This is the true tale of Wally the Fish and Sam Clam. After floating through his larval stage in San Francisco Bay, Sam settled gently along a piling of the Golden Gate Bridge. Like most in his species, Sam was generally a happy clam. I say generally, because he sometimes whished he could be more mobile. He knew there was a big ocean out there and he dreamed of other places. Frequently, he'd call out to fish as they swam by him but until one glorious day, none had ever responded. That day, Sam Clam heard a strange sound waving toward him.
"Hey," he called out. "What's that noise you're making?"
The fish swimming by was swimming alone because he liked to sing. He just didn't do it very well so the other fish made him swim alone. But he stopped and looked down at Sam. "Who me," he asked.
"I was just humming a song," replied the fish. "I don't know its name."
"I've never heard a song before," said Sam. "I like it. No, I think I love it. Do you know any more of those - what'd you call ‘em?"
"Yeah, songs. You know any more?"
"Oh, I know lots of songs."
"Why don't you sing me another?"
"I don't know. We haven't been properly introduced."
"Well, my name's Sam. Sam Clam. What's yours?"
"I'm Wally Surfperch."
"Pleased to meet ya, Walleye."
"Sorry. Wally. So, how about another song?"
"I don't know. Sometimes when I sing the other fish make fun of me."
"Well, I won't. Besides, it's just me and Evan Oyster over there. Evan don't run around much but every now and then he'll spit out a pearl of wisdom. Right, Evan?"
"Yes, Sam," Evan returned. "I will likely do that."
"Can you spit one out now," asked Wally.
"No," said Evan. "It's not fair - catching me off guard like this."
"So," said Sam. "You gonna sing?"
"Sure," Wally replied and he broke into In a Gadda Da Vida while sounding remarkably like Doug Ingle.
Thus a lifelong friendship was born. It was, however, a fairly one sided relationship. His thirst for vicarious experience nearly unquenchable, Sam continually sent Wally on fishing expeditions to discover new songs and new music. "I'd go myself but you know I can't walk the plankton."
"How many times do I have to sing it to you," Wally replied. "I'd swim a million miles for one of your smiles, my Sa-a-a-my."
Then, one day, tragedy struck. Wally had just learned a new song and was eager to sing it for his friend but when he got to the piling, Sam was gone.
"Evan, do you know what happened to Sam?"
"To tell you the truth, kid, I didn't even notice he was gone. He never talked much when you weren't around. You might say he clammed up. Get it? CLAMMED UP!"
"Well, I've got to find him," and off Wally swam.
He swam up and down the length of the bay but Sam was nowhere to be found. The only song he could sing was I'm so Lonesome I Could Cry.
One day, exhausted and heartbroken, Wally Surfperch could take no more and some fellow sitting in the morning sun saw him wash up by the dock of the bay.
But the story doesn't end there because like all dogs, all fish go to heaven. And Wally was no different. His soul rose up and he was greeted at the Pearly Gates by none other than St. Peter himself. "Yes," said the Guardian of the Gates, "I'm actually a fisher of fish."
Wally could hear the wonderful sounds coming from inside the Gates. "And I get to stay here with all that wonderful music," he asked.
"You can be a part of it if you want," St. Peter replied.
"Oh, how glorious," Wally said as he raced toward the gate.
But St. Peter stopped him. "You can't enter without your heavenly gear. So, here are your wings. Here's your halo. And this is your harp."
"Now can I go in?"
"Not quite yet. You have to learn the rules. We want you to take good care of all your heavenly gear but the harp is the most important."
"Because of the music, right?
"No," St. Peter answered. "Because of the cost. Look, the wings - papier mache. The halo - aluminum foil. They're cheap and easily replaced. But the harps are expensive. So you can never lose or damage your harp. Do you understand?"
"I understand," Wally replied.
"Then please say it. Say, ‘I will never lose or damage my harp.'"
"I will never lose or damage my harp."
"Now you may enter heaven," said the saint.
"By the way," Wally asked, "you wouldn't happen to have encountered Sam Clam?"
"In fact I know him. He's managing a dance club in the place below."
"You mean Sam went to ...?"
"No. No. No. Sam also loves music. And when that position opened up he volunteered to take it. Most of us can't stand that thumping beat."
"And you mean I can visit him there?"
St. Peter said, "Of course but there are two very important things you need to remember. First, take care of your heavenly gear. And second, you need to be on the last transit before the club closes at two am. So whoever you might meet, don't loaf around. It's your first day and if you don't check in it's a paperwork nightmare."
"I promise," Wally shouted as he sped off like a bat into hell.
It took just seconds before Wally found himself at the door to the club. Over the glare of the lights he spotted Sam entertaining some oysters and a group of lawyers at the bar. Singing as loudly as he could Wally called out, "Sammie! How I love ya, How I love ya! My dear old Sammie."
It was a reunion to end all reunions. The friends danced and sang. Wally drank a bit too much - as fish are wont to do. He was feeling quite tipsy when he heard someone shout, "Last portal to heaven. One minute." Choking out a hurried goodbye Wally grabbed his gear and fled toward the portal. He passed through the Gates mere seconds before they clanged shut behind him.
St. Peter stood before him with a disapproving look. "Did I do something wrong, Wally asked.
"Look at your heavenly gear, Wally."
Wally looked. Wings. Check. Halo. Check.
"And," said St. Peter.
"Oh, no," sang Wally. "I left my harp in Sam Clam's Disco..."