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Published October 12, 2016

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Fiction by Tory Mae

Innocence

Innocence

by Tory Mae

“Can I get it Dad? Please? Please?
Please?”

“I don’t know if you’re ready to take care of an animal yet, son. Animals
need a lot of care and attention.”

“It’s a
fish, John. It doesn’t need that much attention. Let Tommy get it.
He’s already six. It’ll be good for him.”

He’s going to say yes, I just know it, Tommy thought. He’s going to say
yes and I’m going to have my first pet ever and it’ll be amazing and
wonderful and perfect.

“I’ll be repon…respona…I’ll be responsible! I swear! I’ll feed it and
everything.”

Tommy stared at all the fish in the different tanks. The pinks and greens
and reds of each fish popped out at him against the blue tanks and he was
mesmerized. His eyes followed the colors as they darted in a rhythmic
pattern around the tanks. He ran his hands along the glass hoping he could
get one and keep it and love it forever.

Tommy’s father ran his hand through his hair and sighed, looking at his wife
in defeat.

“If you can promise to take care of it,” he said, “then I suppose a goldfish is
a good first-”

“YAY! Thank you Dad thank you thank YOU! I love you!” Tommy barreled
into his father and hugged his hips.

After a squeeze, he whipped around himself to look at his new pet. He
marveled at the fish. The florescent light reflected off of its orange and
white scales, scattering beads of white light onto the walls of the tank.

“You’re the greatest ever!”

His parents waved over an employee, who took a small green net and
placed the fish into a small, clear bag.

“Can I hold him?!” Tommy asked.

His father smiled. “Sure thing, son.”

Tommy took the bag and handled it with care. He held the bag up to his face
and smiled.

Once they got back to the house, Tommy watched in awe as his parents
set up the bowl for him. He watched, bouncing off his heels in excitement,
as they dumped the small seafoam green pebbles on the bottom, placed
fake plants in the pebbles, and poured in the water. He stuck his nose
against the glass, mesmerized by the bubbles floating to the top. The tops
of the plants drifted back and forth in a slight way; Tommy thought it looked
like the ocean.

“Would you like to do the honor of putting your first pet in its new home?” his
mother asked.

“Would I!” Tommy exclaimed.

He ripped the bag out of his mother’s hand, ignoring her request to be
careful, and dumped the fish into the bowl. The fish darted around its new
home, observing the plastic plants and new pebbles. It swam to one side
of the bowl, appearing to stare directly into Tommy’s eyes. He giggled.

“Whoa there,” his father said, placing his hand on Tommy’s, “rule number
one of owning a pet is you have to be gentle with them. They don’t like
rough-housing, okay?”

Tommy nodded.

“Okay.”

“Now remember, you have to feed it once a day, or else it’s going to get
very hungry and angry. Try to feed it every night before you go to bed. Take
a small pinch of these flakes and drop them into the bowl. That’s it. Okay?” he
said, placing the new bottle of fish food next to the tank. Tommy nodded again.

“Good.”

He watched as his parents left his room and crawled onto his bed.
Jumping
on my bed will help my brain think up the perfect name for him, right?
Tommy thought. A new name popped into his head with each bounce.
Pebble. Bubbles. Goldie. After the seventh jump he settled on Rocky.
The rest of the afternoon was spent coloring in a Spiderman book and
staring at Rocky, while his parents were out golfing with friends. Tommy
was fascinated by the way the light from the sun reflected off of Rocky’s
scales. It cast off small orange circles that reflected through the bowl. His
first pet. Tommy couldn’t believe it. Later that night he fell asleep on his
coloring book thinking about the orange scales, and how he loved the way
they looked with the sunset streaming through his blinds.

*     *     *

Four nights later, Tommy awoke to a pitch black night. Still stuck in a dream
haze, he noticed a dark figure in his room. No, two dark figures. And they
were whispering. “…food…unopened…” He could hardly formulate a proper
explanation as to what the figures were before he fell back in a deep sleep.

That morning he woke up and got out of bed to say good morning to Rocky.
He moved his head in closer to the bowl. Was his right fin always white?
Tommy wondered if a fish’s color changed depending on his mood.
Maybe
they get lighter if they’re tired or sad
, he thought.

“Rocky, are you sad? What’s wrong?” he asked.

The fish stared at Tommy before swimming away. He shrugged and walked
out of his room.

