Secret Goldfish This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

     He did it. All his hard work had finally paid off. Aaron Michaels finally had the money to buy his goldfish after all those Saturdays of doing jobs around the neighborhood.

That goldfish from the pet shop on Fifth Street would be his, the one that stood out from all the others. No one thought he would be able to do it. After all, how many eight-year-olds would turn down time with friends to do chores? But what did his friends have to show for their games? Nothing. But he, Aaron, was going to have a goldfish, and he would relish it.

He was finally in the car with his mom headed to the pet shop. The feeling of fulfillment was unbelievable. He counted the money again, just to make sure it was all there, all $30.56 of it.

When they arrived, Aaron was so excited that he jumped up without taking off his seat belt.

“Slow down, Aaron! The fish isn’t going to sprout legs and walk away,” his mom chided. She, however, had no idea that this goldfish was special. Aaron felt as if it would sprout legs and walk away.

It took an eternity to cross that parking lot, but even with his mother moving as slow as a sloth, he finally made it. He pushed through that door with all his might and ran to the tank to make sure the fish was still there. He had originally wanted to do everything himself, but now he just wanted to watch his fish, the little fish who only swam out to the front of the tank when he came to visit. That little fish had one fin smaller than the other. That fish meant everything to him, and now it would be his. The man came over and bent down.

“Which one caught your eye, son? I’ve seen you in here at least ten times, just looking at this tank.” Whatever fish it was, it certainly meant a lot to the kid.

“That one,” Aaron pointed to the fish with the small fin. “She’s the one I want. I’ve already got a name for her, and a place to put her on my dresser, and pictures to put by her tank in case she gets lonely when I’m at school. Can I please have her? I have all the money and everything.”

“Well, I can’t guarantee that, unless I know she’s gonna have a good home. Oh, and I’ll have to hear the name you’ve chosen for her. A fish just isn’t a fish without a proper name.” The owner watched the little boy’s jaw drop. That was definitely something the little boy hadn’t expected. Of course, it didn’t matter what the fish’s name was, and the matter of a good home was not in question. He knew the little kid would take care of that fish and love it like none other.

“I’ll take real good care of her, sir. Real good care. I’ll feed her every day, and clean her tank, too. I’ll be her best friend.” Now came the hard part. Aaron hadn’t wanted to tell anyone his name for the fish, but if he didn’t tell the shop owner, how would he get the fish?

After about a minute, he decided to tell the man. “I’m gonna call her Rockette. I’ve been thinking long and hard on it, mister, and I know it’s just right. Please, sir, I’ll just die if I don’t have that fish.”

Wow, the owner thought, that boy really does want this fish. “Well, I guess I could give the fish to you. I’m not eager to part with her, but how can I argue with a superior name like Rockette?” His heart melted when he saw the boy’s face light up. “Why don’t we let little Miss Rockette say good-bye to all her fishy friends, and we’ll go over there,” he said, pointing to a display of fish tanks, gravel and food.

By the time he chose the fish supplies, he decided Rockette had said her good-byes. He gave the stuff to his mom and dashed back to the tank. The man was trying to catch Rockette with a net, but she didn’t seem too keen on being trapped. She was swimming faster than Aaron had ever seen.

“Are you sure you want this one, kid?” The owner was having quite a time getting her into the net. If it were any other kid, he would try to pull a fast one and pick any fish, but he was pretty sure this kid would notice. In fact, the owner wouldn’t be surprised if the kid knew every scale on the fish’s body!

After ten minutes, Rockette was finally in the plastic bag. Bringing her to the counter, the owner totalled everything. It was just under $30, leaving enough for an ice cream from across the street.

Aaron was finally in the car on his way home with his new fish, her tank and food and a vanilla ice cream. He was in heaven. He couldn’t stop staring at Rockette, who seemed content. She would soon be in her tank in his room, and Aaron was convinced she would love it.

Once Aaron arrived home, he grabbed Rockette and dashed up to his room, where he carefully laid Rockette’s bag on his bed. The shop-owner had given his mom instructions on how to fill the tank and “purify” the water, whatever that meant. Soon it was time to introduce Rockette to her new home.

“Well, Aaron, I must admit, I didn’t think you would be able to pull it off. How about we give her some food?’

Something welled up inside of Aaron that he couldn’t explain. He was upset that his mom doubted his ability to buy the fish, and now she wanted to share in the joy of taking care of her!

“I can do it! Now, go!” Aaron said, shoving his mother out of his room.

