Willa was twenty years old and had a missing front tooth when she pulled back a curtain and found her brother's secret fishbowl. He was ten and had an unusual haircut because money was low this year and Willa's only scissors were scalloped shears from a friend who scrapbooked. She found him in the kitchen and confronted him about the fish.
"They're going to die," Willa told him gripping his shoulders. He wiggled out of her thin fingers.
"No they're not. I feed them every day."
"Fish food. Duh."
"Where did you get the fish?"
"The pet store! You're so stupid sometimes Willa. And I hate my hair." Owen shoved past her onto the back porch, where he sat next to an orchid and a jar with a rock inside. "Don't come out here," he threw over his shoulder.
Willa crossed her arms and went to look at the fish again in their bowl in the corner of the windowsill. There were six of them orange and purple with bulbous eyes. Maybe it was their open mouths or the transparency of their fins but they looked hungry. Willa was mad at Owen mostly because he didn't tell her about the fish. Which was silly because it was just fish not like a dirty magazine or stolen candy.
"Did you feed them today?" she yelled toward the back door but there was no answer. "Owen." She dipped two fingers into the water and found it warm in the sunlight. That wasn't right was it? What kind of water do fish like? Absentmindedly she tongued her gums. She'd been missing that tooth for two months and its absence severely limited her social agenda not that it was completely full to begin with but there were some boys like Brent she wanted to see. Would he mind a goofy-looking date? Maybe if it was a movie theater then it would be dark and wouldn't matter. But if he tried to kiss her and then he tried to use his tongue it would feel weird and he'd probably end the date right then or pretend they were just friends and he'd accidentally stuck his tongue in her mouth sorry. Some boys played it like that. They made up their own version of history forcing Willa to follow suit and not bring it up in conversation.
"What," said Owen behind her.
"Did you feed them today?"
"Yes I did. Don't feed them again or I'll run out of fish food and then they really will die. Don't touch them. Don't tell Mom or Dad and don't try to return them to the pet store. Fish are final purchases."
He sat on the sofa and turned on the TV. Jeopardy! was on.
"The capital of Senegal," said Alex Trebek.
"Cleveland!" shouted Owen.
"What is… Dakar?" said one of the contestants.
"Correct!" Alex grinned. "For two hundred dollars. Next question."
Willa started to say something but Owen held up a hand.
"This film won an Academy Award for Best Picture in 1998," Alex said.
"Captain Underpants!" Owen yelled.
"What is Titanic?" the same contestant said.
"Owen isn't Captain Underpants a character in a book?" Willa sighed. "Are you just shouting things?"
"It's my favorite book," he defended himself.
"Yes but a book is not a film."
Owen wasn't listening. "Shut up Willa I'm watching this this is my favorite show. Giraffes!"
"What is tête-à-tête?"
Willa tongued her gums again and asked, "This is your favorite show? Do you ever get anything right?"
He frowned severely at her. "Yes I do sometimes for your information Willa. Top hat!"
"Who is Sir Arthur Conan Doyle?"
She leaned against the wall. Maybe she should call Brent. Maybe he really wouldn't mind the tooth and maybe he wouldn't mind waiting to kiss her until enough money came in for a fake tooth or maybe her mom would find a job that had insurance that would pay for it.
"What is mutton chops?"
Or maybe Brent didn't know about the tooth yet. What if he said yes I want to go out with you tonight and when she saw him and smiled he took one look and threw up in his mouth. She could just not smile the whole night. Or smile with her lips closed demurely. And talk softly so he wouldn't even be able to tell she was missing it. Where was his phone number anyway. She went to her room and Owen stayed shouting at the TV.
"What is a homonym?"
He glanced at the fish on the windowsill. They did look a little thin or maybe they were just facing him. He could spare some more fish food today. Alex called his attention back and he answered.
"Who is Prince?"
"Can you refine your answer?"
"Who is The Artist Formerly Known As Prince?"
As soon as it broke for a commercial, Willa came down and stood in front of the TV. "I'm going out," she announced arms crossed. "Mom gets home at seven and Dad gets home at ten. You can eat leftovers in the fridge if you're hungry but use the microwave not the stove."
"I'm not hungry."
"Don't answer the door. Don't use the stove. Don't prank call anyone."
"I won't! I'm a big kid Willa you sound like Mom." He glared up at her then peered at the screen. "It's back on! Move!"
She complied and grabbing a jacket she left. Owen stayed on the couch with the remote in his hand the numbers on the buttons all worn off probably because his hands were sweaty. He kept watching Jeopardy! for a while but it wasn't as fun to yell things when no one was there to be irritated. So instead he fed the fish again, and they seemed happier.