Mary Beth walked aimlessly around the mall after nearly 12 hours helping spoiled teenagers try on overpriced prom dresses while their parents argued over the price or the skimpiness of the gown. As she often did, she decided to stop into Manny’s Pet Store on the way out. They had gated section that they called “The Puppy Pen” where anyone could climb inside and play with the puppies; a happy puppy is just what she needed to be cheered up.
She was half way down the main aisle when she heard a very forceful “Pssst!”
Turning around in two bewildered circles she looked for the source of the voice and saw no one. There was no one in the aisle with her or on the other side or anywhere near to her. To her left was a massive wall of fish tanks containing scores of colorful tropical fish darting back and forth hoping she was there to feed them.
“Hey, you in the blue shirt—down here,” said a voice in a high pitched, strange foreign accent.
There was a splash as a rather large orange and white goldfish poked its head out of the water at the top of an open tank. Unlike all of the other tanks in the wall this one contained only the goldfish. There was a giant yellow paper starburst on the outside of the tank that read “SPECIAL-FEEDERS” in big red letters.
“Madame, I know it is a shock to you that I can speak but listen to what I have to say. It is your destiny to be my Master. Take me home and I will make you rich and famous. I’ll change your life forever,” said the fish in earnest.
She realized that the shock of a talking fish had left her looking like one herself; there she was bent over staring at him—she felt sure it was a him—with her mouth gaping open and closed as she tried to find the words to respond to him.
“Um, I was just coming to pet a puppy…to cheer myself up,” she said casually as if it were normal to be talking to a goldfish. “Plus, I couldn’t afford to buy a tank and all the things you need to—“
“We can talk about all of that later, my dear. Right now all you have to do is to buy a bowl and take me home, which isn’t too much to ask,” he said curtly, “I am a talking goldfish after all.”
“Of course, you’re right,” Mary Beth said feeling particularly stupid for not having thought of that fact on her own. “Let me just go get a bowl for you and I’ll be right back,” she told the goldfish resolutely walking other end of the store where the goldfish kits were shelved.
As she walked down the main aisle of the store towards the sign that read FISH BOWLS she thought about what kind of future she might have with such an extraordinary pet. She would, of course, take the most excellent care of him providing him with whatever he need for the most exquisitely happy goldfish life. She figured if t she did that he couldn’t possibly mind if she told a few people about him.
She assumed that they would be on the local news first but of course the story would get picked up and make the national or maybe even the international news. Then maybe someone would make a movie about their story; about how they were drawn together by destiny and had changed each other’s lives. She was going to be famous.
The bowls came in every shape and color, every size and style. Mary Beth picked up each bowl and examined it closely wanting to be sure to pick the perfect bowl for such a special fish. It seemed to her that he should have a nicer bowl than a regular old nonspeaking goldfish. So she skipped over all of the plain bowls.
He was pretty big, for a goldfish that is, so the small bowls seemed ill-suited to the wondrous spectacle of a talking goldfish. She decided it must be a grand bowl! She looked at plastic bowls and glass bowls, tall bowls and squat bowls, clear bowls and colored bowls and finally she found the perfect bowl. It was large enough for her friend to enjoy a good swim and big enough to allow a camera to get a decent shot!
She spent a great deal of time picking out the perfect gravel, and decided on real plants—nothing but the best for her little friend. She considered a few decorations but at long last decided against it, not wanting to clutter the goldfish’s new home.
When Mary Beth was finished handpicking everything with exceedingly detailed care she neatly stacked each item in her shopping carriage and made her way back towards the wall of tanks, fumbling with her wallet trying to remember which credit card had enough room for the purchase. She was very excited to show the goldfish how much effort she’d put into finding him the perfect bowl.
She flagged down a young guy wearing one of the bright yellow t-shirts that serve as a uniform and a name tag that said My name is NICK—how can I help you?
“Hello, Nick! There is a special goldfish in the tank over there all by itself. I’d like you to bag it for me please,” she asked excitedly turning into the aisle.
Mary Beth chattered excitedly to the young man, hoping the goldfish wouldn’t do or say anything to give away his secret in front of the clerk. When she got to the tank, her mouth dropped open and she again began to gape at the tank.
“Oh I’m sorry lady, I just sold that fish to a little girl a moment ago,” the pimply faced kid said in a cracking voice. “Funny thing, she kept telling her father that it could talk and would make them rich and famous, can you believe it? We have some fancy goldfish over here…”