped gaiety from the jug, they all enjoyed gaiety, after proper digestion and permeation, of course.

One morning, Motherbone met a stubborn goat on her way to the pond. She came across the fat goat on a footbridge. The goat simply would not move, even after she said, “Please move, goat. I have a koi pond to feed. Today’s magic drink is peace.”

The goat rolled his eyes, crunched on a leaf, and lifted his leg to piddle. “Well, if you won’t move, I’m going to slink past you,” Motherbone said.

This should’ve been no problem at all, but the goat must’ve been in a sour mood. When Motherbone tried to pussyfoot past his white prickly butt, he lifted a foot and punted her in the gut. The kick sent her sailing backwards into a black swamp.

“Foo!” cried Motherbone who dropped her magic jug in the swamp. She noticed some of the magic had spilled out. Trying quickly to scoop it back into the jug, she accidentally ladled some of the goat’s swamp sludge in too. The swamp was filled with another type of magic—bad magic. It contained dabs of anger, tidbits of jealousy, globs of gossip, and morsels of gloom. Motherbone knew the swamp contained toxins, but she was in a hurry and hoped it wouldn’t make a difference. Wiping off the jug’s edges, she pinned the jug beneath her pit and scrambled off, crinkling a single eye at the smirking goat.

When she arrived to the pond, a lustrous pink koi was waiting in a tizzy for a drink. The magic landed hard and clunky in his mouth, pushing him below the surface. Motherbone, still fuming from the goat kick, didn’t notice the koi’s shiny pink scales bubbling into corpuscles of white puss and bloody sputum. He hacked the swamp sludge from his gullet, and it spread throughout the pool in zigzag lines, like dark fractals on an autumn leaf. Soon each koi experienced a taste of the bad magic, and new feelings were abuzz in the pond. These feelings were strange. Some koi felt anxious, some were skittish and scared, and others were downright furious. When Motherbone looked upon the pond, she noticed one koi biting the tail of another. Then, they were all chomping their jaws like crazy blind sharks. She saw algae clinging to the backs of blood-coated fish, eating them as they ate each other. One by one, koi bellies turned to the sun. The pond water became covered in blood and bones, and it was quickly emptying. Motherbone sat at the edge of the dire pond and wept.

The next morning, Motherbone returned to the pond and discovered a waterless hole. Twenty-seven limp fish bodies lay stuck to the muddy floor. Motherbone wept again. A shoulder landed like warm pie on her shoulder. It was her mother, Motherkin.

“Did the koi drink bad magic?” asked Motherkin.

Motherbone nodded, regretfully. “It was just a little bit.”

Motherkin knelt beside her daughter. “If only we knew the power of our magic jugs. Even a pinch of bad magic can spoil a pond. Blessed is a pond that is nourished with good magic.”

“Now I have no pond at all,” said Motherbone.

“You will always have a pond. Everyone has a pond. Right now, yours is dry. As sure as the sky leaks rain, your pond will soon be full.”

Motherbone began to curse and blame the goat, but Motherkin interrupted her. “Listen closely because you will doubtlessly run into many more stubborn goats. The goat is a sad sucker in a cycle of bad magic. Clean out your jug, lift it to the sun, and stop the cycle when you notice it spinning. If you run into a sassy goat again, offer some of your good magic. It will help balance out the lopsidedness, until the only kind of magic to drink is the good kind.”

Motherbone looked at her jug hopefully. She lifted it toward a ray of sun, and it began to sparkle, clean and new. A gray cloud sobbed. Two measly raindrops faded into Motherbone’s nape. She heard the sound of a koi wiggling his flipper against the swampy ooze. It was a slow beat at first, but it segued into a steady meter. Another koi beat against the sludge. More and more fins thumped the Earth, uneven and syncopated, sounding like a clumsy-cool chorus line. Motherbone raised her head, determined.

“Today’s magic drink is moxie.”