1st Line – Thomas watched his goldfish circling in his bowl.
Thomas watched his goldfish circling in his bowl. He had done this exact thing for close to two hours, barely moving the whole time. The two fish had passed, looped and went under and above each other so much he had lost count after the 657th time. He knew he had to get up and go. They were expecting him.
Thomas drove the forty-seven minutes to his old house. First time in weeks. Old, as in not his anymore. Well..still in name, but not in residence. She had it, with the kids, as so decreed. Even though she was the one who left him behind and outside, locked out of that house, their home. The whole while he drove, his stomach did the same circling and looping and passing in and out and over and under as the goldfish did.
The goldfish. He hated them, but the kids loved them. No substitute for anything for him, it just grounded something at his new place for the kids. He watched them, not for the first time, hoping that one of them would just go belly up, followed by the other one. The kids would cry, or not, and move on like they’ve done with things before.
Like he felt they were in the process of doing with him.
He could kill the fish he called Stupid 1 and Stupid 2. It’d be easy. Don’t feed them. Over feed them. Don’t clean the bowl. Spill something slightly toxic…ooops…but, he just couldn’t bring himself to do it.
“How can I kill goldfish, let me count the ways” game lasted most of the drive. He gave it up as he approached the street, turned the corner, and then turned into the driveway. His throat was raw tight as the feeling in his chest.
He got out of the car just as the youngest opened the house door yelling “Daddy!”. The older one held back, smiling but not really. She stood behind them. “You’re late,” she said.
Yeah, fuck you, he thought. “Yeah, Sorry,” he said. Their youngest wanted to show him something, to come inside, up to her room. Thomas looked at his ex, the NO screaming from her eyes, but her face was steady.
“Can’t this time, kiddo. Get your coats. We’ll stop for dinner and then go to our place. My place.” The kids scooted, Thomas and his ex stood on opposite sides, silent and glaring off. This didn’t last nearly as long as his time watching the goldfish circling in his bowl, but it felt infinitely longer.