The Secret Goldfish

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As the autumn leaves fell from Central Park’s woody locks that afternoon, colors from one’s imagination fluttered into the forefront. The crimson, orange, and rust infused bark whispered to the nearest runner, dog walker, or bench reader; setting souls at ease. Many minds sat still, breathing in the New York air, taking moments from their busy lives to slow down. But in the wandering young mind of Sheldon Sneazwood, the only rust-like pigment he was thinking about was that of a aged sewer grate. Sheldon Sneazwood had spent most of the morning at Garfield Elementary School, lying under a large swaying tree. His absence in class never fazed him, or the teacher’s minds for that matter. He skipped school quite frequently, and stuck to himself mostly. He did enjoy the nature that surrounded him. The eight freckles he held on his pale cheeks were not always there, born from his familiar walks through central park, feeding the ducks and making conversation with the locals.

On this particular blooming afternoon, his mind sat still, thinking of the potential that lay beneath the rusted sewer grate, covered by that of the vibrant leaves. He took a branch from a pile lying near a public bench, and wiped the debris from the metal grate. Underneath held the shine of a brand new U.S. quarter dated 1939. Only seconds passed before Sheldon’s mind soared into the possibilities. There were so many choices that he could make: five nickel’s worth of candy from John’s Candy Shop on fifth street, or a fresh scoop of ice cream from the Gelato street vendor just around the corner. Using a piece of string, mismatched items from his pocket, and patience; Sheldon retrieved the spotless quarter. He couldn’t go home yet because it was the 3rd time he had skipped school and his mother wouldn’t be thrilled to hear of his juvenile venturing. He decided to use his money to buy a friend, someone that wouldn’t talk back, but was still loyal to his thoughts and ideas. After a while he decided to walk down Fifth Street his absence at school left him hungry from skipping lunch. He walked into John’s Candy Shop and grabbed two sticks of rosy liquorish for three pennies, leaving plenty for a new cost-wise companion.

Sheldon continued down the street, peaking into storefront windows, one by one until his eye caught two young terrier puppies playing in the window of “Smith’s Pets.” He rushed into the store barely leaving time to hear the gold bell above the doorway ring. His instincts told him to buy something with fur or a bark, but his pockets reminded him of his 22-cent restriction. Walking impatiently through the store, the shimmer of many small scales through clear, cobalt water captured his focus. The price read, “seven cents for a swimming friend.” Immediately Sheldon pulled the two dimes from his pocket and handed one to the young women at the front desk, asking for a fish. In return he was given a net and a plastic bag full of water. It took him all but five seconds to find the fish he first glimpsed at.
By this time he figured he needed to return to his home and find shelter for his watery friend. When Sheldon reached 643 E 77th street, the place he called his house, he ran around back through the kitchen entrance. Quietly, he poured the fish into his mother’s lemonade pitcher and took it to his room. Each stair held a “welcome home” creak, alerting his mother of his presence.

“Sheldon Dear! Is that you?” Mrs. Sneazwood said quite loudly.

“Yes Mother. I just got home from School.” Sheldon replied.

The two traded pleasantries from different rooms in the house, speaking at a less than appropriate volume. Sheldon placed the auburn crested fish in his closet and fed it some small dust-like food he had also purchased. Sheldon decided to call the fish “Booty” because he had read about the many adventures of Sinbad, under that swaying schoolyard tree. Sinbad always referred to his gold as booty, and it made Sheldon chuckle in his younger years. Sheldon’s kept Booty in his closet for the rest of the week, hiding his gold away from anyone else, a secret, just like the pirates he had read about. After a few days past his money and fish food had run dry. Thinking of ways to save his new friend, he went back to that same sewer grate, hoping to find another shining currency, but nothing except for dead leaves and sticks inhabited it.

Sheldon finally took Booty from the closet and showed his mother, confessing his day away from school. He explained about the quarter and the candy shop, ending with his pet shop purchase. He didn’t mind being punished, but he just wanted to make sure that Booty stayed alive. “ I know I would be sad if I never got any food,” Sheldon said to his mother. After a few minutes of thought, Mrs. Sneazwood reached into her coin purse and handed Sheldon a dime. “Now go get your new friend some food, you’re going to need someone to talk to while you’re stuck in your room,” she said with a smile and a hug. Sheldon rushed down to Smith’s Pets on fifth street, and as his feet hit the pavement, the crimson, orange and rust colored leaves of New York’s changing trees kicked into the air, drifted back to the earth, and covered the corroded presence of an old aging sewer grate.





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