Squeak stared at the goldfish, arms folded under her small, sharp chin, the tip of her nose almost brushing the glass curve of the bowl as she watched the fish drift, belly up and close to the surface, while she lay comfortably stretched out on the floor on her own stomach. Jaspar asked if he could poke it, but she said no. He did anyway. Before swatting her friend’s hand away, Squeak imagined the goldfish’s big dumb googly eyes slipping out of its head and sinking like twin, jelly pebbles to the bottom of the fish bowl. The body, now alleviated of its cumbersome disproportionate weight, would then right itself and go on swimming. The fish thanked Jaspar, and Jaspar, being able to speak whatever language Squeak wanted him to, even goldfish, said you’re welcome. Squeak pursed her lips, looking at her friend.
“Did he have a name before we got him? Like what his momma called him?”
“That’s his name.”
Steven didn’t seem to mind, so neither did Squeak or Jaspar. They just watched him swim about while at the bottom of the glass bowl his eyes watched back. There was a light knock on the door. Squeak didn’t answer her mother the first time she called.
Her mother peered into her room, frowning when she saw the pallid fish still in its simple aquarium.
“Sweetie, why haven’t you flushed Bertram yet? You said you would do it ten minutes ago. I told you I can do it if you don’t want to.”
“His name is Steven. Jaspar told me.”
Her mother sighed, rubbing her temple with two fingers. Squeak knew she only did that when she felt a migraine-headache coming on, and then Squeak would have to be really quiet. Once Bertram, now Steven, had stopped his swimming and was floating on his back again. Typical. Her friends always went back to normal when her mother walked in.
“Squeak, it’s Saturday afternoon. Don’t you want to call one of your friends and play outside?”
“Mm. No thank you.”
“I’m sure they miss you…”
“No. They don’t. But that’s okay, I’m playing with Jaspar.”
She just shrugged, stating the facts, but her mother frowned again and her forehead did that crinkly thing right above her nose. Sometimes Squeak would touch it when her mother had been frowning too much because she said it would give her wrinkles.
“What makes you think they don’t miss you?”
“Jaspar told me.”
Her mother looked around the empty bedroom and shook her head.
“Well that’s not very nice, and you can’t just spend all day in your room with Jaspar.”