The Bucket List of Cameron Grimshaw (by Obe) ... Continued
– Competition piece
“That one,” I said, pointing.
“Good choice,” replied the shopkeeper, nodding in agreement. I watched as she struggled to catch the one I’d picked out. I gazed at it escaping over and over. It really was a beautiful creature. Finally she caught it and bagged it.
“There we are, sir,” she said. “I’ll just wrap it up.”
I nodded, smiling. She took it to the till and did some calculations. My blood was jumping with excitement. I was grinning like a Cheshire Cat. This was something I had wanted to do since I was 5 years old – and finally I could have my dream come true.
“That’ll be three pounds, sir,” the shopkeeper said to me. I dug out the change from my pocket and exchanged the money. She handed me the bag. “Have a good day.”
“Thank you,” I replied hurriedly, itching to get going. Once I got out of the shop I raced back home, practically skipping in the streets, ignoring the pain in my stomach and my sore cough. Oh boy this was actually happening! I couldn’t remember the last time I’d been so excited about something so trivial.
As soon as I got in the front door I rushed up the stairs to my bathroom and locked the door. I unwrapped the newspaper from the outside of the package and stared at the creature inside. It was a Red and Black Fantail Fish. It was unusually big for a goldfish – the size of my fist at least. It looked pretty chilled, just swimming casually from side to side, mouth gaping every so often. I couldn’t stop myself grinning at it and pressing my face right up to the plastic. Its red scales shimmered prettily in the light coming in from the blinds. I rested the bag in the sink and then turned to the bathtub. I put the plug in and turned on both taps. Then I waited for the water to fill up at least three quarters of the way – and that was a fair amount of water and a lot of waiting. I couldn’t stop jiggling, I was so excited, and it seemed like I had ants in my pants. As I waited I hummed the tune to ‘Rub-a-dub-dub, three men in a tub...’ to pass the time. But finally it filled up.
“Are you ready?” I murmured to my new fish, smiling at it. I untied the bag and slipped it into the water. The fish swam out and had a poke about its new home. It swam a bit, and it rested, then swam some more, then came to the surface, then had another rest. I smiled at it contentedly and sighed. I dipped my finger in the bath and lazily drew circles and swirly designs in the water, enjoying the soft sloshing sound it made. Oh how lovely it would be to be a fish ... How easy and simple. How great it would be, not having to remember anything ... or worry about anything ... not having to go to school and worry about passing exams... I smiled to myself ... not having to worry about getting sick... just swimming around without a care in the world.
“Oh Mister Fish, how I envy you,” I mumbled ... Imagine ... not having to worry about taking care of anyone but yourself ... I stilled my drawing hand in thought ... not having to worry about your family who were treating you like you would crumble at any moment and wouldn’t let you do anything when actually you wanted to do everything – while you still could ... not having to worry about a girlfriend who didn’t want to see you much anymore because she couldn’t wrap her head around the fact that you were dying and you scared her shitless – (oh Marie) ... or Doctor Callaway’s look on his face when he tells you you’ve gotten worse since your last visit ... or sometimes losing the will to live and wanting to just end it now because you know it’d be quicker...
“You don’t have to worry,” I found myself growling at the fish. What was that salty taste in my mouth? I reached up to touch my face. I was crying. “You don’t have to worry!” I repeated, more forceful this time, wiping away my hot tears.
It didn’t react – just kept swimming.
“Stupid fish!” I yelled, unable to stop myself. I glared at it, swimming about as if in a daze ... so carefree. “Stop it!” But it didn’t stop. And I swear that it was mocking me with its lazy movements – a slow flick of its tail and a gentle pull of its fins, as if it had all the time in the world. But no one had that much time. Every single living creature’s time on this earth was limited. Every single one.
“Stupid fucking fish!!”
And then I lost it. My hands grabbed at it, trapping it, catching it. The fish struggled – of course it did. No one would want to give up a perfect life like that. But why should a fish be able to have that life and not me?! It was a fish for Christ’s sake. A tiny, stupid, puny, insignificant fish. Water splashed everywhere. It was resisting. But I was bigger. I was stronger. And I was in control.
“FUCKING FISH!” I roared at it. I lifted it out of the water and threw it hard against the bathroom wall. Slap! It slid down into the water and squirmed there, writhing its scaly body from side to side. It wasn’t enough. I threw it again. And again. And again. And kept going until I was drenched in water and the water was red and so were the walls and I couldn’t distinguish the fish’s body and it was just a wet, bloody mess and my heart felt as if it was trying to jump out of my chest via my throat. And it was only then that I finally stopped. I was panting. I felt weak and faint. The world was wobbling. I took in the horror around me – what I’d done. What I’d done to that poor, innocent fish ... the blood. The slimy, thick blood ... the mashed up scales – all spattered around the wall ... the guts and brains floating in the water ... and I felt something sour rise in my throat. I jerked towards the toilet and threw up, my body practically trying to rid itself of my insides, heaving. My throat and mouth burned with the acid. My stomach twisted with pain.
I drew back onto the floor and lay there, shaking hard, my head pressed against the cool tiles.
“Cameron?” I heard a voice call. Mum, my brain subconsciously registered.
My breathing was all over the place and my sobs were tearing my throat. What had I done?
“Cameron?” she called again, slightly panicked now. I could hear her coming up the stairs.
Oh God ... what the fuck had I done?
“Cameron? What’re you doing?”
Let go, I told myself. You’re not worth anything anymore.
Bang, bang, bang! went the bathroom door. The handle pushed down but it was locked from the inside. Bang, bang, bang! The sound was distant and far off.
“Cameron! Open this door!”
I couldn’t move. My body felt like it weighed a million kilos at least.
Let go ... I shut my heavy eyes. I listened to my mind. I could feel myself go limp. Blackness swamped my mind. The pain left my body.
“Cameron! Please! Open it!”
I could hardly hear her now. “OPEN THE DOOR!!”
Let go ... And I could feel myself letting go. All seventeen years, three months, and twenty-seven days of me.
Boom! The door burst open. But I was almost gone. It was almost too late. Almost.
The last thing I remember seeing was Mum’s hands – her pale hands, and nothing else, reaching out for me.