A young memory told through my writing in this, my story, Thirty-Five Cents.
| I look at satellite images of our earth and I always, without question, get the same feeling, like somewhere in my brain I guess. That’s the best place I can think to say. In your mind, maybe, like in what’s not real and is just yours. I look at satellite images of our earth and it’s as though I am looking at any other planet out there. I can’t see the Great Wall of China like I’ve been told one can, and the continents really don’t even look like the ones on the maps. I don’t doubt it’s the earth we live on that I’m looking at in those pictures, but it’s hard to even entertain the idea of it for me. Not because I’m astounded by the vastness of the universe or the lengths we’ve come in what we’re able to do with ourselves, but because I’m just not comfortable with the idea I live on something like this. Something that I can’t help but feel looks as fragile as a goldfish in a little glass bowl with a miniature underwater castle, that for some reason could just take a few deep breaths and float lifeless to the top.
It’s a feeling of helplessness that is almost too unbearable to ponder, I had a friend when I was about ten that put my goldfish in the toilet and flushed it, I sat there and watched him the whole time and never told him not to. He said he knew what I was talking about when we were watching it in its bowl, about the weird feeling I would get. I also remember that he had to wait for the fish to perk up and look lively before he flushed it, I don’t think he said why but I’m pretty sure I know. I don’t think I could begin to explain it, though. I don’t remember who that friend was and can’t remember him any other time, which scares me because I have a lot f childhood memories that don’t really fare well with sanity or reality. Like are you afraid of the dark kind of stuff (if you don’t know that old nickelodeon show, then that’s all it is. Ignore it, and go get schooled on old school nick.) I stuck my hand as far as it’d go into the hole at the bottom but I didn’t feel any goldfish, I knew I wouldn’t but it felt like I had to do everything I could. I really don’t remember why, but when I told my mom she bought me another one later that day and surprised me with the best fish tank I had ever seen.
She and I took it out of it’s box that seemed at the time to be one big enough to play anything in, but I’m sure the aquarium wasn’t more than a hundred dollars, maybe it was, it was nice and I don’t know how much aquariums cost that well. She put the pieces out across the floor just like it had them in the diagram and we somehow developed a system where I was able to pass her the right ones. It took the entire day, we had to stop for sandwiches at lunch and still weren’t done for an hour or two later. The whole time the goldfish was lying next to the box in the plastic bag it was sold in. we set up the pump and the plants, we even got vitamin additives for the water. We did everything right, but that didn’t make a difference when I went to give the goldfish to my mom.
I picked it up without much attention and as I brought it in between me and my mom, I saw over the price scribbled with a marker, “35ct”, that the goldfish was floating near the little space of air that the bag had. The goldfish was dead, and my mom took the bag from me and walked out of the room. She told me “hold on a second, wade. God.”, it wasn’t in an impatient way or an uncaring one in the least. It was as though she was just fed up with how circumstance had just treated her son. It was just the way she said things. And whether it’s out of the ordinary to remember exact context so clearly from that long ago or not, I don’t think I’ll ever forget her saying that. But it’s what I said after she was out of the room that I know I’ll never forget, because it is something I must have thought about a million times since then. I was looking up into the aquarium, I wasn’t really too sad or anything, but it was just a feeling like nothing means anything, even though it didn’t last longer than a few minutes because I was outside with my neighbor within half an hour in just as good of a mood as I had always been in with him.
It’s just that I have been trying to remember what I meant, when all I said was “I have thirty five cents.” I don’t think I even knew back then, because I remember looking into the tank without much focus and it just kind of came out with what seemed like reasoning I was pondering, to myself.
For some reason, the fact that I had thirty-five cents discredited the difference between the fish and it’s death and anything about it, like I didn’t see a difference in it and it’s worth in currency. And then when things didn’t go right into their place, or however you would put that. Like things just weren’t fitting into how I knew they would, when things weren’t all right with my saying that. it was a feeling I just couldn’t understand. It’s like I knew it was how things were, so for them to not come into play was weirder than anything else. Like picking up a drink when you think it’s full and there’s nothing in it, except I was stuck in that feeling for however long I was sitting there until my mom came back. She said she couldn’t believe we just sat it there the whole time or something like that, but when she stood me up and told me she’d get one of the better fish I felt like she had stolen the old one from me and asked her if she flushed my fish down her own toilet, without asking or anything.
To this day I will not understand the reason, but she had put it in the garbage disposer in the kitchen sink. I had her tell me why and I can’t remember the reason she gave. It’s another thing she did, it was just the way she said things. I went into the kitchen and she told me not to put my hand in the disposer but I did anyway. As I turned the corner of the kitchen counter and went to do whatever I was deciding to do, I remember just saying, “Mom, I have to. You can’t. Not. I have to, mom.” That seems like exact words but I really can’t remember. Right when my arm was in at about mid-forearm I felt my finger run across the blade and I knew it was cut and it stung really, really bad. It wasn’t that bad of a cut but it’s not everyday you get one from something you can’t see and have always been terrified of, maybe it being the disposer was what made it really traumatizing. It was probably the shock, like I heard is the reason paper cuts are so painful.
Then my mom took me into her bathroom and doctored me, because those were our jobs. We always doctored each other’s injuries. It was something only I did, not my older brother or my younger. Except for this once I remember, but it’s a different story and I don’t think I want to really try and write it. I just remember sitting there on the floor with her, and her doing the whole bit with the pink mess and cotton balls and all. We always did the whole bit, it feels nice to think back about that now. That’s the last I remember of this one childhood memory, I just know I was outside with my neighbor who came on the weekends to visit his dad. His name was grant, and he was one of my best friends for awhile. All I remember related to this are bits and pieces of being outside that day with him, but it wasn’t anything. Just what we always did, what I guess were the wonder years.