My first (and last) pet;Write Away;Competition;Winners

15th May 1998 at 01:00
Senior Winner, Holly Knight, Age 13, Sale Grammar School, Sale, Cheshire

I'd been mithering Mummy for a pet for ages. She wouldn't let me have a cat or dog, so on my fifth birthday Mummy came home with a big glass tank, a bag of little pink stones, a castle and a small black box with a happy fish on it. Then she came in with a small bag with four orangey-goldy fish in it. "Wow," I thought, "I bet no one else at school had a pet fish."

I watched as Daddy filled up the tank with water, and then put in the little pink stones, the castle and then the fish. Mummy opened the little box and pulled out a weird black thing which she stuck on the inside of the tank. She turned it on and it made a buzzzzzzz bee noise and lots of bubbles. I was left to play as Mummy and Daddy went to make the dinner.

I sat there watching the fish swim about, when they started to eat stones! I thought they were probably hungry, and went to get the fish food. I took off the lid and - oops - I tipped the whole lot in! Little green, red and brown flakes were floating about the tank. I hoped the fish would eat it all before Mummy saw what I had done.

After dinner I said goodnight to the fish, and went to bed. I woke up to the smell of public toilets which was coming from the front room. I went in and all the water in the tank had turned brown. One of the fish was floating at the surface. I went and told Daddy and he took the fish out of the water, then into the kitchen bin. He then had to clean out the entire tank and everything in it.

Mummy then came in. She wasn't too pleased with the smell and opened all the windows and sprayed the Haze everywhere. The room smelt even worse!

That night Mummy made fish fingers for dinner. Suspicious of where Mummy had got the fish from, I put my portion in my pocket and when Mummy and Daddy cleaned up I slipped it into the tank. But instead of turning back into a real fish it went into the bubbly thing and broke up into little pieces and there were bits of bread crumbs and fish floating about.

Not knowing what to do, I ran into my room and hid under the covers of my bed. Daddy went mad when he saw the mess! He had to clean out the tank again.

I eventually came out of my room and went to see the fish. I was glad to see the fish swimming about, but I didn't see any bubbles coming out of the black thing. I went into the bathroom and found my cola bubbles bubble bath. I poured the whole lot into the tank and there was a lovely smell, but still no bubbles. So I went into the kitchen and took out the whisk. I was very happily whisking away, making lots of bubbles, when Daddy caught me. This time I was told off and Daddy had to clean the tank out again.

Two more of the fish had died and I had only one left. It swam around very slowly and looked quite lonely so I tried to look for some new friends for it. In the tank went my My Little Pony, my entire collection of Sylvanian families and the "Colour My Hair" Barbie.

He wasn't looking much happier, and he didn't have much room to swim, but I thought he was just shy and left him to get used to his new friends. I went back an hour later to find Daddy trying to get the now dead fish out of Barbie's new acid green hair. He couldn't do it and so he went to find some scissors and he cut off all of Barbie's hair. I watched as Daddy took it and flushed it down the toilet.

He cleaned the tank for the last time and threw away the remains of Barbie. I went to ask Mummy if I could get some more fish, but she just wouldn't stop laughing.

I never did get another pet.

* Holly's comic account of the pitfalls of keeping (and losing) goldfish is a good example of a writer exaggerating a real incident to add to its humour. She did, in fact, have a few more pets but she knew it was better to pretend the fishy disaster had been final. She worked at the story, producing three versions before she was satisfied, "to make it more interesting and humorous". She was given some goldfish when she was quite small and "they all died, one after the other". Her twin sisters, then aged one-and-a-half, used to scoop them out of the bowl "and you'd find them alive under beds and everywhere". The twins are four now and she has another sister, who is six.

Holly says she enjoys writing about younger children because "they do stupid things they don't know are wrong".

Her teacher, Linda Radford, key stage 3 co-ordinator for the school, says she enjoyed using the Write Away booklet as she often gets her pupils to write about when they were younger. She remembers a wide range of approaches chosen by her class, and was impressed by Holly's brand of humour as at her age what you get frequently involves "incidents lavatorial".

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