Kid Joey walked ahead of Mom and Dad and Ro, his sister, seeking out the games he knew he loved to play. This was not his first carnival. He loved the squirt gun contests where you have to get the water in the bullseye - he almost always won a prize there.
That's why Mom and Dad always saved these game things for last, so that if they won anything (especially those big butt stuffed animals) they didn't have to figure out how to lug them on and off of rides, or have to take them to the car. It was a good plan, he had to admit.
He hurried up to the squirt gun game, plunked down his fifty cents, and manned an orange gun, orange being his favorite and luckiest color, after all. Not to mention the color of one of his best friends, Sir WHIP the fire-breathing dragon.
"Ready, set, go!" the booth guy shouted, and Kid Joey held the trigger of the squirt gun - not missing a drop, even in the very beginning. He'd already lined up the sights while others were laughing and chattering as the game was about to begin.
Not Kid Joey. He was a serious squirt-gunner. And it paid off. He won.
"You get either a stuffed animals from that shelf," the booth guy pointed, "or a goldfish."
"Done. Fish," Kid Joey said, wanting to give a fish a better home than the water-filled plastic bag it was in.
Booth guy handed Kid Joey his fish which seemed to smile at him. Kid Joey hurried over to where his parents were playing whack-a-mole. His sister Rosie waited for them; she didn't like whack-a-mole that much. She was waiting and holding onto her money for skee-ball later when they got to it. Her eyes popped when she saw Kid Joey's prize.
"Guess we have to stop and get a fish bowl on the way home," she said quietly, rolling her eyes.
Dad turned towards his children, the whack-a-mole game ended, and rolled his eyes much like Ro had just done. "Another pet? Dogs not enough for you? Not to mention the dragon?" he kidded. He took the bag from Kid Joey and held it up toward the neon carnival lights to get a better look. "Nice fish. Guess we'll have to stop and get a fishbowl on the way home."
"Hey that's what I just said," Rosie giggled.
Kid Joey carried his new friend very carefully through the carnival attractions, holding the bag close, not allowing the fish to be bumped or frightened.
Inside the jiggling bag, the fish could just tell he was going to like his new friend. But he would have to hold off showing him what he could do until they got home. Showing off in public would never do!
When everyone had had their fill of the rides, the food, the games, and the crowd, Mom and Dad led the way back to the car, where Dad checked his watch. "Pet stores probably closed an hour ago, it's pretty late," he said.
"Wally's World is open, I bet," Kid Joey reminded.
An hour later everybody was home, the fish bowl was cleaned and filled, and Kid Joey floated the bag on the water's surface, to bring the water inside the bag to the same temperature of the water in the bowl.
"What did you name him?" Ro asked, stopping into Kid Joey's room on her way back from the bathroom to check on the fish-moving-in progress.
"Squish," Kid Joey replied. "You know, as in Squish the Fish."
Ro smiled. "Pretty good." She ducked her head downward, and said to Kid Joey's new friend, "Night, night, Squish!"
Squish smiled a little fishy smile, but still waited to show off for his new friends.
About ten minutes later, Kid Joey was just dozing off when he saw moving lights, right through his eyelids. Of course they popped open instantly, and saw that the lights were coming from Squish's bowl.
"What the…" Kid Joey whispered, throwing back the covers and crossing the room to his craft table where the fish bowl stood, at least for tonight.
Inside the bowl, swimming around like a normal fish, was Squish. He might swim like a normal fish, Kid Joey thought, but the rest of the stuff he was doing sure wasn't anything like other fish!
As Squish leapt into the air and arced back down into the water, he changed colors very slowly, from one to the next, red, orange, copper, yellow, gold, green, silver, blue, bronze, purple, neon blue, pink, tan, white, neon pink, black, neon orange, and then back to red again. Now Kid Joey knew that some animals changed their colors to match the place where they were, like chameleons. It was so they could hide themselves if they felt they were in danger. But this fish's habitat wasn't changing colors. Just Squish.
Even weirder, Squish wasn't just changing colors, but he was glowing from the inside. Almost like he'd swallowed a very bright light bulb.
And now, he was growing!
"What the…?" Kid Joey repeated his first question, which had yet to be answered. He watched his new friend puff up to half the size of the bowl, taking up more room and forcing the water to swoosh up over the sides and puddle on his craft table. He was sure glad he didn't have any pictures or other projects sitting on the table.
"Squish? What are you doing?"
Squish swam around looking happy with his inner light glowing and his colors flashing. And suddenly, Kid Joey saw words on Squish's sides:
THANK YOU, Kid Joey!
Kid Joey read the letters on the side of his fish. "You're welcome, but for what?"
"New Home," new letters appeared on the fish.
Kid Joey nodded, smiling, as Ro opened his door and poked in her head. "Who are you talking to?" she asked.
"He speaks fish, goofball."
"He writes English."
"Huh?" Ro's nose wrinkled in confusion with the question, and she stepped inside the room and closed the door silently behind her.
"Look!" Kid Joey said, nodding at the fishbowl where Squish continued to glow and change colors.
The letters on his side now said, "Hi Ro!"
Ro gasped. "Hey he's bigger, and a different color, too!" she said, waving to Squish. Then she looked at her brother, amused and said, "Did you ever adopt a pet that wasn't magic?" as she bent to watch Squish's rainbow light show more closely and wave hi to him, for it would be impolite not to say hi back.
"Isn't it bedtime?" Squish's scales lit up with the letters. Ro and Jo giggled and Ro took off for her room.
Just then Mom stepped inside Kid Joey's room. "So; cool fish?" she said, and then gasped when she saw "Night, night!" clear as day on Squish's side. "Not again! What are you a magic magnet?"
Kid Joey thought about that for a moment, looked around his room, and then thought of Ro's room as well, with Gary Gargoyle and her old friend Joey Owl. Hmmm, is that what they were? Magic magnets? He smiled at the thought as he climbed into bed. Mom gave him a hug and a kiss and tucked him in, then pulled the door to behind her as she left Kid Joey alone with his new-found magical friend, knowing that there were bound to be adventures galore for her son in the near-future.
Kid Joey watched Squish swish around in his new home, and then jumped up and ran over to the fish bowl. He sprinkled a little fish food on the surface of the water.
"Thank you," the words appeared on Squish's side. "Needs sparklies."
"Sparklies?" Kid Joey asked.
"Yes," the words appeared on Squish's side, and then, a few words at a time, so they would fit on his side, he explained to Kid Joey: "Not regular fish." "Sparklies make regular fish die." "I glow." "I change color." "I need sparklies." "In my food." "Please."
"Sparklies?" Kid Joey asked, confused.
"Like in reindeer food."
"Oh! That glittery stuff, right?"
"I don't think I have any glitter in my room. Let me check Ro's." Kid Joey said.
"In morning," appeared on Squish's side. "Bedtime. Night, night."
Kid Joey went to bed, hoping Ro had glitter in her room somewhere. She usually did, she needed it when she drew fairies.
Kid Joey fell asleep, his room aglow with his new friend's happiness.