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THE KEEPER OF THE GOLDFISH • by A. W. Mason

I never learned how to tie my shoes, which is fine because Miss Nina has been getting me these velcro laced deals ever since I was dropped off at Sisters of Sacred Heart.  I’ve been living here for 28 years, or so they tell me, I can’t really remember that far back. But while I have been here, I have learned a lot of things: I can sound out words that I’ve never seen before, I can count by 2’s all the way to fifty and I can feed the Sisters’ goldfish in the lobby. I just never could understand shoe laces.

So I put on my velcro shoes and sat in the lobby watching those goldfish. Miss Nina is going to take me to go see Mr. Sam, the man who cuts my hair.  He wants to talk to me about helping him out at his barber shop.  If I’m lucky I can start working there.  I think I have a good chance because last time I was there getting my hair cut, I overheard Mr. Sam tell Miss Nina that because I’m a tart, my celery would be a tax write off.  I’m not really sure what vegetables and tarts have to do with the job I may get but Mr. Sam seemed pretty excited.

“Benjamin, are you ready?” Miss Nina asked me.

I nodded, got up and grabbed her hand. Hopefully she couldn’t tell how nervous I was; I wiped my hands off on my jeans before we started walking to Mr. Sam’s.

My friend Tony got a job last year at the feed store watching after the baby chickens. He is blind so I’m not sure how much watching he does but it must be enough because he has his own apartment now. Tony also gets to ride the bus to his job. I sure hope Mr. Sam lets me help out at the barber shop so I can make enough money to be like Tony. I mean I like walking around with Miss Nina but could you imagine getting to ride on the bus all by yourself?

“Remember what I told you, Benjamin. Just be your wonderful ol’ self, okay?” Miss Nina patted me on the head and pushed the door open to Mr. Sam’s. The bells on the door clanked against the glass. It made me think of Christmas every time I came in, even when it was really hot outside.

If I could get my own apartment, I wouldn’t have to share a room with Lester and Ed no more. Lester, he’s okay but Ed scares me. Last month he lit the curtains in the lunch room on fire. Everyone in the building had to go out outside while the firemen sprayed it down with their hoses.

Miss Nina told me that whenever I did get my own place, we could go to the pet store to pick out my own goldfish since I already know how to take care of the ones at Sacred Heart. Really though, I’d like to get a bird like the man has that comes to visit us every Friday. He also brings turtles and a monkey.

But before I can do any of that, I need a job and to pass all of my school tests. Miss Nina says I have to be pro-fishing in all subjects. Maybe that’s why the animal man comes in every Friday to see us, but he’s never brought any fish. Anyway, I have gold stars on all of my subjects except reading. I’m tons better at it than when I started though.

Mr. Sam put his cigar down on the counter. Smoke never came from it but he always had it in his mouth.

“Benjamin! A little off the top?” he asked, snipping scissors in the air.

I paused. Miss Nina nudged me forward. I looked up at her but she tilted her head toward Mr. Sam and winked at him. It made him smile.

“Mr. Sam. Can I have a job here?”

He laughed loud as if I told a funny, even Miss Nina grinned.

“Can you cut hair?”

“No.”

“Can you give a shave?”

“No!”

This wasn’t good; I couldn’t do any of those things! Mr. Sam kneeled down and put his hand on my shoulder.

“Look at all of this hair everywhere. Can you sweep?”

I think he saw my eyes get real big because he smiled as I bobbed my head as fast as I could.

“Good. Grab a sucker and take a seat. Miss Nina and I have to talk for a minute.”

I couldn’t wait to tell Tony! I could probably move soon. But still there are some things that sort of scare me about moving out. Now I know all of the places around Sacred Heart and that’s a fact. Most of the time I’m the hall monitor when I’m not in class. But one time when we all went to the mall downtown, I went to go get some french fries in the food court and maybe I took too long because when I turned around there was nobody there. I walked around to all the stores I could remember going to and couldn’t find anyone. Finally a nice policeman without a gun helped me find one of the Sisters. I wonder if other people will be as nice as him if I can’t find Mr. Sam’s place.

And since I will be moving on, I’m afraid most that Miss Nina will forget me. I know she says she will come visit me when I leave, but there are so many new people coming in everyday that I’m sure they will need her more than I will. No use in worrying about that just yet. Once my reading scores improve and I have been working at the barber shop, I’ll buy Miss Nina a picture frame to put a photo of us in so she will see me everyday no matter what.


A. W. Mason hails from the great bay of Tampa, FL.  He is currently studying mass communications with an interest in journalistic writing.  Aside from writing, Mason enjoys running and homebrewing.


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THE KEEPER OF THE GOLDFISH • by A. W. Mason, 3.4 out of 5 based on 34 ratings
Posted on January 15, 2014 in Literary, Stories
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  • Richard Pasky

    I happen to know of a slow-witted man who does exactly that in the barber shop I patronize. He is in his 70s and does it without payment. I see him as simply being happy doing something that helps. I have been going to that barber shop for over 50 years. I loved the story.

  • Carl Steiger

    I know people with master’s degrees whose written (and spoken) English is MUCH worse than this, which is why I’m thinking this would have been better written in the third person. Whether this is a reverie in Benjamin’s head or something he wrote down, it just seems too coherent.
    I’m going to have to go take a look at “Flowers for Algernon” and see how Daniel Keyes did this; I know that was first-person.

  • http://www.etsy.com/shop/quirkandkwizle Avalina Dixon

    I agree with Carl, third person would’ve read better. i still enjoyed the story though.

  • Sarah Russell

    I liked being inside Benjamin’s head — on other words the first person approach. Benjamin is a wonderfully sympathetic character.

  • Danny Hollier

    Great story, although I never understood the character to be an adult. Either I am just as slow-witted, or the author needed to clarify that one point to avoid any confusion. Otherwise, beautifully written. Four stars.

  • Pingback: http://www.everydayfiction.com/the-keeper-of-the-goldfish-by-a-w-mason/ | James Baxenfield

  • Paul Owen

    What a sweet story, A.W. Brightened my day – thank you!

  • Corey J. Popp

    This story is written with proper grammar and spelling because Benjamin told this story with his soul, not his brain. That’s what gives this story its literary quality. Well done, Mr. Mason.

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