Continuing The Pond People. If you missed the beginning, click here to Meet the Mirlings
They were about to set off from the shallows. Molly was seated behind Flo and Grandad on the larger fish.
She turned to watch as Eddy settled behind Flash on the smaller one. Behind them, someone in the garden was lowering a bucket into the pond until water flowed over its rim. This happened sometimes in the summer when water was needed to dilute a pond treatment if the water was cloudy, or when blanketweed grew thick and threatened to block the pump.
The bucket was lifted from the water and set on the grass beside the human. He reached for something laying nearby and settled on his heels to watch the fish, like the cat did.
They were ready to move off. Molly sensed the suppressed energy from the younger fish as Flash persuaded it to swim beside the stately old glider.
Suddenly a net rose beneath them.
The fish thrashed, throwing Molly into the netting which now surrounded them all. She tried to avoid the flailing fish as they were dragged out of the water.
A giant hand tipped the net inside out, and she dropped into water again, this time surrounded by black walls. She drifted to the bottom of the bucket while the fish shook out their tails and circled above. Flash was darting between the fish. The sky overhead had shrunk to a circle.
Other mirlings cowered around the edge of the bucket’s base. There was Eddy… and Flo bending over Grandad.
The light dimmed. Molly looked up again to where a human face blocked the shrunken sky. Oval-shaped eyes followed the fish around the bucket.
‘That one’s too big for the bowl.’
‘I couldn’t c-catch the other one without netting b-both of them; they were swimming together.’
Human hands descended to firmly grip the bigger fish and lift it from the bucket.
‘Look out, Andre.’ Molly heard a splash.
‘Stupid fish nearly threw itself in the b-bush.’
‘Can I have another little one then, instead of the big one. Ple-e-ase? Look, that baby white one with orange spots, there!’
Their father disapproved. ‘This was the one you wanted, wasn’t it? Andre’s been very clever to catch it.’
‘But just two fishes aren’t very much company.’
‘All the fish would rather be in the pond, Beth, where they’ve got room to swim properly and grow big.’
Molly stopped trying to make sense of the grumblings and splashes outside the bucket and peered across its base to the three unfamiliar mirlings huddled there. Her view was disturbed when a small black fish plopped into the water to join the carroty one.
‘That’s it! No more! If you don’t want these two, they can go back in the pond. They’ll be better off there than in a bowl, and so would your Goldie.’
Andre’s voice backed up his father. ‘How would you like it if you could only ever walk round and round and round your b-bedroom all the time?’
‘Oh-h-h, all right. I’ll just have these then.’
‘Take them into the kitchen, Andre,’ said the father.
The bucket rose. Water slopped, and the sky above them moved.
Their world darkened as they left the sky behind. After much sloshing of water, the bucket came to rest on a table and the children’s argument carried on into another room.