Mommy says my goldfish ran away today. I don’t know why.
He was my birthday present – a Big Girl Birthday Present Papa said – and he’s yellow like sand, smooth and perfect, with two black stones for eyes. His fins are so thin, like lace or water skin, sometimes he moves and I don’t see them and I think he’s not swimming, he’s flying. He looks grumpy about it too, as if he doesn’t like the way we don’t notice his amazing trick. And he’s all mine.
He was all mine?
I asked Meria what I should do with him when I got him. I wanted him to be happy.
“Name him, silly,” Meria said. She looked up from combing her hair, saw me holding my goldfish proudly against my chest, and her eyes got a little wide. “And be careful with him!”
I was oh-so-careful. I don’t like breaking things.
And I named him Pelican, because I don’t know too many other things that fly. I said it to him over and over and over so that he knew it was his name. After a while, I got lazy and called him Pell, but it didn’t confuse him any, and he didn’t mind.
I asked Kai what I should do for him, too.
“Feed him every time you see him,” Kai told him. “Not a lot. Just a little.” He held up his first finger and thumb, with just enough space between them so I could say they weren’t touching. “That’s how goldfish like their food. Lots of little bites, not a few big ones.” He started to smile at me. “You could learn a thing or two from him. Not stuff your mouth so much.” And he ruffled my hair.
I kept Pell’s food in my pocket. I fed him every time I saw him. He learned that I had the precious little bits and he started coming to meet my hands. Smart little guy.
“You better keep him clean,” Darya said. I hadn’t asked her, and I wrinkled my nose. He was a fish, and he liked to move. She said he would get dirty anyway, but I didn’t believe her. And it was hard to catch him.
Then I woke up one morning and he looked a little brown. It wiped off on my fingers. It smelled like old kelp. I chased him around, then caught him in my shirt. He wriggled free, his top fin and one wiped clean. Then he danced away again. It took me an hour, chasing him around the room, catching him and giggling at him as he escaped and tickled my hands with lacy fins, but I got him clean.
Pell must of thought it was a game. Like hide and go seek. He chased me sometimes, until I turned around and chased him. When I was too tired, he would just but his nose up against my hands and arms. He dragged his fins under my chin and tickled me until I giggled. I think he liked the sound and the bubbles.
I asked Papa what I should do to keep Pell happy.
“What makes you happy?” Papa asked.
Lots of things make me happy – games and tricks and stealing sweets from the cabinet and Meria and Kai and sometimes Darya – and I told him so. Except the part about the sweets.
“Then do those things,” Papa said. “Does he look that different from you?”
Pell is so different from me. He is all white gold like shallow water. I am all blue-green like oceans deep. His fins are so soft and thin they might be slices of air. Mine are long and strong and they’re getting sharp enough to cut, even though I’m not too big yet. Pell’s got those black eyes and those fat, grumpy lips. I’ve got eyes like yellow moons and Darya says I’m too cute to even pull off a proper glare. He’s tiny. I’m not big, but I’m bigger than any fish.
But I think Papa was right. I think Pell liked all the same things I did. He always stayed close when I came into my room, spun in the water circles I drew with my fingers and blew bubbles to catch my attention when I stopped.
I think Pell was happy.
“Why did he run away?” I asked Mommy when she told me he was gone.
Mommy shrugged and took a deep breath. “Sometimes…” she said carefully. “Big Girl Things don’t stay forever.”
“Will he come back?” I asked.
Mommy broke into a smile like I had asked the best question. “Sometimes Big Girl Things do.”
She pulled on my elbow, spun me toward the door. “Go on and get his favorite toy and one of your shirts. We’ll tie them outside. If he’s lost, he might smell them and find his way back. If he’s not lost, at least he’ll know you miss him.”
I’m a thief! I stole the first line of this piece from my friend, Kathryn. Be sure to stop by her blog to see the original piece of fiction. Then see where all the other goldfish got to with the rest of the ring of thieves.