A story about Maise and her father.

“ . . . he has a chair to sit in and he reads the newspaper.”
“The newspaper?”
“Yes. It’s a little newspaper. About this big. It’s fish size and it has fish news.”

  THE GOLDFISH WITH LONG, BLACK HAIR appeared in the Fall 2016 issue of The Griffin, a literary journal published by Gwynedd Mercy University, Gwynedd Valley, Pennsylvania.

                                   Here’s the full story.

THE GOLDFISH WITH LONG, BLACK HAIR

by

Peter Obourn

 

“Hi, pet.”
“Is that you, Daddy?”
“Of course.”
“When are you coming home?”
“Not right away, but I’ll be home. Don’t you worry, sweetheart.”
“When?”
“I can’t say for sure, but…but let’s talk about you. Tell me about you. What have you been doing?
“Nothing.”
“Anything new? You started school, didn’t you?”
“Yeah, I did.”
“Tell me about kindergarten.”
“It’s okay.”
“Do you like your teacher?”
“She’s okay.”
“What’s her name?”
“Um, I forgot.”
“I see. Well, let’s see. I’m not sure what else to ask you, pet. I think I have to hang up soon. They only let me talk a few minutes.”
“Daddy?”
“Yes, pet?”

“I have a fish.”

“A fish?”

“Yes, and his name is Ned. I named him.”

“Ned?”

“Yes, he’s in a big round bowl called a fishbowl filled up to about this high, and he just swims around. And, and we have this little orange package with a picture of a fish with what looks like dust in it, and we put in a little dust in the bowl every day and it floats and Ned swims up and makes his mouth like a little kiss face and somehow the dust just goes into his mouth, and that’s all he eats, just fish dust.”

“Masie, I really have to go now. There’s a man here who says I have to hang up.”

“Wait, Daddy, there’s more I have to tell you.”

“Go ahead, sweetheart. I’m listening.”

“And he has a chair to sit in.”

“A chair?”

“Yes, he has a chair to sit in and he reads the newspaper.”

“The newspaper?”

“Yes. It’s a little newspaper. About this big. It’s fish size and it has fish news.”

“I see. Just a minute, Masie… It’s my daughter. She’s telling me about her new goldfish. He reads the newspaper… OK, Masie, the man says we can talk one more minute. Please make it quick.”

“He’s a very special kind of fish, isn’t he, Daddy?”

“He certainly is special if he can read.”

“No, Daddy, all fish can read. He’s special because he’s gold-colored and he has long, black hair.”

“Hair? I’ve never heard of a fish that had hair.”

“That’s why he’s unusual.”

“Does he comb it?”

“No, he doesn’t need to. When he’s in his chair, it just hangs down and when he swims it flows kind of behind him.”

“I see. Well, Masie, I have to hang up now. I’m allowed to call you once a month and only for a couple minutes. I’ll call you next month.”

“Where are you, Daddy?”

“I have to go now, sweetheart. I love you.”

“I love you too, Daddy. Where are you?”

* * *

“Hi, Daddy.”

“Hi, sweetheart.”

“Daddy, when are you coming home?”

“So how’s Ned? Tell me what Ned has been up to.”

“Ned?”

“Your goldfish, with the hair.”

“Oh, yeah, Ned. He’s great.”

“That’s all? I mean, what you two been up to? What’s the news in the fish newspaper?”

“Well, let me think. Oh yes, now I remember. Ned’s team won the championship and it was in the newspaper—the fish’s paper. Yes it was.”

“What championship?”

“Baseball. Ned hit a home run to win the game.”

“Wow, that’s super. I really can’t imagine fish playing baseball.”

“Well, it goes slower underwater and they don’t really run, you know. They swim around the bases and…”

“Can you read the fish newspaper?”

“No, because it’s written in fish, but Ned tells me about it.”

“He tells you?”

