When I was in preschool, I had a teacher named Starlily. She wore rainbow tie-dyed dresses and was always bringing in cookies that were made with granola and flax and had no taste.
Starlily taught us to sit still at snack time, sneeze into our elbows, and not eat the Play-Doh (which most kids seemed to think was optional). Then one day, she sent all of us home with a goldfish. She got them at ten for a dollar at a pet store. She gave our parents a lecture before sending us off.
"The goldfish will teach your child about the cycle of life." She explained, "Goldfish don't last very long."
I took my goldfish home and named it Goldie like every other kid in the world who thought they were being original. But it turned out that Goldie was kind of original.
Because Goldie didn't die.
Even after all my classmates' fish had gone to the great fishbowl in the sky, Goldie was still alive. Still alive when I started kindergarten. Still alive in first grade. Still alive in second grade and third and fourth. Then finally, last year in fifth grade, I went into the kitchen one morning and saw my fish floating upside down in the bowl.
My mom groaned when I told her.
"He didn't last very long," she said.
"What are you talking about?" I asked. "He lasted seven years!"
She gave me a smile and said, "Ellie, that wasn't the original Goldie. The first fish only lasted two weeks. When he died, I bought another one and put him in the bowl. There've been a lot of fish over the years."
"What number was this one?"
"Unlucky thirteen," she said with a wry look.
"They were all unlucky," I pointed out.
We gave Goldie Thirteen a toilet-bowl funeral and I asked my mom if we could get a dog.
Copyright © 2014 by Jennifer Holm. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.