you're reading...

Goldfish, A Train, A Man in Black – the story

Okay, here’s what I came up with. Check the following friends’ blogs to see their efforts for this exercise:


This is probably the dumbest gift I have ever received. Not that a present of two goldfish in a bowl for one’s birthday is inherently stupid by itself, but when those fish are presented to a forty-year-old man by his ancient uncle, the one who dresses in black like a geriatric Johnny Cash, and have been hand carried for more than five hundred miles on a train from Savannah, then yes, it’s ridiculous. I can picture him on the Amtrak special, sitting in the club car with the bowl on the pull out table, trying to keep it from sloshing over every time the train takes a curve. And the whole time he is hitting on every woman under thirty who walks the aisle, asking them to check out his fish—ain’t they pretty; do you think they’re handling the trip okay; and other inane and suggestive come-ons in his loopy southern accent. Uncle Orrin’s been like that ever since he was a widower.

But then, goldfish really are an idiotic gift. I mean, they’ll go belly up in a week or so, and while they’re sitting on the mantle they don’t do anything but look out the glass and make that glub-glub motion with their mouths. Not exactly the companionship one looks for in a pet. And what am I supposed to say about them if I get lucky and bring home a date and she sees them sitting there? (Not that I’m dating again yet, but I can just see it.) Oh, goldfish . . . how interesting. Well, yeah, they were a gift. You should get them a bigger tank. I would but they’ll die before I can get it installed, and I’ve had enough of death this year. As they say, it’s the thought—or complete lack of it—that counts.

As soon as he leaves I’ll flush them. Why wait?

He’s probably getting Alzheimer’s is what it is. He could have bought them in the local Petco and saved himself all the trouble that trip must have been. Even better, he could have done what he usually does, just slip twenty bucks into a birthday card and write a note that I should get myself something nice. Then he wouldn’t even have had to make the trip. He could have stayed back in Georgia and saved the fare, as well as my sanity, because having him here could disrupt my routine after a while. He brought enough luggage to make me worry, like he’s moving in. I suppose it’s my fault that he’s here at all, since I stopped calling him on the weekends, but I got tired of hearing about the weather down there.

Orrin says I shouldn’t be alone and that two old bachelors can really have a lot of fun together, and that’s why he’s here. He already wants to go out tonight to a bar and asks me what the secret signal is in case one of us is going to score. I had forgotten guys even do things like that.

He sits on the couch and asks me to bring him a bottle of beer. Time to start our engines, he says. I get one for me too. I give him his and he glub-glubs it down, looking kind of bug-eyed while he drinks. I sit next to him and look out the apartment window and watch autos and people go by on the street below.


About Joe Ponepinto

Co-publisher, with Kelly Davio, of Tahoma Literary Review. Author of "Curtain Calls," a featured Kirkus Review. Married to Dona. Dad to Henry, the coffee-drinkin' dog.


2 thoughts on “Goldfish, A Train, A Man in Black – the story

  1. This was great! I love your writing style. I thought your implications were perfect.

    Posted by aubreii | November 14, 2008, 2:39 PM
  2. This is a nice sketch. The three elements were suspicious in their incorporation, but overall it was an interesting slice of life.

    I am curious, how much work did you put into this?

    Posted by ssternberg | November 14, 2008, 3:56 PM

Tahoma Literary Review Now Open for Submissions

TLR is officially open for submissions of poetry, fiction, and nonfiction. To find out more about this new (paying) literary journal, please visit us at Tahoma Literary Review.

Enter your email address to subscribe to Joe's blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 7,385 other followers