Just a Fish
Amrita, Age 13, CA

Dead, I thought. I stepped back dizzily, overcome with a sudden wave of grief. Even though it was just a little Beta Fish, I was shocked by how sad I felt.

“What’s going on?” I spun around to my mom standing there in the hallway, a tired expression on her face.

“The fish is dead,” I said numbly, my voice breaking. I felt like I could cry a mountain of tears. All those times I had neglected the fish, never bothering to feed it or clean the bowl flashed through my mind. I felt guilty as I realized that I had never once thought about the fish.

I watched my mom’s eyes widen with confusion, and then the understanding spread across her face. She walked over to the bowl and stared into the murky water.

“Oh.” She murmured, sounding deflated. “Go get the fish net.” I slowly walked over to the bathroom and grabbed the fish net. My brother appeared behind me.

“What are you doing?” He asked me curiously.

“The fish is dead.” I answered. My brother ran over to the fish bowl excitedly.

“Whatever, who cares anyway? It’s just a stupid fish.” My mom gave him a dirty look and he took the initiative and disappeared back into his bedroom. I watched my brave mother slowly scoop the dead fish out of its home into a plastic container. Plop. The sound of the dead fish hitting the bottom of the container made me cringe. My mom started rushing to the bathroom. Startled, I realized what she was going to do. I scurried after her hurriedly, my heart pounding like a bass drum.

“Mom! What are you doing? We can’t just flush it down the toilet!” I yelled in a frenzy.

“You’re supposed to let it back into the ocean where it came from.” She replied impatiently. “What else do you expect me to do with a dead fish?” I looked at her, a hopeful expression on my face.

“Can we bury it?”

Twenty minutes later, I was standing in our backyard surrounded by the swing, my mom’s zucchini plants, and the plum tree, all memories of my childhood. Everything there had a story, I realized, some sort of memory linked to it. The time my mom grew a huge zucchini, she wanted to enter it in the Guinness Book of World Records. The countless hours my brother and I had spent swinging, so high we felt like we were on top of the world and nothing would ever bring us down. How every spring, the tree would be full of ripe, juicy plums, and my mom would make everything from plum jam to plum cake to plum pudding. All of these things were small slices of life, fragments of incidents that made me who I was. And this very moment itself was making another memory, a realization that startled me. I was living a memory that I would remember years from now.

“Ready?” My brother nudged my arm, breaking into my thoughts. I nodded, suddenly drawn back into the moment. He gently placed the container in the hole, and covered it with dirt until it was no longer visible. It was like the container was gone, and the dirt had never been touched. That’s when I realized that the dead fish was gone.

A pet fish in a glass bowl isn’t a very big deal. They die all the time and they’re so replaceable. It’s like a little toy; you just go back to the store and buy another one when it breaks. We take things for granted, never really realizing what we have. However, it is the small things, the details, the memories that define us and make us what we are.

The fish was once alive; it was a living, breathing creature. As it swum around every day in that little bowl, it was in it’s own little world. Compared to the vast universe out there, we are much like little fish too, swimming around in our own bowl which we call Earth.

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