Last summer, the Gingerbread Man put nine goldfish in the pond. It was a very small pond, fed by a very small spring, bordered by sticks and stones, mostly. Moss, ferns, iris, and marsh marigolds grew on its edges. Week by week went by, and each time she looked, it seemed as if there were fewer and fewer goldfish.
By summer's end, only one goldfish survived. More clever than the others, this goldfish would hide under the leaves that fell on the surface of the water. They named him Angst and took him in to winter over in a glass bowl set on a bookcase by an east window. He sickened in the bowl almost immediately, turning black on stem and stern. They fretted over him, researched goldfish diseases, took action. Angst eventually got better, returning to his normal orange shimmer. They were relieved, happy in his goldfish antics, his goldfish shine. He grew bigger and bigger over the winter, fed on a daily diet of fish pellets.
When the sunshine became a bit more regular, they returned him to the pond, now inhabited by a frog. Angst was quite large now, for a twenty-five cent goldfish, anyway. They worried that he wouldn't be able to hide under the fronds of the ferns that hang down to the water's edge. When they went to visit him in the blue hour of the day, they couldn't find him. She worried again. A large fish in a small pond is a dangerous thing to be, what with raccoons and fisher cats trolling the woods.
She thinks about Angst as she drives home now, after being gone for several days, hoping he has simply been playing hide and seek with them. She remembers her mother saying certain people were big fish in little ponds when she was growing up. It was her mother's way of saying that people weren't really as important as they thought they were. She wonders if she is a big fish in a small pond, growing larger on a daily diet of pellets--a suspect means of nutrition. It's a dangerous place to be, with the fisher cats and raccoons of the world on the prowl.
She doesn't want to be a big fish in a small pond. She doesn't even want to be a big fish in a big pond. She's happy in her own corner, doing what she likes to do. She ruminates on this as the tires speed over the asphalt, mile after mile. When she reaches the exit for her town, she decides she's not a fish at all, big or little.
She's the keeper of the pond.