Robin

Goldfish #216

TITLE: Goldfish #216
AUTHOR: bookishgeek
RATING: G
WORD COUNT: 974
FEEDBACK: On || FEEDBACK TYPE: Tactful
WARNING: None, unless you hate fish. (the living sort).
SUMMARY: Lucas works a dead-end job in a pet store, but not every day is boring.
PROMPTS: words: familiarity, eleven, pinch, sanity
A/N: This is the first piece of original fiction I've written in months! I hope you enjoy!

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"Lucas!" I heard her voice before I saw her, as most of us do - shrill, shrieking, all of the bad parts of the sexy sirens of folklore past without the "sexy" part. Clenching my jaw, I turned to see what all of the fuss was about and saw Dorothy striding toward me. In hindsight, "striding" might not have been the best word to use - perhaps "undulating"?

"Uh huh?" I mumbled, turning from the goldfish tank to look at her. Working in a large, corporation pet store made it really hard to find any time for yourself during the work day. Dorothy had scheduled my shifts just so, and because of that I didn't have any time for a break. When customers weren't around? Away to the goldfish tank I went for the sake of my sanity, staring listlessly into space, vacuous and free. The goldfish didn't seem to mind - they puttered around aimlessly, occasionally bumping into each other and moving away as if to say "sorry, bro." There was something soothing about the monotony that the tank presented: a blur of irridescent orange scales, swaying gently in the tank.

"Why are you always over here with this damn fish tank, anyway?" Dororthy's hands were on her hips and she thrust a barcode scanner at me. "Don't even bother answering that. We need your help getting inventory in the fish department, Lucas. I'll see you in a bit." I grappled for the scanner and watched as Dorothy turned and stormed off, a bull in a china shop.

I have loved fish since I was eleven years old. At the store with my mother, I spied the all-too-familiar plastic cups full of half-alive betta fish on the shelf by the bird seed. I tugged on my mother's shirt, begging to rescue one, to bring it back to life. My mother agreed to my demands and helped me select a bright red betta, who I brought home, named Pinch (due to my rescuing him in one), plopped into a five gallon tank, and took care of for five years before his untimely demise. Since then, my mind has become a vise for fish, the inner workings of any given aquarium filed neatly into my brain like a file full of index cards. I have suspected for a long time that I am the only person at my job who actually knows a damn thing about fish, which is why I am okay with the multiple shifts and no breaks: if it saves a fish's life, I'm game.

I was standing beside the shelf full of aquarium salt when I felt a pull on the strings of my apron. Turning around, I saw a little girl - about four or five years old - with one hand on her hip and the other gesticulating at me. "My name is Ashley and I need help!" she cried out. I noticed an exasperated woman standing at the end of the aisle and, assuming it was her mother, waved.

"Help with what?" I asked, sticking the scanner in my apron pocket and kneeling down to be at her level.

"I want a fishy! That one!" the girl pointed a neon-pink fingernail in the direction of the tank of Cory Catfish, a burrowing type of fish that loves to shuffle around on the bottom of the tank and feed off the flakes of food that fall there. "But my mommy says that it is A Bad Idea." she says "a bad idea" like it's the name of a book, and I glance up at mom, who is nodding ferociously.

"Well," I say, standing up and walking over to the tank of Cories. "These fish are very lovely, but do you know where they like to live?"

"The water!" Ashley crowed, brightening at her obviously correct answer. I sighed inwardly.

"They do, but you know what part of the water? The bottom. See how they are so hard to see in the tank?" Ashley squinted and got down on her knees to be at eye level with the tank of Cories.

"Yep."

"Well, these guys live at the bottom of the fish tank. You know what? I think you need a fishy that likes to live at the top of the tank, so you can see them better! Wouldn't that be great?" Ashley's lips pursed in thought.

"I think so." she said. I pointed out the shelf of betta fish.

"What about one of these?" I asked, casting a glance over my shoulder at mom, who shot me a thumbs up sign and walked over. Ashley peered into each cup, closely examining the betta before coming to a cup with a brightly-colored purple and blue fish hovering in the murky water.

"This one is beautiful," she said reverently, gently picking up the cup between her two little hands and carrying it to me. "Her name is Esmerelda!" I chose not to let her know that all of these betta fish were male, and instead smiled.

"What a great name! She will be so happy to live with you!" Ashley grinned up at me and gingerly let go of the cup with one hand to reach out toward me.

"Thanks, mister fish guy!" she patted my thigh with as much unintentional condescention as a four year old can muster and shuffled off to her mother, thrusting the fish toward her mother, a prize to be won.

I reached back into my apron for my barcode scanner and sighed, eyes drifting back to the goldfish tank. Working for a corporation felt about the same as it felt to be goldfish #216, I was pretty sure. But the occasional difference you could make for one person - one little betta fish with a misgendered name - made goldfish #216 the most contented in the tank.


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This was written for week 1 day 1 for the community thewritinggame. Feedback is welcome and wanted from everyone, community participant and friend alike!
  • Current Mood: accomplished accomplished
I heard her voice before I saw her, as most of us do - shrill, shrieking, all of the bad parts of the sexy sirens of folklore past without the "sexy" part. HAH. OMG, SCORE +11111. You know, sometimes people will overwrite something clever or underwrite it and you're all... "you so missed X"-- NOT THIS. Where's the thumbs up on this bitch?!

