Once upon a time, there was a little boy who really wanted a dog. For a few days now, he’d been asking his mother if he could have one. It didn’t need to be big. Even a small one would do. They lived on an old farm, had a big garden, and they already had a horse, and a cat. “A dog would complete the picture nicely”, he argued. At every occasion, the little boy would remind his mother dearest of his wish. As the months went by, his desire never wavered. He wanted, in no uncertain terms, a dog.
As the days turned into weeks, and the weeks turned into months, the boy’s birthday approached. His mother asked him, “Do you really want a dog?”. “Oh yes, mother dearest”, he replied, “a dog is all I would want for my birthday”. His mother made him regret his eagerness. “Even if it means you don’t get a bike?”
Sadly, time had come for the family to move houses. The old farm was too far away from civilisation, and there were no buses going from the tiny village to the schools. As such, the horse would be going to an aunt, and the cat would come with, to the city. The new house was in the process of being renovated, and it would be a few months before they could move in. The boy would be getting a massive bedroom, on the third floor, to make up for the fact that they would not have a garden anymore, where he used to spend most of his free time.
As you do, the boy could barely contain his joy on the morning of his birthday. He was convinced that today, he would finally be getting a dog. And if not a dog, a nice new bike. As breakfast drew to a close, the boy was disappointed that he hadn’t received any gifts, but his mood lifted when his mother concluded the meal with “Shall we go visit your birthday gift?”
The boy could barely contain his excitement in the car. “Why isn’t the gift at the farm?” he asked. “Is it at the new house?” he continued. His mother confirmed. The gift had to be at the new house, and had to stay there. It was too difficult to move it. He asked whether the gift was too big to be transported in a car. His mother explained that it wasn’t too big, it was just not very practical. He asked whether it was impractical because the gift was alive. She smiled, and nodded.
Finally. A dog. After nearly a whole year of asking for one.
The car was parked, and the new house’s front door was unlocked. “Where is it? Where is it?” he asked. “In the courtyard, behind the house.” The boy ran through the maze that was the ground floor, jumping over paint buckets and ducking under construction equipment. He opened the door to the small square courtyard, and didn’t see anything. He ran up the staircase that led to a small terrace, hoping to find his new best friend asleep in the sun. The terrace was equally empty.
“He’s gone!” the boy yelled, “He managed to escape!”
“No, they’re right here!” his mother retorted.
“They?” he mumbled. Confused, he peered over the railing, and saw his mother looking up at him while pointing at what could only be described as a glass jar, mounted atop some kind of metal legs. Utterly and ultimately deflated, he slowly walked down the stairs in disbelief. He approached the weird object that he had rushed past initially, and realised it was filled with water. Some things were moving inside. “This one is called Freddy, and this one is called John, after Freddy Mercury and John Lennon.” His birthday gift was a pair of goldfish.
Original cover photo by Johan Bakker.