Continuing The Pond People. If you missed the beginning, click here to Meet the Mirlings
Molly’s heartbeat echoed in her throat as the weed travelled through the air towards the tank. Thankfully it was over the tank when Grandad lost his grip and slid off the end of his branch, pulling Flo with him into the water. Eddy launched himself after them with a whoop. The others went in on the weed.
The water was colder than the bowl but after the first gasp, they were able to breathe again. Walter and Sylva clung to their branches as the weed was pushed into the gravel, but Molly had already dived to a neighbouring clump. When she looked around for the others, Amber was wriggling free of the weed while Walter released his grip on his branch, finger by finger.
‘Amber, get back in the weed!’
‘I’ll be all right, Wally.’
‘His name’s Walter, said Sylva, still clinging to her branch.
Where was Flash?
Flash had been swimming around the bowl when the hand appeared. After a day hiding in the weed, the temptation to stretch his tail had been too strong to resist. Swimming on his side took more energy than he’d expected.
Molly’s warning reached him, but he was too far away to grab the weed before it left the tank. His best chance of following the others would be on a fish.
He tried riding the fairground fish, but it had been spooked by the hand in the water and wasn’t about to suffer a mirling on its back. After Goldie threw him, he dropped instead to the black fish at the bottom, lately named Shadow.
A plastic bag appeared at the surface and was filled with water. When it was removed, the tiny net appeared in its place. It easily scooped up the two lethargic pond fish and Flash, who was tucked behind a pectoral fin below Shadow’s gills. They were tipped into the water-filled bag, now resting in a jug on the table.
He settled at the bottom of the bag until the fairground fish joined them. The bag was then tied at the top and floated in the tank.
Eddy was first up to investigate. ‘Flash, are you okay? Can you get out of there?’
He waved out and grinned at Eddy as Molly joined them.
‘He doesn’t look particularly worried.’ She eyed him through the bag. ‘You’ve seen this before, haven’t you?’
Flash didn’t respond immediately. He would have liked to see Flo out there worrying too, but it was Walter who swam up to join them. ‘The man’s gone. What’s Flash doing in there?’
He relented. ‘Don’t worry Walt. The man will be back to let us out when our water temperature’s the same as in the tank. It’s what they used to do in the pet shop.’
Molly nodded. ‘The cold water did make us gasp. Grandad’s still recovering.’ That would be where Flo was, thought Flash: looking after Grandad.
Eddy stayed to make faces through the bag, and Flash was glad of the company. The idiot’s antics passed the time and stopped him thinking. When the kitchen light came on, Eddy hid in the weed while Father untied the bag and upended it in the water for the fish to swim out.
The carroty Flipper rallied in the fresher water and swam a short way before settling on the gravel, but the black fish didn’t swim out. The bag had to be pulled away from her when it was taken out of the water and the goldfish sank to the floor of the tank.
When the kitchen light went out, Flash left the shelter of the black fish and joined the other mirlings where they had gathered behind a chunk of stone.
He was too exhausted to stay awake. The others were already asleep when he gave up trying and slept as if he were safe back in the pond.