An East Falls fairy tale for our friends at Frequency Tattoo, and all our neighborhood’s cyclists & art lovers.
Gather ‘round, kids, here’s a story about a wizard, a woodsman, and a fish who all met one day in a village by a river and a creek and a big green forest. The fish was the first one who spoke,
“Good sir!” he called to the woodsman on his way to work one morning, “If you help remove these plastic six-pack rings wrapped around me, I will grant you a wish.”
“Really?” asked the woodsman. Seemed unlikely, but then, he’d never seen a fish talk before. He peered down over the stone steps at the flaring gills and bulging eyes below. “You do look pretty dire, “he observed, “And I could certainly use some good luck.”
So he spent like five minutes untangling the fish until it could swim freely at last. “Okay, do I just say my wish now or what?” the woodsman had to half shout over the fish’s hysterical laughter, which had started before he’d finished his question.
As the fish’s mirth dragged on, the woodsman accepted he’d been had. He hadn’t really believed in wishes anyway, but the idea had been nice while it lasted.
From thin air, a glowing white cloud descended upon the wall between them and a purple-robed woman stepped out. “Boy did you just dodge a bullet, “the wizard told the woodsman, “Have you never read a fairy tale? There’s always a catch with wishes,” she said, “You’re lucky this guy’s a fake.”
“And you –” she began, turning to the fish, “Again with the pranking? Are you kidding me?”
Lightning bolts of fury crackled from her fingertips as she glared at the fish. Smug little thing. He’d hooked her once, posing as a handsome prince on Bumble. Oh how he’d promised to change. She was not about to let him off easy this time.
To the woodsman she said, “I’m going to turn this jerk into stone or furniture or something unless you’ve got a better idea,” she told him, “Maybe something fancy, like art? Or something useful like…” they both looked around for an idea, “A bike rack?” she gestured toward the woodman’s Cannondale.
“Yeah, ya know, those are both great. I’d love some cool art around here but I could also use somewhere to park my bike.”
“Got it!” said the wizard, snapping her fingers. Poof! Before the fish knew what was happening, he’d been turned into a bike rack right there on the spot. Poof again! The wizard and her cloud disappeared. The woodsman looked down at the dazzling bike rack. Made of magical recycled factory parts, the fish sculpture projected beauty and history to all who saw it.
Unfortunately, few people would encounter it so far off the beaten path. The woodsman realized he should’ve told the wizard that he needed a bike rack in front of his shop, not by the river where he met the fish. He’d ride by it every morning and feel regret.
But he also felt fondness, for that time he talked to a fish remained a highlight in the woodsman’s life. One stormy day as flood waters were rising, he heard the fish’s unmistakable voice calling across the wind, “Save meeee!” With his own two hands, the woodsman snatched the fantastic bike rack back from the tide, and secured it safely in front of his woodshop. “A thing of beauty and history for all my friends and customers,” he beamed, his wish fulfilled at last.
“Not so fast!” said the wizard, appearing at his doorstep to seize her prize back. It was like a smack in the face, how the woodsman had moved it without even consulting her.
He had a point, though. She probably should’ve considered location when casting her spell on the fish. Ugh, she always got so jazzed doing magic, especially granting wishes. Those details can really trip you up. No wonder she was always warning humans.
“Tell you what,” the wizard said to the woodsman, “I’ll zap you a new fancy bike rack for the front of your shop.” She waved her wand: Poof! The fish bike rack in front of his shop was replaced with a blank sheet of concrete, and a handful of silver coins.
“To make my art,” she explained, “I need a duplicitous fish or something to punish.” The silver was to bait a thief, who she’d then turn into the woodsman’s new bike rack. “Hopefully whoever comes by will look good as a metal sculpture,” she winked.
The woodsman felt queasy. He thought of the word “entrapment.” He’d never imagined standing up to such a powerful wizard before, but he took a deep breath and said to her, “Although you make the finest bike racks I’ve ever seen from sinful mortals – and I would absolutely love one of your magic works of art for my shop here – I’d like to suggest an alternative.”
“Instead of the whole ‘Poof you’re a bike rack’ deal,” he continued, “How about I take this silver to skilled hands who can fashion a bike rack to your magical specifications?”
The wizard’s eyes narrowed and squeezed out angry sparks. “Of course no mortal hands can copy the enchantment of your designs,” the woodsman assured her, “What I mean is, you can inspire an artist. Like a muse.” He gathered up the coins, and was relieved to see her smile.
“I have just the talent in mind,” the wizard said.
Off with the silver she flew to a nearby land, where she breathed her design into a gifted welder who fashioned a sculpture that made the woodsman’s heart sing when he saw the first sketch. “That’s it!” he exclaimed, and together his friends threw a big party on the river that won another handful of silver coins towards its commission.
Now the artist was very wise, and for the remaining balance, she had a request, “Can you ask the village itself to conjure the last handful of silver?” She knew that cooperation and generosity could create art even more magical than wizardry. The town, she felt, was ready for new vigor, here where the streets are oldest.
“For every coin given freely, one neighbor’s hopes will be fulfilled,” she told the woodsman and his friends. She’d seen it before many times: her art could make miracles when summoned with love and goodness. And no one would have to be turned into anything.
MAKE A WISH, EAST FALLS!
Read the real story behind Ridge Avenue’s migrating fish bike rack, and how efforts have been underway all year to bring a 2nd beautiful design by the artist Sandra Webberking to the neighborhood. Thanks to donations by EFDC & EFL, we’re just $500 away from our goal to return functional art where it’ll be admired and used daily.
Thank you for supporting art for East Falls! We’re just $500 away from our goal — any extra will either fund a second bike rack (outside Vault & Vine, perhaps?) or be donated to another local cause voted on by East Falls Local’s readers.