As a teacher – particularly a foreign language teacher – there are often a lot of incidents that crop up that are entirely out of context. Most recently, there was a fish in the sink.
I was at my desk when I hear a knock on my office door – a little grade 3er.
“Teacher! Here!” she called me. “Fish!”
Now, I often mishear my students – or misunderstand. “Fish?” I asked.
Instead of the usual, “No, teacher, no! [insert word that sounds exactly the same as the one I’d heard previously]!!”, she instead said, “Yes! Fish, teacher, fish!!!”
It takes a lot for me to get out of my chair at my desk, being the lazy and fairly kid-stand-offish person that I am (I never cease to wonder at the cosmic irony of placing me in an elementary school), but I wanted to know what the frack a fish had to do with being anywhere.
I don’t know what I expected, but it wasn’t the goldfish I saw swimming in the sink. I felt like I was trapped in some surrealism joke.
The grade 3er had a friend with her (another of my students) who also had a fish – though hers was more sensibly stored in a milk carton filled with water. The girl whose fish was tailing it around the sink did have a bag, but my guess was that she’d got too excited to wait until bringing it home and had no patience in waiting to see it swim around. That was my guess, but I honestly had no idea.
It was around then that we all realized the sink was draining. Not quickly – the girls had thankfully thought to push down the plug – but the goldfish was struggling in the steadily decreasing water volume.
Soon it was reduced to lying flat on its side wiggling limply, until it was altogether still.
“Oh shit,” I thought, “Now there’s a dead fish in the sink.”
Until we realized that the fish was – wait for it – in a sink.
We turned the tap on and the goldfish swirled in the eddies of the mini waterfall, and then continued to tail it around in circles as unconcerned as Ten Second Tom.
Around then, my co-teacher KY returned to the department.
“There’s a fish in the sink,” I told her nonchalantly.
She stopped. “Wha-?”
“Take a look.”
She looked. “Why?”
“Nooooo idea. The kids called ‘FISH’, made me come over…didn’t expect a fish…but there’s a fish.”
KY spoke quickly to them in Korean and they responded back. I followed their dialogue like a tennis spectator. When they finished, KY turned to me.
“I told them to put it back in the bag,” she said and went to go to her desk.
“But – why is there a fish??” I couldn’t help but ask.
A shrug. Not sure if disinterest, unconcern, or she didn’t even ask. “You don’t have to stay to watch them.”
She went to her desk, picked up some files and said to come to the staffroom for some tea. Despite her advice, I made sure to watch that the girls did indeed catch that fish and that it left school premises safe and sound.
That said, and after the girls thanked me and said goodbye, I still have no idea to this day where they got this fish from, nor why they chose to put the fish in the English Department sink. Sometimes I choose to just roll with it and enjoy the bafflement for what it’s worth.