by Kimberley McKisick-Monroe
The swollen Molly rests in the lower left corner of the brightly lit tank, fins spinning like propellers to keep itself upright in the shallow indentation it had made in the aquarium gravel. The bulging belly, says the pet store attendant and internet photos of other bloated Mollies, will last nine weeks or so before the fry appear, wiggling free in the miracle of live birth. Kyle and I wait, heads together resting on forearms and kitchen counter, eyes forced wide to keep from missing the moment in the wee hours of the morning, together in concern and curiosity over our scaly ward. The fish rocks and wobbles, the small round mouth opening in rhythm to the swaying, it’s unblinking eyes staring past us to a focal point on the wall behind and I am in the delivery room eighteen years ago focusing, breathing, rocking, eager to meet the boy standing now so silently next to me. Focused again on the small white mouth - open, close, open, close, open. Hearts caught in throats, the sweet soundtrack scratching to a halt just as the flutes begin to swell, we stand in disbelief, wondering if it’s alright to cry when a fish dies.
Kimberley McKisick-Monroe lives in Oconomowoc, WI.