The goldfish were swimming in circles, competing for fish food.
A tired writer, not so much tired of physical body, but of spirit, was trying to eek-out a paragraph to feel good about himself on a drizzly day. Classical music played in the background like soundwaves of genius, washing up on a desolate island, where two stranded men were trying to survive.
The toilet flushed in their studio apartment, and Alan exited their bathroom, like a man who spent all afternoon there, conducting business.
Andy looked at his feeder fish.
They had grown to three-times their expected size, with lifespans that tested the limits of mortality suggested by the pet food store. He stared at them through the glass, and they stared back at him.
“Not much of a social life,” his father said.
Andy nodded. “They need to get out more, but they’re trapped behind the glass.” He looked-out the window at the street, where people were walking in and out of shops.
“You could flush them down the toilet. That’s where they belong, and they’d probably feel better, swimming down the pipes,” Alan suggested.
“That would kill them.”
“And… you need to get out more. I wasn’t talking about the goldfish. You need a girl, son.”
“What I need is success. Without success, a man with a woman, has a problem he can’t solve.”
“Then, get a better job.”
“With a job and a woman, a man can’t write. No, I need succeed first.”
Alan limped into the kitchen and opened the refrigerator.
“Would you like some peckeroni?” He asked.
“Just eggs, over easy—that’s brain food.” Andy could hear the skillet sizzling. If he listened close enough, he could hear birds chirping. He was trying to catch the next idea from his subconscious mind, but it wasn’t echoing out of the caverns of his creativity.
Beaker jumped across his two-foot-thick dictionary, and spread-out on the table. It purrrred. It got close to the writer, who looked up everything, the old-fashioned way. The big ball of hair, reached one of its paws into the fish bowl, frantically. Its claws were like fish hooks.
“Beaker, knock that off!” Andy said.
The cat nearly pushed the bowl onto the floor out of pure spite. Then it sauntered off to its cathouse.
“My therapy appointment is in 30 minutes,” Andy said.
“How many times do I have to tell you? You can tell your problems to me, and I’ll charge you half as much.”
“Telling my problems to family, just isn’t the same as being able to unload to a complete stranger.”
“I don’t understand you, Andy.”
The writer watched his dad reading the National Inquirer. The subject of his father’s interest was near-death experiences. The old man was getting older, Andy thought. Personal interest follows age, like a loyal dog. It accrues like a bad debt.
Andy walked down the broken stairs to the door. It was like that dream where you step-out into nothing. Space grips you, until you hit the floor and wake-up. Andy opened the door. The rain was like a waterfall. He grabbed an umbrella. It was only two blocks to see his psychoanalyst in New York City. The wind was blowing. It was threatening to turn the umbrella inside out.
Andy walked down the street.
There was the door, 209. The writer had read about this guy on the back of the National Inquirer. The first session was free, and Andy’s curiosity had gotten the better of him, like Beaker who pushed antique vases off the piano to see what would happen when they hit the floor.
Inside, it was a dark hallway, leading to a black door, at the far end of a corridor. It was odd, because there were no doors to the left or to the right—just the one. Andy was about to knock, when a voice said, “Come in.”
The waiting room was full of clocks. It was important to witness the lost minutes before the mind was worked on, he guessed.
A little man with a big nose was standing in the middle of the room.
“You are the writer who called, am I right?”
“Yes, you’re right. And that’s the problem. I can’t write.”
“Oh—the words that we say to ourselves are very important. Now, step inside my office. I have a new kind of therapy.”
“That sounds dangerous,” Andy said.
“Oh—something new is dangerous to you, is it?”
“No—that’s not what I meant.”
“Perhaps, a Freudian slip?”
“Okay. It’s called mirror therapy.”
Andy and the psychoanalyst (who looked a bit like a dwarf, and not the genetic abnormality, but the fantasy variety) stood at the foot of an enormous mirror that stretch to the ceiling, and filled up the entire wall. It was impossible to know how the therapist got the thing inside the building. It was old. No, ancient, Andy thought. It could’ve belonged to a different epoch, or world.
