The Best of Times Short Story Competition

Spring 2008 Results

Frederickís Freedom

Copyright © Leisl Egan 2008

Frederick had always wondered what life was like outside the bowl. It drove his wife Lynda mad. But Frederick couldnít help it. The way the morning sunlight refracted through the bowl filled his mind with a curiosity that would go unsated.

Back at the pet shop it was the same. Frederick was the one who would throw himself against the glass, always eager for another glance at the children that would tap his tank for a reaction. Their world seemed huge through the magnified glass, specially ordered from the supplier to make his stock seem bigger than what they were. Frederick thought that maybe there was room for a fish such as himself in that world. When Frederick was finally taken, the remaining fish breathed an audible sigh of relief that made the pet shop owner think the filters were playing up again. A forward thinking fish such as Frederick was bad for morale.

When he met Lynda he was just a small fry, full of hopes and dreams that were just too worldly for the likes of a goldfish. Lynda was at least a month older than Frederick, and she let him know it. Lynda soon brought him back to reality. She convinced him to settle down, quit dreaming, and start a family with her. He was a tad disappointed when she ended up eating their young. He started to dream again.

All day long he would stare through the reflection of himself through to the world outside. There was a vase of tulips on the table by the window. Frederick used to stay awake at night dreaming of what a tulip smelt like, forgetting the small fact he had no olfactory senses. As he swam slowly back to the plastic castle where he and Lynda had made their home, Frederick fought back the tears that would come despite the ph balance of the bowl. He was an unhappy fish.

One day he approached Lynda as she was feasting on the mildew that covered the pebbles at the base of the bowl. He told her in a steady voice that he was leaving. He knew that Lynda had done her best by him, but there was something that Frederick just couldnít ignore. His dreams.

Lynda raised her eyebrows at Frederick, but given that goldfish have a permanently startled expression this had little effect. She shook her head sadly at Frederick. She knew his mind was made up. Lynda watched him as he swam slowly to the edge of the bowl. At least now she would have a chance to crack onto the plastic scuba diver that had been giving her the eye.

Frederick was quivering with excitement. His lips broke the surface of the water and he felt the dryness of the air touch them. It was at this auspicious moment that he remembered he hadnít packed his lip balm.

Without a backward glance at Lynda who was batting her see-through eyelids at the scuba diver, Frederick flipped himself out the tank. As he soared through the air, he opened his mouth to taste the freedom that enveloped him. He landed in one of the tulips, and lay there flipping for a few moments. His last thoughts were reflecting that tulips were incredibly overrated. He was just a fish you know.