A Fish Tale
In December, Chief got his new orders from the U.S. Navy. We were moving to Norfolk, Virginia. I’d be saying good-bye to the Gypsy Club that I started here, but since Michael and his twin sister, Nicole, had moved to Norfolk last month, I already had two friends there. Enough for a new Gypsy Club. I couldn’t wait for my new adventure to begin.
When we moved to Pensacola, Florida, fifteen months ago, there’d been five of us—Chief, Mom, my sisters Tori and Sam, and me. Now two more had joined our family—our dog, Bruna, and Sam’s goldfish, Peaches the Second.
Bruna would be moving with us, but not Peaches the Second. Sam pitched a big fit when Chief broke the news. “That’s not fair! Just because Peaches the Second is a fish?”
“Sam, just think about it,” I said. “This is what it would be like for Peaches the Second trapped in a plastic bag on a long car ride.” I sucked in my cheeks and crossed my eyes. Then I rocked side to side.
Even Tori glanced up from her poetry book and laughed. And she hardly ever cracked up at anything I did. I guess thirteen-year-olds don’t have a sense of humor. At least I had three years to go before I lost mine.
Chief patted the spot next to him on the couch. “Come here, Sam.”
Sam plopped near him, but crossed her arms over her chest. “But, Daddy, what’s going to happen to Peaches the Second?”
I placed my hands over my heart, trying to look sad like someone at a funeral. “Most goldfish eventually experience the great flush in the sky,” I said.
“The what?” Sam asked.
My fingers flushed an imaginary commode handle in the air, and I said, “Ker-plunk!”
Sam burst into tears.
Tori slammed her book shut. “Piper Reed, you are mean!”
“Piper,” Chief said, “you aren’t helping matters.” He wrapped his arm around Sam and said, “Sweetheart, the drive would be too long for Peaches.”
“Peaches the Second,” Sam corrected him.
Chief hit his forehead with a flat palm. “Of course, Peaches the Second.” Then he winked at me. “Yes, she could … uh…”
I began to sing the only funeral song I could remember. “In the sweet by and by…”
Chief lowered his eyebrows at me just as Mom walked into the room with a laundry basket.
“Why don’t you give Peaches the Second to Brady?” I asked.
“That’s a great idea, Piper,” Mom said. “Brady loves Peaches.”
“THE SECOND!” Sam yelled.
Mom sighed. She was sorting through the laundry, tossing the unmatched socks into a pile. Chief kept a sack of unmatched socks and tried to match them up each time he did laundry. He called it the Single Sock Looking for Love Sack. Mom ignored the sack and threw them into her art bag for sock puppets or some other art class project.
When Tori had found out, she’d said, “Mom’s and Dad’s sock systems totally contradict each other.”
“Yep,” I’d said, “and that’s why the Reed family goes around sockless most of the time.”
Then Mom pitched one of my favorite socks in her art project pile, the one with jets all over it.
“Wait!” I dashed across the room and rescued it. Once the sock was safe in my hands, I asked Sam, “So what do you think about giving her to Brady?”
“But I don’t want to give Peaches the Second to him,” Sam whined. “Then I won’t have a fish.” She puckered up her lips and started that pretend cry she used whenever she couldn’t get the tears to come.
Chief stood up and headed toward the kitchen. “Sam, if you give your fish to Brady, we’ll buy you a new one when we get to Norfolk.”
Sam wiped her phony tears with her shirttail. “How about two?”
The pantry door squeaked open, and Chief pulled out a loaf of bread. “Okay, two goldfish.”
Sam should be a lawyer. She knew how to get Chief to cave in. He was at his weakest when he was hungry.
“Everyone grab a plate,” Chief called out. “I’m making tuna fish salad sandwiches for dinner tonight.”
“What?” Sam squealed. “How could you?”
“Chief didn’t say goldfish sandwiches.” A picture of Peaches the Second flopping between two pieces of rye bread flashed in my mind, and I started laughing.
“What’s so funny?” Sam asked.
“Nothing,” I said. “It’s kind of a private joke.”
Tori chuckled. “That sounds fishy.”
Even I cracked up. That was the first time in her entire life my big sister, Tori Reed, said anything funny.
Text copyright © 2012 by Kimberly Willis Holt
Illustrations copyright © 2012 by Christine Davenier