Little Thomas was fidgeting and staring at the tray with chocolate chip biscuits that mom had just taken out of the oven. They smelled really good. But he was not allowed to eat one until after luncheon.
Mom was coming in and out of the kitchen as she was setting the table and left the tray to cool off on the window sill.
Little Thomas waited for a moment when mom was in the dining room and snatched one of the steaming biscuits. He turned around and was ready to stuff it in his mouth when he noticed Skippy, their goldfish fixating him with a distressed look in its eyes.
– What are you looking at Skip? asked Thomas, forgetting the cookie for a moment.
– I ate something I was not allowed once and that’s why I’m a fish today.
– You can talk? But how?
– Well, I used to be a golden-armored guardian in the orchard of the Jade Emperor.
– Oh, so what happened? How did you end up in our fish tank?
– In the East Sea in the heavens there is a mountain of immortals. It is ruled by the Jade Emperor. The Emperor has a magical orchard where rare immortal peach trees grow. The peaches from the orchard are not only fragrant and delicious but can also increase one’s divine energy and supernatural capabilities.
Whenever a big event occurs in the heavens, The Jade Emperor invites celestial beings to a banquet in his palace and treats his guests to these exquisite immortal fruit.
Four golden-armored guardians are protecting the orchard from anyone that might be tempted to eat the peaches without the Emperor’s consent. I was one of these guardians.
We had already been on guard for eons and after a lengthy period of time, it seems that the lives in the universe gradually became less pure. We were also becoming worse but we could not see it.
Impure thoughts started coming to our minds
We were guarding the immortal orchard but were not allowed to eat any of the peaches. Eating any in secret would be violating heaven’s law. The food we had to eat was great food in fact and we were very happy with our situation for many eons.
But one day, a golden-armored guardian said:
-We have already been guarding this orchard for a very, very long time. We have only been looking at these fruit but never tried any, not even once. Why not take advantage of this fortunate moment when the gods are meeting and not paying attention to us to pick a few to try for ourselves? Maybe even our divine energy will grow!
– But it is forbidden, said another guardian. If we get caught we will be banished downward.
– Don’t worry, the celestial banquet is on and nobody is paying attention to us. If they can enjoy these peaches then we deserve some too, after all we have worked so hard guarding them.
– Yes, you’re right, we are entitled to eat them. I can’t believe the Jade Emperor never offered us any yet. Why are those celestial beings more deserving than us?
So we split up, picked the fruit, and ate some. But who would have imagined that not only did our energy not grow after eating the fruit, but our bodies became heavier.
One of the guardians said:
-Is it because we violated heaven’s law by eating something we should not have, and are now being struck down?
-Even if we are being struck down, it would not be so quick. Those immortals do not have time to oversee us, said another.
However, we found that our golden armor immediately disappeared, our human form was no more, and when we looked again, we were four fish! At this moment an immortal appeared in the sky above and said in a very loud and clear voice:
-You golden-armored guardians stole and ate the immortal fruits. You will be immediately banished to the world of mortals and be fish for many generations. You will suffer the torment of being beaten by wind and waves and will be brought back only after you have paid for your sin.
And that is why I am in this fishbowl right now.
– But I don’t understand, what was so wrong about eating a peach or two? They had plenty.
– Even so, sneaking around, lying and stealing are wrong deeds. They harm your character.
– So does that make you a bad person?
– Life is hard. It has challenges and temptations. If you allow yourself to lie and steal then in time you will get used to doing that and forget who you really are. You will go from bad to worse and end up a bad person.
– Then I’d better not go down that path. I will put the biscuit back on the tray and wait until after lunch.
– Very wise decision. Remember to always guard your character. It is your most valuable possession.
– But how can I guard it?
– Easy, don’t allow bad thoughts to tempt you into doing bad deeds.
-You mean like stealing? Or lying?
And as the fish was teaching little Thomas about these things it turned into rays of light. It was growing bigger and was being pulled toward the sky. Squinting his eyes, Thomas caught a glimpse of the golden-armored guardian.
– Bye Skip! Thank you for everything. I am so happy you’re going back to where you belong. I will never forget what you taught me.