The Whale’s Tail

“There’s something fishy going on around here,” Tony stood with his hands on his hips, surveying his workshop.

“Why you say that?” Tie Li asked, climbing the short stepladder to begin wiping Voyager’s solar panels with her cloth. “Everything look OK to me.”

Tony scratched his head. “Something just doesn’t seem right. I don’t know what it is, but . . . oh, never mind.” The boy walked to his desk, switched on the computer, and began entering data from his school notebook.

He couldn’t help but smile to himself. Earlier that day his teacher had commended him on how carefully he took notes in class. What the teacher didn’t know was that Tony had been writing a program for his computer that would test and display energy reserves for Voyager, based on projected-use cycles.

Suddenly Tony looked up from the screen. “Curtains. Somebody put curtains on my window!”

A snicker came from behind Voyager.

“Tie Li?”

Another snicker.

“Tie Li, do you know anything about this?”


The boy got up and walked to the window. “They’re pink! I hate pink! Guys aren’t supposed to have pink curtains hanging in their workshops.”

“They not pink. They peach.”

“They look pink to me. Did you do this?”

Tie Li climbed down and joined her brother by the window. “Me and Mom. She buy them on sale. I said you need curtains in workshop.” The girl ran her hand down the long folds. “I think they beautiful.”

“Well . . . thank you, Tie Li. I appreciate the thought, but . . . oh, never mind. Nobody comes in here anyway.”

Just then Simon, whistling a tuneless melody, burst through the door. He waved absentmindedly at the brother and sister. “Hey, nice curtains. Pink. Lookin’ good, Tony! They set off your eyes.”

Tony reddened. “Peach. They’re peach.”

“You have peach eyes?”

“No, the curtains! They aren’t pink, they’re peach. What are you, color blind?”

Simon thrust his hands in his coat pockets. “Well, if I’d known we were decorating today, I would have brought something along, like, maybe, a vase with ostrich feathers sticking out of it. It’d look nice over here by the screwdrivers.”

Tony glowered at the bully. “Drop it, Simon!”

“Just trying to be helpful.” The big boy laughed. “Some people think I have very good taste in home furnishings.”

Tony walked back to his computer. “I’ve seen the inside of your locker at school. I’ll let Tie Li do my decorating if it’s OK with you.”

Tie Li looked over at Simon. “How big vase?”

“Oh, brother!” Tony groaned, hiding his face in his hands.

About an hour later the children stood on the shore of a blue, sparkling sea. The breeze was warm, blowing softly over the waves and lifting sea gulls high on outstretched wings.

Voyager swayed gently on its foundation as Tony made adjustments at the control panel. The only sounds were waves splashing on sand and the cry of gulls.

“Where are we?” Tie Li asked, picking up a stone and tossing it toward the sea.

“That’s what people around here would call the Sea of Tarshish, or the Great Sea.” Tony motioned in the direction of the water. “We know it as the Mediterranean.”

“Are we in Italy or something?” Simon asked, looking toward the distant mountains looming behind them to the west.

“No, we’re in the land of Syria. Those are the Lebanon Mountains back there. And you see that piece of land jutting out into the sea to the south of us?”

“Yes,” Tie Li and Simon answered together.

“Someday they’ll build the city of Beirut out there.”

“This is one great way to study geography,” Simon said, enjoying the beauty surrounding them.
Tony sat down on the sand. “Come here, you guys. I want to tell you some things about the marching people we saw at Jericho.”

“They live here?” Simon asked, plopping down beside him.

“Sort of.” Tony cleared his throat as Tie Li joined them. “You see, after they got to their Promised Land, things didn’t go as God had planned.”

“Imagine that!” Simon said sarcastically. “When does it ever?”

“You’re right. People do have a nasty habit of messing things up, sometimes with terrible results, like at the flood. But God keeps trying.”

“So what happen to people after Jericho?” Tie Li drew her knees up under her chin and waited.
“Well,” Tony continued, “they settled in the Promised Land. They had lots of fertile fields to grow crops in—all the cattle, sheep, and goats they needed. They even built a capital city, Jerusalem. But—”

“But,” Simon interrupted, “they stopped worshiping God and decided to do things their own way, right?”

“You guessed it. They even got carried off by a foreign army. Finally, they came back, rebuilt their ruined capital, and tried again. But—”

“This is beginning to sound like a broken record,” Simon said drawing circles in the sand with a stick.

“Now city after city is turning from God and worshiping idols made of stone, gold, and wood. There’s even a group of people who insist on worshiping the sun!”

