This is the nineteenth—or twentieth; he's losing count—time the fish has died, and all Jedediah feels as he stares at it is tired. Perhaps that's why the fish died: exhaustion. The floating body looks weary, slumped into the water, the fins hanging limp. They stir a little when Jed taps a finger against the glass, a brief and eerie semblance of life.
5:30—if he hurries, he should be able to get a replacement fish before Zeke arrives home from work; Zeke of the too-understanding looks and the “friendship fish"; Zeke, who will be getting married and moving out in five weeks, two days.
For a moment, Jed considers ending the charade, acknowledging the fish's death and his own failure to keep it alive (again), but he's lied about it for so long that he might as well keep going. So he sighs, gets the little net out, flushes George IXX (or XX) down the I'll-clean-it-tomorrow toilet, decides not to change the fish bowl water as there's too many plants and snails to deal with, and heads out for the pet shop.
It's raining, cold enough to seep into bones and bite at joints, so Jed shoves his hands into his coat pockets and turns down the nearest likely-looking alley. And then, almost out of sight of the street and when no one's looking, he goes sideways.
The most striking difference, as always, is the sudden complete silence, like being plunged into water or vacuum. No patter of rain, no car engines or honking horns, almost no footsteps or rustle of clothing or even the sound of his own heartbeat. He hums a little as he sets off into the frozen world, just to prove he can.
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