[Fiction] The Last Stage

Archie glanced at his analog clock. It was 6:57 am. He had been retired for seven years but still hadn’t gotten used to getting up any later. He knew the cannery was defunct and his son had told him over the phone to maybe try his at gardening, knitting, or golf. The sunlight shone wanly through the curtains and the dust motes hanging mid-air disappeared if he squinted the wrong way.

His goldfish was still snoozing, but the end of his tail was ragged.

Archie slipped silently from the covers.

“You poor thing,” he said to the bowl in his bedroom. Lifting it, he plodded over to the adjoining bathroom to fetch the bucket he kept under the sink. As it filled under the bathtub faucet, he imagined the clinking of silverware and someone busying herself in the kitchen. His face grew tight with sadness and then fond with remembrance.

“Well Zippy,” he said to the fish when the water had been transferred and it was swimming happily in its newly rehydrated home, “won’t you join me for breakfast?”

Archie took Zippy’s little wriggle as assent and carried Zippy, and his bowl, into the kitchen.



Gold scales and an oblong body
Four to five inches long
Like a throwaway pet
Deemed dumb and dirty
But I have seen it in the cradle
Gasping for air while its weaker cousins died
Have seen it metamorphosize from black to orange
And each inch it gained
Was a year of my life and his