Day 16: A Dead Fish and The Reason for Everything

I was putting my lunch away when I saw her. My friend at work standing in the hallway, holding a small clear bucket with something orange lying on the bottom.

“Hey,” I greeted her. Once my eyes registered her face, I knew something was wrong. She looked sad, worried, determined, and unsure – all at once. “What’s wrong?” I asked.

“Our fish died,” she answered.

I noticed she was holding the bucket as far from her body as she possibly could.

“This,” her voice wavered. “Holding this is taking everything I have in me right now.”

“Give it to me. I’ll do it. Here, I’ll take it,” I said as I reached for the bucket.

She started to sob. The tears streamed down her face. She sniffed and sobbed and sniffed.

“It’s okay, I’ll take it. I’ll take care of it,” I reassured her.

She walked away, and I stood outside the closed bathroom door holding a little clear bucket and a dead fish. Two other colleagues entered the copy room and looked at me quizzically.

“Her fish died,” I stated.

The three of us said a short blessing to remember the fish’s life, and I stepped into the bathroom to send him to his final resting place.

To us, he was just a class fish who met his maker too soon. But to my grieving colleague he was just as important as any living thing might be. The fish (God rest his soul) is why she doesn’t eat meat and why she can’t go fishing with her father. It is why she fosters dogs, taking them into her home to feed them and treat their mange and love them and give them hope. The fish and the worms and the dogs…to her, you see, they are everything. They are the reason for everything.


Thirty-one stories in thirty-one days as part of the Slice of Life Story Challenge at Two Writing Teachers.



17 thoughts on “Day 16: A Dead Fish and The Reason for Everything

  1. I love that you showed both points of view in this slice – contrasting how most would respond with her response. I also loved that you left us with her point of view and invitation to linger there and consider learning from her. What can we take away? Thank you

  2. Very moving piece. I hope you share it with your colleague. It’s important to remember that we do not all have the same point of view and the same reactions to events. I bet her students were grieving too.

  3. I knew the fish had died but I did not know about this. I’ve been reading a lot on the difference between demonstrating empathy and merely expressing sympathy and the power of true empathy. This is such a great example of empathy.

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