In hindsight, "striding" might not have been the best word to use - perhaps "undulating"? They say, "Capture your audience with the first sentence." So you've got me in two! Plus, I so have an Ursula from Little Mermaid from this (I'm commenting as I read-- I like critique so much better when it's done that way-- so if it is, awesome for you!)

Working in a large, corporation pet store - Could I recommend a switch from corporation to corporate? Also, and oh god, I will probably be wrong on this, because commas are my nemesis (-shakes fist-), but I think it would be 'Working in a large corporate pet store' -- and here's why: Number 2 (the comma works even less in its original iteration). Like I said, though, I suck with commas.

There was something soothing about the monotony that the tank presented: a blur of irridescent orange scales, swaying gently in the tank. I would chop off that last 'in the tank', but the rest of it is pure GOLD! You give just the right vibe comparing the monotony of life-life with what goes on in a fish-tank-life, PLUS, you also give it sort of this languid, liquid feeling, much like the world under water!

Awesome on 'betta fish' -- dude, I thought it was beta!

named Pinch (due to my rescuing him in one) AHHHHHH. -spins in circles- AWE-WITHASIDEOF-SOME.

"I want a fishy! That one!" the girl pointed a

I want a FISHY.. AHHH, THE CUTENESS! Plus you get to add another word to your story, that's YAY. 'The girl pointed at a'?

"This one is beautiful," she said reverently, gently picking up the cup between her two little hands and carrying it to me. "Her name is Esmerelda!" I chose not to let her know that all of these betta fish were male, and instead smiled. LOL. LOL VERY MUCHLY!

But the occasional difference you could make for one person - one little betta fish with a misgendered name - made goldfish #216 the most contented in the tank. NAWWWWWWWWWWWWW.

This is supremely perfect and for a first, EFFORTLESS. It is as that little fishy, adored.
I kind of pictured her as Ursula as well, not gonna lie! I'm glad I wasn't the only one! I knew it should have been "corporate" - thank you! And I am equally bad at commas, so no worries.

That last "in the tank" does have to go - good call! And I was going for a liquid feeling in that paragraph describing the tank, so that's good! I think it's "the girl pointed a" because she's pointing with her finger, but maybe I should go back and re-word that sentence.

I'm so glad you liked it! I haven't written much of anything - especially original fiction - in months! So I'm tres excited to get back into this!
I'm too tired for any useful citicism, so I'll just say that I really enjoyed this. It was both thoughtful and adorable and I really felt like I could connect to the characters in such a short time. I wish Ashley and Esmeralda the best of luck ;-)

I would also be very interested in reading more about goldfish #216 aka Mr Fish Guy.
I love the thread of humor that runs through your piece. I loved it and I'm a bird person not a fish. (=
Oh, I dig. It's just...it's really well-written, I love your characterization, but working in the store is a large part of the story and while I like what you've done, you haven't nailed what it's like to work for one of those chains.

...then again I worked at PetSmart for two years, so it might be bitterness talking. :P
First things first...PetSmart and Petco are actually both fairly concerned about worker's rights. Working multiple shifts without a break is basically unheard of unless you're a manager, and even then, you're salaried and you're still expected to have at least four hours off between shifts. It's company policy, and no matter how shitty your store is (and mine was), it's adhered to—your managers will get in trouble with the district manager (who reviews your clock-ins and clock-outs) if they're not giving you adequate time between shifts/time for breaks. If your DM doesn't do anything about it, when they submit their reports to corporate, someone in HR catches it and then you're in really hot water. It's not life and death—it's retail. No one wants a lawsuit.

Second...while I like how dedicated this character is to fish, the set-up at a corporate pet store is such that if you love fish, you're going to be very disappointed, very fast. There is no "saving lives". There's a sick tank, where anything that's too sick to put out on the floor is put, but there's really no veterinary care for fish. Apart from minor parasites like ich, which are easily treated, just about anything else is going to result in the death of the fish. There's a dead log that's filled out twice a day—once in the morning and once at night—with all of the fish that have died during the day logged.

Inventory is done overnight, when there are no customers in the store, or in the early mornings. For pet care, inventory is done once every two weeks, during the 6-9AM period where there are no customers in the store. Inventory is carried out by one of the pet care leads or by the manager. Ordinary associates don't help with it. Unlike a lot of other retail places, too, inventory isn't done electronically—at least, not immediately. Inventory is logged into a book that's kept in the department, and entered into the computer whenever someone has a free minute, usually after close.

Aprons aren't worn as part of the uniform at either store. Everything you need is kept either at the "podium" (where the plastic bags and everything are), or in your pockets.

Hanging out by the wall of fish was more or less where we were supposed to be at all times, unless we were actively stocking or had something else to do in the department (usually but not always carried out by leads). Mid-day procedures meant cleaning tanks (done at least every two days, with a gravel vacuum done once a week for all tanks), or, depending on the day, putting fish out, or processing new small animal shipments/bird shipments.

Finally, middle of the day is the quietest time at the pet store. Early morning shift has all of the feeding/cleaning to take care of, and close has feeding/medication to dispense. Midday is usually dead. Evenings are when the most people come in, and when it's craziest.

...I dunno, if you have any specific questions, PM me. I can probably give some insight into how things were done. I kept fish for years, too, so...
I find writing kids to be really hard, but I think you pulled it off really well. Ashley doesn't sound too smart for four or too stupid at the same time.