As Rockette swam to catch the pieces of food that floated down, Aaron wondered what it was like to have

people stare at you. He didn’t think he would like it very much and decided that she probably wouldn’t either, so he vowed that no one would ever gawk at Rockette. She was special and didn’t deserve to be stared at like a common fish.

All day he sat and talked to Rockette. When it was time for supper, he reluctantly went downstairs. His younger sister, Kenna, asked to see her. “No,” Aaron said. “No one will ever stare at her. She’s special.”

“Mom! Make him let me see her!” Kenna was such a whiner.

“First-day rule, Kenna.” Aaron’s mom didn’t like debating between a nine and eight-year-old, but someone had to. The first-day rule was golden: no one used someone’s new anything without permission on the first day.

Aaron stuck out his tongue at Kenna. “Ha, ha! First-day rule!” Kenna’s reply had such a look of dissatisfaction that if looks could kill, Aaron would be dead.

Once dinner was over, he ran upstairs to see Rockette and finish their conversation. Aaron glanced at the clock. He explained the concept of bedtime to Rockette and went to sleep.

When his mom woke him up for school the next morning, he saw her looking at Rockette. “You can’t look at her! Stop staring!” How dare she glance at Rockette without his permission?

“Aaron, I wasn’t staring. Go downstairs and eat your breakfast. It’s getting colder as we speak.” His mother wasn’t going to put up with this “No looking at my goldfish” stuff for long.

“You go first! I have to make sure you don’t look at her.”

“So, how long will it be before we can look at Rockette? The entire family is curious, and I only saw her a little.”

“Never. Rockette isn’t an ordinary goldfish. I won’t let people stare at her.” Aaron couldn’t believe his mom was intruding on his goldfish! “Besides, she’s mine. I bought her, so I make the rules.”

Aaron went to school, but not by choice. He wanted to stay home with Rockette and make sure no one so much as peered at her. Eventually, though, he reasoned that no one would be home so no one could gape at her. All through the school day, instead of thinking about his work, he thought about what he would talk to Rockette about that night.

When the bell rang, he couldn’t have been more grateful. He rushed to his mom’s car and begged her to drive faster. After long hours of deliberating, he had finally decided what to talk to Rockette about, and he needed a lot of time.

How to begin? Would she even agree with the topic he chose? he wondered as he ran up to his room. He took off his school uniform and changed into jeans and a sweatshirt. He was about to sit down and begin talking when someone knocked on his door.

“Who is it?” Aaron was annoyed, and didn’t try to hide it.

“It’s me, Aaron. Sorry if I disturbed you. Look, I know you love your fish and all, but you can’t keep us out of your room forever,” his father said.

“But, Dad! It’s my fish! I bought her with my own money!” Aaron was not going to lose this battle. “Rockette is special, and no one is going to see her except me.”

His dad walked out and shut the door.

“So, Rockette-” he began. There was another knock.

“Jimmy is downstairs, Aaron. He wants to see your fish.” Kenna was peering in, trying to get a peek, but Aaron was too fast. Rockette was out of view.

“Tell him what I told you. No one sees my fish.” At this rate, Aaron would never get to talk to Rockette.

“Okay, but can I please see her? Pretty please?” She dragged out the words, but her begging had no effect on Aaron.

“No! Now get out!” She slammed the door. Maybe now he could talk to Rockette.

“So, Rockette, how do you feel about sushi?” He suddenly realized that she might not know what that was, and so he explained. He imagined a look of disgust on her face, and immediately assured her that he felt the same way. The monologue jumped from one random topic to another until dinner, then continued until bedtime.

Aaron’s life continued like this for the next six months. He lived and breathed that fish. And no one ever saw Rockette, despite frequent attempts by his parents and Kenna when he wasn’t home.

One day he returned from school, and Rockette wasn’t swimming around as usual. She was floating at the top of her tank. Immediately, Aaron knew what had happened. Someone had stared at her, and she died from shock.

He cursed himself for being careless enough to let anyone see her. But now she was gone. Although he should have cried, he didn’t. He silently wrapped her in a cloth, put her in a shoebox and buried her in his backyard. As he said farewell, he murmured, partially to himself, partially to Rockette, “My first and only secret goldfish.”

This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.

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Lily">This teenager is a 'regular' and has contributed a lot of work, comments and/or forum posts, and has received many votes and high ratings over a long period of time. said...
Jan. 8 at 4:18 am
i love this !
hawkfire said...
Nov. 9, 2009 at 4:38 pm
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