FICTION: Fishbowls

by Megan Christy

Mrs. C sprinkled the fish flakes into the bowl. They floated down, down to the rocky bottom. Minos drifted toward the flakes, his elegant fins fluttering in the water. The schoolteacher looked up from the bowl and scanned her home. What would she need for the new school year? What was she allowed to bring? Nothing that can’t be disinfected. That’s what the principal had said. No more carpet in the classroom, no more story time books ’n’ beanbags, no more Holly the Horse for the kids to hug when they were scared. All those things were gone now, replaced with cold tile floors and plexiglass barricades. All to keep the virus at bay.

Mrs. C sighed and rummaged through her school bag. No need for the red correcting pens — everything would be done digitally now. No more gold star stickers, either. Nothing should be touched by the teacher and the students. That’s what the principal had said.

Mrs. C glanced back at Minos, circling around and around. The kids will miss him too, she thought as his air bubbles rose up and up.

Twenty pairs of eyes stared back at Mrs. C over cloth and soft paper masks from twenty tanks perfectly spaced and complete with desk and chair. The teacher pointed to the stark whiteboard next to a tidy 1 + 3. Shaky voices answered back and so the exercises went on. The numbered answers climbed higher and higher until Mrs. C wondered if they would ever come back down. Her students dutifully entered the answers into digital tablets, tiny fingers flying across the screens. The teacher would see their worksheets later, all of them looking exactly the same save for their names typed neatly across the top.

The bell shrieked throughout the room. One by one the kids filed out as the teacher grabbed sanitation spray. Only a few minutes to disinfect before the next twenty came in to start their school day. 

Mrs. C furiously sprayed and wiped, watching the minutes tick, tick by.

Mrs. C laid back against the pillows, mask hanging forgotten from one ear, and glanced over at Minos still circling around and around. A student had smuggled in some markers and left behind a drawing on the plexiglass today. A little black stick man in a muddled brown boat on a carefully colored ocean. Out of the deep blue sea erupted a sickly green tentacle, racing toward the little man. A red arrow pointed to the tentacle, the words “COVID got MiNOS” scrawled next to it.

Mrs. C chuckled as she watched Minos stop his circling for a moment. She would have to take a minute to explain that wasn’t how viruses behaved. There hadn’t been time today.

But as she turned out the light to drift into sleep, she couldn’t help but wonder if soon she’d find a drawing of a woman belly up in Mino’s bowl with the words “COVID got MRS. C.”

Megan Christy is a writer and editor who has worked with a range of storytelling formats. A volunteer since 2020, she became the Emerald’s content coordinator in 2021. As a granddaughter of an incarcerated Japanese American during WWII, Megan is passionate about uplifting voices forgotten, overlooked, or silenced by society.

📸 Featured image by marcogarrincha/

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