What lies within is  a tale of excitement, mystery, woe and joy. It begins with the joy of three young children running wide-eyed through the maze of pet store wonders, past the kittens and puppies, by the ferrets and birds, back to the back of the store where the fish and frogs and slithery snakes reside. The distictive smell of the aquarium room not deterring, the three children run from one tank to the next, on a quest for a fish, a snail and an aquatic frog.

The squeals and gigles draw in the pet store attendant, who comes to atted their every need as they construct their new aquatic family with the Christmas money burning holes in their pockets. For them, money is no option. For their mother, there is a budget, the sum of their three Christmas checks to be exact. Temporary sadness when they leave the pet store empty-handed is soothed by promises of purchasing certainty at the Wal-mart across the street.

At the pet store they had learned about Zebra Danios, so at Wal-Mart they bought three, a betta fish, and a fish tank that was just the right size and just the right price – their first ever “real aquarium!” Carefully choosing one tank decoration each with purposeful consideration, and grabbing a couple packages of aquarium plant bulbs to make it extra special, they left Wal-Mart in high spirits and eager to put it all together. Their excitement was not even hampered by the fact that they would have to wait one month to return for the sea snail and the aquatic frog.

Arriving home, excitement turned to frenzy, and at long last their new fish were in their new home, all safe and sound, and promptly named: Prince Charming, Gabriella, Maya Montez and Tiger. The three young children were so overjoyed and wound up from the day’s excitement they could hardly get to sleep! First one, and then another, would slip out of their room with some excuse so that they could sneak by the aquarium in the living room and steal a peak. As soon as the morning sun lit the new day’s sky, the children gathered in front of the aquarium to sit and watch their fish swim and swim. Throughout the day, their mother would find them sitting contently staring. In fact, it was difficult to get them to do much else.

For two days the four fish thrived and the three children enjoyed, taking turns feeding them carefully. But it was not to last, when just before bedtime the third day one of the children exclaimed, “Mom! One of the fish is MISSING!”

Their mother called back, “It’s probably just hiding,” but still she came to see for herself. She looked and she looked. One of the Danios was not there. Their mother gingerly reached her hand into the tank, lifting the pretend piece of coral, the colorful squid, the blue shark – nothing. Becuase her children have seen Finding Nemo, she even lifted the lid off of the tank on the filter and peered inside. No, kids, it’s not in here. Counting the fish again… one, two, three…. could it be? Could the betta have eaten one of the Danios?

By this point the children have caught on, and one of them asked, “Did it get eaten?” Their mother, adept at quelling their hysteria simply answered, “I’m not sure. But if it did, that’s what happens in the ocean right? Don’t worry, I’ll buy you another one.” As every mother knows, those last 5 words can cover a multitude of anxieties.

Of course, the mother being handy online to a certain extent, quickly sat down with her laptop and the Google. “Oh, mighty Google, tell me, do betta fish eat Zebra Danios?” The Google replied, “Dear concerned mother, it is not likely. However it may depend on the temperament of the betta fish.” Sadly, Tiger the betta (who it seems was aptly named) was sentenced to solitary confinement with much or much less than solemn ceremony.

The children went to bed. They slept and they rose and they ate breakfast a fourth day. It was on mid-morning the fourth day that the mother noticed there was only ONE Danio swimming in the tank.

Surely not.

The betta was in solitary, and Danios don’t eat Danios. “Where oh where has my Danio gone…?” To prove to herself that it MUST be there, she raised the lid and pulled out each decoration one-by-one, checked inside them and set them aside.

One fish. She turned off the filter for a moment to stop the water from moving. Still one fish. She peered carefully around and under the glass rocks in the bottom, did it get stuck somewhere? ONE FISH. How can there be just one fish? It’s not possible. It can’t be. It doesn’t make sense. But alas, there is just one little lone Danio swimming, swimming, swimming. The children are peering in by this point, too. They watch as the mother rearranges the plant bulbs, showing their first signs of growth, into their desired locations. Picking them up here and placing them there. As she arranges the last one, a child cries out.

The fish!

It was true, the second fish was back. Where had it been? Had it been stuck under a rock somewhere after all? The mother had looked and hadn’t seen anything. Perhaps it had wiggled under a plant bulb? Who knew. But it was there. Whole and happy and swimming in circles with the other fish. In disbelief, the mother shakes her head and adds the decorations back into the tank. She doesn’t know how it happened, but she’s glad the fish is back.

As she places the very last decoration into place, the one fake plant that will be removed when the real plants grow, she leans over to plug the filter back in. And when she stands back up again, she is greeted with a sight that her eyes simply cannot believe!

There are three fish swimming in the tank!

The children are overjoyed! The mother is overwhelmed! The Daddy simply says, “You should apologize to the other fish” and winks. Yes, the Daddy is a smart-alec, but nobody minds it because they are happy that they have all their fish again.

It had been 14 hours since the 3rd fish went missing. There is no explanation for the disappearing reappearing fish act. Like any good magic trick, the magician never reveals how it is done, and the audience simply stares in amazement and wonder.

The mother retrieves Tiger and places him back in the tank again, since he’d shown no signs of agression and had been unfairly incarcerated on circumstantial evidence. The four fish are together again. The children are sitting in front of the tank staring at their fish again and all is well, for the time being at least.

In the end it all worked out, and they all lived happily ever after – or at least with the promise of living happily as long as little fishies can live.

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Hey, y’all! I’m Amber and I wear many hats. I drink a ton of coffee and I’m constantly sweeping crumbs off the floor. After 18 years of homeschooling, I’m getting close to graduating my third child and now we are starting over at preschool with our fourth, Lil Miss Mouse. She keeps us young and she’s the main reason for my excessive coffee consumption. Drink up!