When I was fourteen, Echo and I went to Ocean Park beach with her parents and her parent’s friends. We were to stay in this cute little sandstone beach cottage for a week. Unlike every other place that we had ever rented at the beach, this place had three rooms. We were all going to get a room and Echo and I wouldn’t have to sleep in sleeping bags on the living room floor. Instead we were going to share a queen size water bed in a room decorated with a fishing net ceiling filled with fake crab and lobster toys. There were dolphin and whale stuffed animals and other sea creatures all hooked into the net. It was cute.
The water bed that we slept in was called Neptune’s Dream. It was filled with plastic bath toys that were floating fish. It was quaint but oddly disturbing all the same. Echo was the type of person, and probably still is, that likes the motion of a water bed when she sleeps. Echo is a skinny little girl and always has been. At fourteen, she weighed a whole whopping ninety-eight pounds. I was always the bigger of the two of us, so naturally when it came time to go to sleep, Echo wanted me to make the waves in the bed.
She tried to pump her legs hard into the mattress to create waves in the water, but she only afforded herself some small ripples. This was not enough for little Echo, she wanted big waves that shook the whole mattress. After exhausting herself from trying to make some motion in the bed, I sat up and started rocking back and forth. The bed started to sway and swell with the movement of the water in the plastic mattress. The plastic fish in Neptune’s Dream started to pull up from the bottom of the bed and swim around in the watery waves.
“Oh, Cool!” Echo giggled as she saw the plastic fish swim around. “They’re swimming. Do you think they are real?”
My Echo, so gullible. She believed everything that she heard.
“Echo, do you see any fish food anywhere around this house? If they were real then you would have to feed them.” I said as I continued to rock back and forth to create more waves. Her body was flopping around, moving up and down on the choppy sea of mattress. She was curled up in a ball with her arm twisted under her head. She often slept with her elbow twisted under her head to use her arm as a second pillow. It was never pleasant if your face was to come in contact with it in the middle of the night.
She sat up quickly. “Do you think they are hungry? What do fish eat? I’m gonna go and look for their food. I’ll be right back.” She threw back the sheet that was covering her and stood up on the bed. The mattress was rolling quite furiously. She couldn’t get her footing on the uneven surface and fell with a sickening slap to her back. The fish scattered with the impact of her fall.
“Sorry fishies! Did I hurt you?” Echo asked as she rolled off the edge of the bed. I began to giggle. In not so many words I told her that the fish were fake, yet she insisted on their reality. She walked around the bed to the door where she half ran and half skipped down the short hallway to the kitchenette that was closest to our room. In the silence of the house, I could hear her opening and closing cupboards and checking all of the kitchen drawers. A couple of minutes later, Echo came back to stand in the doorway.
“Can you please come and help me look for the fish food. I don’t want them to die. I want to feed them before I go to bed.” Echo said with a look of seriousness that could kill a goat. In that small moment, I progressed from giggling to full out laughing. I began to laugh so hard that I did a few belly snorts and started coughing from the lack of oxygen that I was receiving.
“It’s not funny. Those fish are going to die! Do you want to sleep with dead fish?” She yelled as she began to search the drawers in the bedroom that we were sleeping in. Crawling around on her hands and knees, she searched under the bed and checked the night stand on both sides of the bed. “Where would they keep the fish food? What, do they expect us to bring our own? Why wouldn’t they keep any fish food in the house?” Echo was beginning to yell. She was turning to hysterics when her mom opened the door and walked into the bedroom.
“Echo what is going on? You are going to wake up the whole damn house. What is all the yelling about?” Lisa asked as she sleepily tied her robe around her waist and placed her glasses on their usual indent on her nose.
“Mom there is fish in the water bed and I can’t find any fish food to feed them. I don’t know when the last time they were fed and they look hungry. Do you think that fish will eat lettuce? That was all that I could find that looks like something that a fish would eat. Mom! I don’t wanna sleep with dead fish!” Echo wailed. She was starting to jump up and down in a nervous panic. She did this often when she was excited or getting angry. Her blond curls started to bounce up and down the more she jumped around.
“I don’t know if fish eat lettuce Echo. Why don’t you give them some and then you will know. You need to get to bed though, its way past your guys’ bed time. If it makes you feel any better, we will go to the store tomorrow and buy some fish food.” With that, Echo calmed down. I was belly snorting so hard that I fell off the bed. Echo ran to the kitchen to get some lettuce.
There were fifteen fake fish inside the plastic bubble. Echo brought back a half head of lettuce to feed them all. After twisting off the plug to the bed, she very gently began to shred the lettuce and cram it into the little hole. The fish swam around the lettuce never attempting to touch it. Lisa, Echo’s mom, helped me off the floor and tucked me into bed next to Echo. After she kissed us goodnight and was read to turn off the light, I said to her,
“Lisa, can you read that plaque on the wall to me. I can’t see it from here.” She gave me a puzzled look but walked over to the wall to read the plaque aloud.
“It says, ‘˜please do not feed the fish. They are plastic and only for your viewing pleasure.’ Echo!” Lisa grumbled as she ran her fingers through her thick black bush of curly hair. “What is the matter with you? How could you miss a sign this big in the shape of a fish? You aren’t blind. Tomorrow you get to drain the bed and clean out the lettuce. Goodnight guys,” she said as the lights flickered off.
The next morning after we woke up, all the sheets were stripped off the bed. Echo and I spent the morning jumping on the water bed and floating around in wilted lettuce. Most of the water ended up in the house on the carpet then through the hose. And the wilted lettuce ended up staying in the bed because, frankly, there isn’t a way to stick your hand through a small hole without making it bigger .All the fish survived, however, Echo chose for us to sleep in the living room because the fish were creepy and the bed was too cold.