“Where did you get that?”
“It’s not important,” the dwarf said. “What is important is what you see when you look inside it.”
“I see myself, and I see you.”
The scene began to change like the sea. It was like those pictures that are hidden inside a picture.
Suddenly, Andy saw a big blue lake. There was a rowboat moving across it, briskly.
“You have always wanted wealth and fame,” the therapist suggested.
“I don’t think so,” Andy said. “I just want to write a great work of literature.”
“Hold out your hand.”
The therapist put a gold coin there, and Andy could see his fingers closing around the precious metal.
“When you get back from your journey, you will never be the same again.”
Andy felt a tremendous push. Then, the sky opened up, and like Icarus, he fell.
He splashed deep down and opened his eyes.
There was seaweed all around and colorful fish laughing. Then, out of the dark water swam a big goldfish. It wasn’t orange, like the feeder fish Andy owned, but gold. Somehow, he knew that it was treasure to be found.
A tiny hand grabbed him by his thick collar and dragged him into the boat. The arm was strong and small, like a chimpanzee’s, with all that compact muscle.
Andy looked across the rowboat at his therapist, but he was no longer wearing a 3-piece suit. He looked like a dwarf, with leather pants and a red turtleneck.
“How did we get here?” Andy demanded.
“Through the mirror.”
“Well… I want to go.”
“No sense in that. You are always trying to find someplace magical in your head. I just helped you to do it, and all you want to do is go back home. Now, look in your hand.”
Andy looked at his white knuckles. He pried them open and saw the gold coin.
“Now, I promise you, that if you use that as bait, you will catch the golden lake goldfish.”
At that moment, the sun was beginning to set and the lake turned to gold.
“Cast away, before it’s too late. Magic can’t last the day. The darkness steals it.”
Andy’s therapist handed him a fishing pole, where he promptly tied the gold coin to the end of the line. It plopped into the water like an enormous insect, and in only a matter of seconds, it was swallowed by a big goldfish that swam willingly to the side of their boat.
“Now, grab your hands inside his throat and pull.”
Andy obeyed, with half a hope and twice the fear that his hand would get bitten off, like a bad breakfast pulled out of a sick child who has eaten too much candy. The gold coins sparkled in the light like magic.
“You have to catch them with their own vomit,” the dwarf said. “It takes money to make money.”
And in that moment, he pulled a tiny mirror from behind his back and activated it like an iPad.
“Hold onto the fish.” And like before, Andy felt himself being pulled into the mirror.
Back in the office, he was soaked. The water was raining onto the floor and the fish was gasping for air.
“Let me get you a clear plastic bag full of water to keep him in.” The therapist walked to his sink and pulled an enormous bag from the drawer and filled it with water.
“Now, until next time. My fee is 100 dollars an hour. Don’t try to pay me in gold coins. And don’t get greedy with your fish. It takes him time to cough up the money, so to speak.”
Andy thanked his therapist profusely and walked down the busy street to his apartment. The rain had tapered off, but he was as wet as a cat that had nearly down.
Up the steps he went, until he got into his tiny apartment. He went for the biggest bowl—the one used for spaghetti. He filled it full of lake water and plopped the fish into a sunlit spot near the window.
Now, the tiny feeder fish were watching the big gold fish, and Beaker the cat, was thinking murderous thoughts from across the room.
“How did your session go?” Alan asked.
“I caught something.”
“What? Did you catch a diagnosis? What kind of therapist are you going to? It isn’t a woman, is it?”
“Oh no—nothing like that. I caught a fish.”
“A what? You didn’t go to the pet shop, did you?”
Alan walked into the living room and saw the goldfish, sparkling in the sun.
“We don’t have to worry about the rent, anymore,” Andy said. “The conditions are finally right, for me to make a living as a writer.”
but this is only the beginning…