It started when I was little. Just a boy, a long way from the grown up I am now. It was a skill, and like any skill, I had to develop it, practice it, use it, to become better at it. It’s not like I planned to be who I was. It’s simply how things were. I was born to do this. I excelled at it. Much like someone excels in art, or writing. The practice merely refines and perfects the skill.
I started with goldfish. I knew, goldfish were cheap, and plentiful, and no one would notice if I practiced with them. The only one who did notice was the pet store owner. “What are you doing with the goldfish? You buy so many of them.”
“I’m using them as feeder fish for my piranha.”
He nodded, and never asked any more questions, although he did help me pick out goldfish that would make the tastiest, and healthiest meals for the piranha I never had.
What was I doing with the goldfish?
Practicing my sills. Learning. Refining.
I have a stack of grade school composition books filled with notes, and diagrams, all collected as I practiced with the goldfish.
That last training session with goldfish started one afternoon in the month of May. I’d completed all my homework, though I detested it, because completing it set me free from my parents, and their house. I was able to get outside, and enjoy myself, so long as I took my phone with me, and was able to answer when called. And so long as I was home by sunset, or within thirty minutes of sunset.
I had a plan, carefully thought out, and worked through. It had taken several days but I’d found a glass jug, not too big, maybe half a gallon of water would fit in it. Clear glass. I wanted clear so I could see everything that was inside the jug. I needed to see everything inside, to record it, and learn about it.
I’d hidden the jug behind the back yard fence, where no one would see it, behind a row of flowers my mother had insisted on planting back there. The next day, I’d carried the jug to the giant mud puddle they’d dug up when they made the houses in the neighborhood. That’s what it was, really. A giant hole they dug in the ground that slowly filled up with rain water. Everyone insisted on calling it a man-made lake. It wasn’t a lake. It was just a mud puddle. I filled the jug with water. I used an old sock as a filter, to block the sand and mud floating in the water, so it didn’t get into the jug. Filling the jug took time. I had to be careful, and sometimes, I had to start over. I had to get the water clear, so I could observe the goldfish better.
I hid the filled jug where I’d hid it when it was empty. And I waited for Saturday, when I had the entire day to play. Play. Ah, if only my parents had known. I never played. Instead, I studied, and practiced, and grew my skill.
That Saturday I’d taken my allowance, and told my parents I was going to buy soda and chocolate bars, like always. Then, I went to the pet shop, and picked out two goldfish. I often worried someone would see me as I took the goldfish to the mud puddle. It wasn’t easy to hide them. I usually carried a shopping bag, like for buying groceries. It fit well with my declaration I was buying soda and chocolate.
I’d picked up the jug along the way. By the edge of the water, I built a little hill, with a shallow slope. One I could slowly add to. First, I placed the goldfish in the jar, and let them become happy, and content, in their new home, with all the new scenery. They always swam around the jug, and explored their surroundings.
After I was content they were happy, I took the jug, and placed it on the slope I’d made, with the top toward the lake, so the water would begin to drain out. It would have been simple to toss the goldfish into the lake, and be done with them. But, it wouldn’t have been as interesting, and I would have learned nothing.
Instead, I gradually drained the water from the jug, and watched the goldfish react as their world became smaller, and smaller. I wondered, frequently, if goldfish felt anything. If they were frightened. Or maybe panicked. As they realized what was happening to them. As they realized they had no control. Perhaps they felt nothing, or even thought nothing. After all. They were only goldfish.
Eventually, the water was drained away. And I watched the fish flap around the empty jug until they became motionless. Then, I always emptied the remains into the puddle. It was murky, and no one would ever find the goldfish.
I did this many times, until one day, I was convinced the goldfish could teach me nothing more. And it was time to find something better to practice my skills with. Perhaps mice, I thought. That did seem like a logical step up from goldfish.
I sometimes wish I could tell you how many irritating little children I’ve practiced my skills with. But I honestly don’t know. If you hadn’t interfered, I would have solved the problem of the irritating little children. I was about to start practicing my skills on those who would be mothers.
Why using the skills I was blessed with in this life is wrong, I will never understand.
954 Words (Certainly more than 750)
It’s week 96 of Miranda Kate‘s Mid-Week Challenge. I had to write a second story for the prompt this week. You can read about Miranda’s small fiction challenge here. Please, go read Miranda’s short tale this week, and any others that showed up. The tales are always little works of art, crafted with words, meant to be shared, and enjoyed.