GPPL Short Stories: The Christmas Present

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Not long ago, there was a small fishing village in a world not so different from ours. Once this was a prosperous city where fishermen’s nets overflowed and people lived comfortably. But eventually the seas were emptied of fish, and soon after, the city was emptied of people.


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In this town lived a man and his two children, a boy and a girl. The man was a fisherman, and when everyone started to leave, he thought about going too. But he and his children stayed. He was left in the hope that one day his wife would return.

One Christmas Eve, the man was in his boat with his skeleton crew, feeling more severe than usual. All she had to give her children for Christmas were two shells she had found on the beach, the same gift she had given them last year.

After a long day without catching anything, the man told his little crew to pack up the nets and finish the day. As they headed back to the port, one of his men called out to him. Caught in one of the nets was a tiny fish. This was not any type of fish that man had seen before. It looked like a tropical fish that you would find in an aquarium.

“It’s too small. Throw it back,” said one of the crew members.

“No,” said the man, “I’ll take it home.” The fish would be a perfect gift for your children.

When the man returned home, the boy and girl ran to greet him.

“What’s in the bucket?” asked the boy.

“It’s your Christmas present. You’ll have to wait until tomorrow to see what it is. “

“Oh come on,” said the girl, “can’t we have our present a little earlier?”

“Okay then, check it out.” The children looked into the bucket and gasped. They had never seen such a beautiful fish.

“What her name?” the girl asked.

“I thought you two could decide.”

The children spent the entire night deciding what to name their new pet. The girl thought they should call it scarlet because of the red in its color. The boy thought they should call him Spot because of the different colored spots on his body.


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“Alright now, stop fighting. It’s time to sleep, ”the man said after hours of listening to them argue.

“But the fish needs a name before we go to bed,” said the boy.

“I don’t think the fish would mind waiting.”

“Please,” said the girl, “we just want to spend a little more time with her.”

“Okay,” said the man, “you can stay awake a little longer, but you must promise that you will go to bed at a decent hour.” The children agreed and the man went to bed.

While the children continued to argue in low voices, the fish looked through the glass of the fish tank in which they had put it. It was not just any fish. She was magical and intelligent, and she had formulated a plan to return to the ocean.

“My name is not Scarlet, and it is not Spot,” said the fish. The boy and the girl looked at the fish in amazement.

“How do you know how to speak?” asked the boy.

“I guess the same way you can speak.”

“So what is your real name?” the girl asked.

“I’ll tell you, but first you have to do something for me.”

“What is it?” the children asked together.

“There is a cave on the coast to the west. In this cave, there is a magical pool, and if you take me there, I will tell you my name. “

“Why do you need to go to a magic pool?” the girl asked.

“Because the pool will turn me into a human.”

“Why would you want to be human?” asked the boy.

“So that I can be with you, of course.”

“But you’re already with us,” the girl pointed out.

“Yes, but I am trapped in this bowl. If I become human, I could play with you when you’re happy, I could hug you when you’re sad, or I could hold your hand when you’re scared. I could be with you without the glass between us. “


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The children looked at each other in silent conversation until, finally, the boy spoke. “OK we will”.

“You will need some warm clothing; It’s cold outside. Grab some clothes for me too, for when I turn human. Hurry, it’s a long walk, but we should be able to get there and back by the time your father wakes up. ”The children did as the fish asked.

The fish was very pleased with himself, because he had lied to the children. He had no intention of staying with them. When she became human, she would run back to the ocean to be free again.

Soon, the children and the fish headed for the cave. On the way, the children asked the fish questions. They asked what life was like in the ocean. The fish answered the questions reluctantly, at first. Usually he didn’t talk about his life. But, as the journey progressed, it became easier and easier for her to open up. Over time, he began to ask them about his life with his father. They told her that her father was away most days and ate stewed fish almost every night. They told her that they were the only two children in town and that she was the first real Christmas present they had ever received. And they told him about his mother, how one day she left without saying a word.

“Dad says he couldn’t stay, he wasn’t happy. He says that maybe one day when she is happy, she will come back, “said the boy. The fish was surprised that he felt compassion for them. It had been years since he felt anything like compassion.


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As they talked, time flew by and soon they were in the magic pool.

“Okay, now put me on,” said the fish.

Once again, the children had one of their conversations in which neither of them said anything.

“Okay,” the boy said as he knelt down.

“Promise me you’ll stay, at least for Christmas,” said the girl. The fish looked at her and realized that she hadn’t fooled the children at all. They knew she was planning to leave and they took her here anyway.

“I promise I’ll stay forever,” he told them, and he meant it. In the ocean she felt free, but here with the children she felt loved; And even after a short time, he knew that he loved them.

The boy overturned the bowl and released the fish with a small splash. There were no blinding lights or churning water as the children expected. The fish just slid into the pool and a moment later a woman emerged, almost as if she was underwater the whole time holding her breath. The children quickly handed her the clothes they had brought and wrapped her in a hug.

“We must be quick,” he said. “We have to be home before his father wakes up.”

All the way home, they ran along the beach playing, laughing, and talking; and before they knew it, they were back in their kitchen where the fish, who was now a woman, was making breakfast for them. The children never asked him his name. They didn’t need it; they already knew.

The man woke up to the sound of laughter, and when he opened his bedroom door, he saw that his children were waiting for him.


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“Well, you’re awake,” said the boy.

“What are you two doing?” asked the man.

“We have a gift for you,” said the girl, and led him by the hand. When they entered the kitchen, the man froze, unable to speak. He looked at the fish, which was now a woman, and smiled. This was the best gift the man had ever received, a gift he had been waiting for. His wife had finally returned home.

EJ Forsberg / Grande Prairie Public Library Staff Member


You love to write GPPL’s ​​34th Annual Collins Writing Contest is now open for submissions. Participants are invited to submit an unpublished story, less than 2,000 words, on this year’s theme: BEYOND . Please visit our website at and social media channels for complete contest rules, entry forms, and answers to frequently asked questions. The registration deadline is Monday, February 28. th At 8:00 pm.



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