“Mom?” he called out. “I have a question.”

Tommy’s mother appeared at her doorway, curlers still in her hair. “What,
hon?”

“Do the fish change color if they’re happy or sad?” he asked.

“No,” she said. “Why?”

“Oh. Just wondering,” he said, and started back to his room.

“Hey Tommy,” his mom called out. He turned around. “You’re remembering
to feed your fish, right?”

His eyes widened. “Oh, o-of course!”

Tommy ran back to his room and grabbed the fish food from the shelf. He
couldn’t believe he’d forgotten that. He made a pact with himself to never
forget again.

Rocky’s newly white fin caught in the light and he sat on his bed and thought
to himself.
Why are you doing this, Rocky? What are you trying to tell me?

Tommy got up to get ready for school. He picked out his choice of blue
sweatpants and orange shirt, thinking they looked great together. He looked
at Rocky’s bowl one more time before leaving the room and thought about
the fin. Why was it different? No amount of wracking his brain would give
him an answer.

*     *     *

Five nights later after falling asleep on his coloring book for another night,
Tommy was awoken again, this time to the sound of an object lightly falling
to the floor. He heard more whispers echo throughout his room, but this
time a little louder.

“If this happens one more time, I’m telling him,” a deep voice said. “He
needs to learn responsibility.”

Confused, Tommy sat up and rubbed his eyes. He saw a shadow move and
felt a hand on his shoulder, pushing him back to his bed, and heard a voice
shushing him. The dark figure pulled the blanket back up to Tommy’s chin,
who fell back to sleep almost instantly.

Tommy woke to the same dilemma he had faced five mornings ago, the
shadows long forgotten. This time the fins were orange again but there were
two black spots on its face. Pressing his nose to the glass, he asked the
fish, “What are you doing, Rocky?”

Maybe black spots mean he’s angry. Did I feed him last night? I think so.
Yup. I know it,
Tommy thought.

Confused, he wandered into the bathroom, and screamed when he looked
into the toilet. His father came running in after that, only to curse under his
breath when he followed his son’s gaze. There was an orange fish with one
white fin and a white tint to it floating in the water. Tommy, tears pouring
down his face, turned to his father and put his face on his stomach.

“What…happened…to…Rocky…” Tommy managed to get out in between
sobs.

His father knelt down and held Tommy’s face in his hands. “Sorry son. Your
fish, he… he passed on.”

“Does he not love me anymore? Did I not give him enough love?” Tommy
asked, snot running out of his nose.

With a sad smile, his father said, “Oh, I’m sure you gave him plenty of love.
But he was too hungry, he couldn’t keep living the way he was anymore, and
so we got you a new one. But the new one is just as good as the old one!”

“But I want ROCKY! That other thing is an…an impoter!” Tommy screamed.

“Imposter?” He sighed. “I’m sorry, son. I think the time has come for you to
learn a little responsibility, and that some actions have consequences. If you
don’t take care of things, they’re going to have to go away.”

Tommy pouted. He didn’t like consequences, whatever they were.
I just
wanna stay a kid forever and ever and never have to deal with bad things
ever
, he thought. His eyes started to well up again as he jutted his lower lip
out.

“I’ll tell you what,” his father said, “We’ll come up with a compromise.”

“A compromise?”

“I’ll feed your new fish for you every other day. How’s that sound?”

After a squeaked hiccup, Tommy said, “I suppose. I guess. I’ll try not to
forget this time.”

“It’ll be good for you. We’ll make sure he lives a long life. But if you don’t
remember to feed this one, he’s going to have to go away too, and you
won’t get another fish.”

Tommy’s eyes started to tear up again at the thought of not having a fish.
He knew he deserved to have a fish and he was going to do whatever it
took to prove that he could keep it. He took one last look at the orange and
white fish as a final tear slid down his cheek, sighed, and walked out of the
bathroom to rename his new fish.


Biography
In her fourth grade yearbook, when asked what she wanted to be when she
grew up, Tory Mae stated that she wanted to be an author. What was a
quick answer at the time, grew into reality. Tory has been writing since she
was about thirteen years old, a self-proclaimed writer ever since. She
studied creative writing and literature at Wheaton College, where her full-
length play entitled
Can-Swiss was put on stage, and now desires to be
recognized beyond the Wheaton Bubble. Tory lives in Boston,
Massachusetts, USA.
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