This is the second half of “City Lights”. The first half was posted yesterday. I’m interested to know what you think of it! Please let me know in the comments.
Jake was flipping from channel to channel not paying attention to the television when the car pulled into the garage. He turned off the TV and went back to his room, scooping up the rest of the bag of Doritos he’d had for supper.
Jessie burst into his room, proudly carrying three sleepily suffocating fish floating in Ziploc baggies.
“Look-it, Jake!” she shoved the baggies in his face. “Look-it! I won them.”
“Cool,” Jake tried to get her to set the fish down before they got seasick from the crazy zigzags she was creating with her arms.
“It was the quarter toss, Jake!” He had rescued two of them but the third was clutched in her tiny fist. “I had to use the whole roll to get all three of them.” As she demonstrated the tossing motion, the black speckled fish seemed to turn a little green.
“Why three?” Jake grabbed the final baggie when she paused.
“When I won Unicorn,” Jessie pointed at a very normal goldfish, “I thought she’d get lonely. So I had to get Pegasus.” The next fish was the type with the bulging eyes. “But as soon as I had won her, I saw that one.” She poked the baggie Jake still held. “I thought you’d like him. After all, it was your money, and I didn’t get you anything else.” She stared at him as he eyed the fish.
“I do like him, sis,” Jake says, tugging her ponytail. “I’m going to call him… The Loch Ness Monster, so he doesn’t ever have to know he’s a goldfish in the same bowl your horses.”
Jessie started giggling, “We wouldn’t want him to feel bad!”
“I think I still have my fishbowl from last year.” Jake went to search his room for his little sister.
It was decided that the fish could stay in the dining room, where Jake and Jessie could share responsibilities for feeding cleaning.
Jake lay awake long after everyone else had gone to bed. He had sneaked his phone out of his mom’s purse, and had sighed in frustration at the texts from Rachael. He texted her back apologizing for missing her, explaining he’d been grounded for having a smart mouth. He asked her if he could make it up to her.
Jake doubted she cared. She probably rode the Ferris Wheel with some other guy. She hadn’t answered yet.
Staring at his ceiling, Jake thought about the fish. The fair must be like the city for them, full of lights and noise and interesting smells. Little Nessie had gone from the fish equivalent of New York into the same dull town Jake was stuck in. There was nothing here but trees and the river. Nothing ever happening, no contest, no adventure, no romance.
Early the next morning, before Jessie woke up, Jake stuck the Loch Ness Monster back into his baggie. He wanted to be on his bike and out the driveway before any one noticed that he was gone.
But she had noticed. Jessie knew where he was going.
“Go, man. Just swim downstream. The place with all the lights is the city. Don’t let any big fish eat you. Just be tough.” Jake opened the baggie. This place is like that lake in Scotland, where it’s the only place you’ll ever be. No one ever leaves. Go!” He tipped the baggie over the edge of the bridge. The Loch Ness Monster waved his tail as he plummeted down into the river, surrounded by droplets of water from his bowl. Jake smeared at the tears on his face with the back of his hand. “I’ll meet you there,” he whispered, “someday.”
Jessie knew he couldn’t hear her crying. She was perched in a tree just out of earshot. She didn’t know what he was saying to the Loch Ness Monster or why he was throwing him in the river, but it wasn’t nice. Poor Nessie. He wasn’t even as big as some of the minnows they caught for fishing!
Jessie stared at Jake over dinner. He knew she suspected something.
“Where’s the Loch Ness Monster?” Jessie’s eyes accused him of murder.
“He went on a trip.” Jake shrugged. He couldn’t explain. How could he explain how stifling that bowl on the dining room buffet would be t a big city fish like the Loch Ness Monster?
“I saw you throw something into the river.” Jessie cried, “Was it Nessie?”
“Jake!” His mother interrupted, “Did you throw your sister’s fish into the river?”
“He wasn’t her fish.” Jake grumbled. “She didn’t understand him.”
His sister ran, wailing, from the room. “You’re grounded, mister.” His mother stood to follow Jessie, “And you have to buy her a new fish.”
“He was my fish!” Jake stood. Unicorn and Pegasus felt the familiar ripples of his bedroom door slamming shut.