Simon snickered. “They must have to go to church every day.”

“Except when it rain, maybe,” Tie Li added.

The three laughed out loud. “We probably shouldn’t make fun of all this,” Tony said. “It’s kinda sad.”

“People want to worship everything but God.” Simon shook his head slowly. “Next thing you know, they’ll start worshiping each other!”

“Give them time, my friend,” Tony stated soberly. “Give them time.”

The children were silent for a minute. “Anyway,” Tony continued, “there’s a town about three days’ walk from here that has really become evil. They’re bad! So God has told a man to come up here and warn them of their upcoming destruction.”

Simon jumped to his feet. “I’ll watch for him. Will he be coming from the south?” The bully pointed down the shoreline.


“Then from the north, or over the mountains?”

Tony got up and walked toward the water. “He’ll be coming from the east, from out there.”

“Well, why didn’t you say so?” Simon said, walking up beside Tony. “But I don’t see any boat.”

“He’s not coming by boat.”

Tie Li joined them. “He swim?”

“Sort of,” Tony said.

All at once the children noticed a dark shadow moving offshore, under the water. It advanced rapidly, following the outline of the coast.

“He’s coming by submarine?” Simon asked, surprised.

Suddenly the shadow turned and headed straight for the shore, straight for the children.

“Hey, let’s get out of here!” Simon shouted, beginning to run.

“No, wait,” Tony called. “It’s OK. Just watch.”

By now the water had turned white with foam. Something very large was skimming just under the surface. As it drew closer, a giant fin emerged from the waves, followed by a tall black tail, whipping back and forth.

With a mighty lurch, a huge sea creature broke through the waves, opened its mouth, and spewed out a collection of seaweed, fish bones, and something big and bulky. Then, as quickly as it had come, the creature resubmerged, turned rapidly, and disappeared into the breakers.

“That’s disgusting,!” Simon groaned. “That big fish just threw up on our beach!”

“You think that’s disgusting, wait till you see what he threw up. Come on.” Tony motioned for his companions to follow. They ran along the waterline toward the pile of debris left by the giant fish. As they got closer, Tie Li pinched her nose between her fingers. “Something smell very bad,” she said, trying not to breathe any more than she had to.

There was a sudden movement under the mound of seaweed and fish bones. Simon and Tie Li jumped back in surprise as a man, draped with long, thick strings of slime and assorted objects from the bottom of the sea, stood to his feet.

Simon backed away from the pile. “Who’s that?”

“Jonah, God’s messenger to Nineveh.” Tony pinched his nose. “He tried to run away from God and not come up here. When his getaway ship almost sank, God provided some—well, some other—means of transportation.”

“That big fish? God brought him up here in a fish?”

“You got it.”

The children retreated upwind from the man. Jonah stumbled into the water and began washing himself. After a few minutes he sloshed back onto the beach and headed north across the sands. He never looked back, just kept walking.

The children stood still, watching him go. “That was the most amazing thing I’ve ever seen in my entire life,” Simon said emphatically.

Tie Li looked up at her brother. “What happened to city?”

Tony turned and started walking back toward Voyager. The Book says the people asked forgiveness and stopped being evil, so God didn’t destroy it. Jonah got there just in time to save a lot of lives.”

Simon looked thoughtful. “I know one thing for sure. If God ever asked me to do something, I think I’d take His first offer.”

“You want to save a city, too?” Tony asked as he readied Voyager for the return trip.
“Not exactly,” Simon said, taking his place in the machine. “I don’t want to end up being shipped somewhere by whale mail!”

Tony smiled. “Makes sense to me. How ‘bout you, little sister? Want me to flag down a passing fish?”

“No, that OK,” she said. Voyager all right. Simon all the whale I need!”

Tony turned and looked up the beach. Waves washed around the smelly pile of fish food as it began drying in the sun. “Yes, God saved the city from destruction,” he said. “All in all, it was a small price to pay. Unless, of course, you happened to be Jonah.”

(To be continued)


1. As Tony was describing how the children of Israel kept forgetting God, did it remind you of any other groups of people or nations who did, or are doing, the same thing?
2. Did God plan for Jonah to travel in a large fish to begin with? How do you think He wanted Jonah to get to Nineveh?
3. What modern-day practice reminds us that people used to worship the sun?
4. How do some people worship “each other” today, as Tony said?
5. In the story Simon said, “If God ever asked me to do something, I think I’d take His first offer.” What did he mean by that?

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The Whale’s Tail

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