Ma and Pa sat down on their beach towels. The sun burned so hot on my head and shoulders that it felt as if sun rays were actually touching me. Ma put sun cream on me, pleasantly cold but so white I looked very pale. Then she gave me the go-signal. I breathed in gulps of salty air and ran off to my two lads, my new friends I met around the hotel’s pool yesterday. We strolled along the tide line, splashing through waves with our feet. We squatted for shells and strangely bend weeds and told each other those were signs guiding us to a Secret Place.
We were all seven and a bit.
A few metres from the shore line, behind some family sushing a screaming baby, we found something that could be a Secret Place. It was a one inch deep puddle surrounded by reed plants, the ones with hollow stalks the width of my thump. And in the puddle we saw a fish. A silvery fish, his tail wiggling, his fins waving. His mouth went open and shut. If it could, it would scream, ‘Help me!’
‘We can fry it’, said Loony Pete, the least intelligent of us. His tongue nearly touched his chin. He must be hungry, poor skinny one.
‘We can observe it’, said Jess and stared frantically at the fish, as if every moment it could jump on her. Yes, Jess was a girl, although she did not look like one. Her hair was short, like mine and she did not wear a top. She did not need to, though, as she had no boo boos.
I said: ‘We should make it his own pool. I mean, it could be our pet and we could take care of it.’
Loony Pete and Jess agreed. With our hands we dug a hole in the sand and created dikes around it. We found a plastic bottle buried half under sand and weeds and used it to fill the hole. Jess found some lids and shells to decorate the dike with.
‘If Fish is going to live in the pool he should have something nice to look at’, she said. She instructed me and Loony Pete to find some good-looking weeds or other plants for the finishing touch.
I managed to pull out some grasses with roots still on them and re-planted them on top op the dike.
‘We did well’, said Pete, although he only dug one part of the hole and very slowly too.
‘Now we let Fish into his new house’, Jess said and used her bare hands to carry Fish into the pool.
Fish` tail went from the left to the right in fast, powerful movements. The pool actually was a bit too small for Fish. He swam in straight lines, but the pool was a circle, so he kept bumping into the wall.
‘Pete!!’ A raw woman`s voice.
It was Loony Pete`s mum. She stood next to her beach towel, a basket in her hand. She was in one word enormous. I wondered whether she had any family relations with hippo`s. Her buttocks looked like a sphere ending at the back of her knee. She probably could not find a top to put in her football-sized boo boos, because she was wearing a bathing suit. Perhaps she tought the black colour would make her look slim.
‘Yes, mum?’ Loony Pete called back.
‘It is lunch time, honey!’
‘I have to go’, he whispered to us, as if his mum was not allowed to hear him talking to us. He did not say he would come back after lunch, he just walked away. I feared he might be on his mother`s menu.
‘I should be going too’, Jess said. ‘My parents want me to have lunch with them.’
I nodded. ‘Will I see you after lunch?’
‘Yes. You take care of Fish, will you?’ She had a girlish voice, but with that same ordering tone as Ma.
I kneeled next to the pool and spent a couple of minutes watching Fish swimming, taking a break and bumping his head into the wall. Luckily for him the walls were madeof sand and not of brick. Small air bubbles reached the water surface. I touched one of them, my finger tip sinking in the water that was pleasantly warm.
Another voice sounded. I looked around. No one was talking to me, right? The voice was faint, but sounded again. ‘Help me’, it said.
Who was in need of help? I jumped to my feet. The beach was an oasis of sand and glistening water, but quiet. A buzzing of adult`s voices and children`s laughter. And the soft slosh slosh of the waves.
‘Help’ An echo in my head. Fish was looking at me, his mouth went open and shut, his thin fish lips breaking the water surface. I put my finger in the water again.
‘Help me. Air. Help me.’
I clearly heard Fish talking to me. But fish did not speak, did they? Is it my mind. Air. Was the pool not good enough? Should I refresh the water? What gives air to water? Would it help if I blew into the water?
Fish swam. Bumps against the wall. Stops. Continues swimming, but slower, as if he is tired.
‘Sea. I want sea.’
It felt suddenly as if my brain seemed to work again.
I had to dig a canal to the sea. With the palms of my hand I pushed away parts of the dike. My fingers got scratched with all kinds of twigs, weeds and solid lumps of dried mud as I elongated the gap, heading for the sea. I looked around for something to dig with. A bottom of a plastic bottle would do. I worked steadily. Sweat trickled in my nek and my throat felt dry, but I went on.
I was saving Fish.
After quite a while I reached the shore line and connected the canal to the sea. It flushed in, with every wave coming closer to the pool. Then one moment the water reached the pool. It ate away more parts of the dike and the shells Jess had accurately placed in a heart pattern. My eyes followed Fish. He got pushed aside by the incoming water. Was it too turbulent for him? For seconds it looked like he was merely drifting. A current developed, going round and round in the pool, taking Fish with it.
Then something happened. Fish wiggled his tail, with the most powerful movements I had ever seen. He passed the dike. Now he was in the canal. I ran along. Fish was fast, for such a small creature. My feet left deep prints in the sand, that got wetter the closer I got to the shoreline. A wave rushed towards me and Fish. I froze. The silver of Fish shot into the wave. I tried to find him in the water, splashed into the sea up to my knees.
I spun around. Loony Pete and Jess.
‘Why did you ruin my decorations?’ Jess.
‘Where is Fish? We could have fried him!’ Loony Pete.
I only shrugged and watched my toes sink into the sea bottom.