“Yes, he does. When he talks, he makes bubbles, and then when the bubbles come to the top they pop and go blip blop blip—like that—and I can understand it. Actually, it sounds sort of like gargling and talking at the same time. I’ve told him all about you, and he can hardly wait to meet you. He reads the sports news out loud to me, just like you used to do. ‘Listen to this, Masie,’ he says, and then when he finishes he says, ‘Now, what do you think about that, Masie girl?’ He sounds just like you did. Remember?”

“I sure do.”

“Where are you, Daddy?”

* * *

“Hi, sweetheart.”

“Hi, Dad. Mom told me a little bit about where you are, so I won’t ask you anymore.”

“I see.”

“I know you did something really bad, but not that bad, and you have to be in this place for a while.”

“That’s right, I do. You know it’s not as awful as I thought it would be, so you don’t need to worry.”

“Okay, I won’t worry. Dad?”

“Yes?”

“Does this mean you’re not mayor anymore?”

“Yes, I’m afraid it does.”

“That’s too bad. When will you be home?”

“Well, not for a while. Now tell me, what have you have been doing this month?”

“What’s your room like?”

“Well, it’s, um, basic.”

“Do you have your own room?”

“No, I have a roommate.”

“Is he nice?”

“Well, that’s an interesting question. He’s okay. I don’t think he was ever mayor of anyplace. I’ve told him all about Ned, and he said you must be quite a girl. I actually made him laugh. So what’s he been up to lately?”

“Who?”

“Ned, your goldfish.”

“Right. Ned. Well, lots of fish stuff.”

“Still playing baseball?”

“Dad, it’s wintertime. So now what he’s doing is playing basketball. And he can dunk the ball.”

“He can?”

“Yeah. Get it? A fish can dunk a basketball.”

“I do. I get it.”

“And he can dribble with both fins.”

“Time’s up, Masie.”

“Talk to you next month, Dad. Be sure to tell your roommate about the basketball.”

* * *

“Hi, Dad.”

“How’s my girl?”

“Great, Dad.”

“How’s second grade going?”

“Dad, I’m in third grade now. You know that.”

“I’m sorry, Masie. I’m afraid it all just runs together.”

“I understand, Dad. It’s okay.”

“Thanks, sweetheart. Now tell me about everything.”

“Everything?”

“Well, most importantly, how is Ned?”

“Of course, Ned. Well, let’s see. Um, he’s growing a moustache.”

“Seriously?”

“Yup. Seriously. He is. He’s grown up now. He’s old enough now for a fish to grow a moustache.”

“I can hardly wait to see it.”

“Well, it’s kind of a small moustache, Dad. It’s hard to see.”

* * *

“Hello, George.”

“Hi, dear. The parole board met this morning. I was sentenced April 1, three years ago. I walk out of here on the anniversary date. They say I’m a model prisoner.”

“I’m sure you are. You fool a lot of people.”

“You will take me back, won’t you?”

“Mmm.”

“I promise you, dear, it won’t happen again.”

“Sure. I know one little eight-year-old who will be beside herself with happiness.”

“Of course. Speaking of Masie, how is Ned?”

“Who?”

“Ned, Masie’s goldfish.”

“Goldfish?”

“The goldfish. The one with long, black hair and a moustache.”

“What? Oh, yes, I do remember a goldfish. It came from the school fair. I said it was not a good idea, but Masie was persistent. It was the day after they had walked you out of the courtroom in handcuffs, so what could I say? It came home in a plastic bag, and, of course, she overfed it. It lasted about two weeks. We flushed it down the toilet—dead. She watched it go, cried for about ten minutes, and then wanted another one. I said we’ll see, and I never heard a word more about it. What’s this about long, black hair?”

“Down the toilet. I don’t believe it. She kept it going—every month for three years. Incredible. What? What’s that noise? You’re crying. There’s nothing to cry about, dear. I’m coming home.”

“I’m not crying, George. I’m laughing.”

 

 

THE END