'You'll be Alright' by John Holland

‘You’ll be alright,’ you say, grabbing your handbag from the hall bookcase and closing the front door behind you. I know that you’re going to meet him. 

I stare at the regal Angel fish in the aquarium. Small silver fish dance around it like handmaidens. 

I’ve learnt their names – Penguin Danios, Harlequins, Glowlight Tetras. 

I remove the faux wood surround from the glass tank and look in. The silver fish hide in the green mass of plants. I take the thermometer from the tank, then the plastic bucket - the one with ‘Mothercare’ on the lid - from under the stairs. I fill the bucket from the kitchen tap to 24 degrees, the same temperature as the tank water. To ensure the fish won’t be chilled. When dad was here I watched him a hundred times.

Using the smaller of the two nets, and, avoiding the Angel, I chase the eight silver fish until they dart unknowing into the net. In the bucket they look like sparks from your cigarette lighter.

I take the bucket to the bathroom, put the plug in and pour the water and the fish into the bath. The water is shallow, so I fill more buckets to deepen the ocean. I lean over the bath like a god.

Naked, I climb in and sit amongst them. They dart between my legs and feet. I catch them in my hand, cup them there for a few seconds. 

What if I were to pull the plug out? The idea latches onto my brain like a hook in the mouth of a writhing Barracuda. When I do it, most of the fish are caught in the vortex but the last one shivers and flips in the remaining drips of water before it slides away.

When you return you feed the fish and see only the Angel.

‘Perhaps she ate them,’ I say.

‘There’ll be no more fish,’ you shout as you leave again, this time slamming the door.

I stare through the glass at the lone Angel.

‘You’ll be alright,’ I say.


  1. I love the line - 'In the bucket they look like sparks from your cigarette lighter.'
    Lovely story, John.

  2. This is great - loved it, John.

  3. Thanks so much, Cath and Karen. So kind of you to leave comment and a positive one at that!


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