There were slow, plastic footsteps on the bookcase. The toy trout and bass, which sat on the highest shelf in the nursery, looked at each other in exasperation as if to say, “What do they want now?”
The highest shelf almost touched the narrow ledge for the high window, so the fish that sat on it could flop over there when the need arose, but they were cut off from everything else. The other toys in the nursery had devised, built, and maintained ways to get just about everywhere else in the small room, but the means of climbing up onto the top shelf still eluded them. The closest they could get was the top of the bookcase, which was about a foot below where the fish sat. The fact that the fish literally overlooked the play area and never moved around the nursery – they had been a gift from uncle Paul and little Beatrice seemed about as interested in them as Paul did in having his own children some day – made them the de facto leaders of the nursery.
“Excuse me, Trout, Bass,” said the voice of Commander Chiefikins below them.
Commander Chiefikins was one of five GI Joes that Beatrice had inherited from her brother. Four of them held the title of Commander, the other one, Private Privateson, was the boss of their little group (the kid had no idea how ranks worked, and so, neither did her toys).
“Yes,” said trout not even trying to hide his displeasure at having a conversation, “what can we do for you, Commander?”
“Did you know,” asked Chiefikins, obviously nervous, “that the Private’s birthday is tomorrow?”
“Again?” asked Bass
“Beatrice likes celebrating birthdays; we all have at least six,” the GI Joe laughed.
“Neither of us have even one,” stated trout. He didn’t have a choice in the matter, but it was obvious from his tone that if he did, he still would have been frowning deeply while he said this.
“Right,” stated the GI Joe, looking at his feet and wondering if his knee joints would allow his feet to reach his mouth, “Well, tomorrow is the Private’s number 1 birthday.”
“Did you have a point?” Trout sighed.
“I was just wondering if you knew,” he said slowly, his feet shuffling back and forth uncomfortably, “and also if you were aware that he’s never been given the Super-Special-Awesome Flower Award?”
“Ah,” Trout said, “THAT’s what this is about.”
The Super-Special-Awesome Flower Award was the highest – and only – honor that the two fish ever bestowed upon the others. On occasion, when the window was left open a crack, one would flop over there and pick a single jasmine from the brushy bulk that climbed the wall outside and crowded the window. They would then present it to a member of the nursery to honor them for some sort of achievement. Trout had wanted to stop doing it a while back, but Bass had insisted that the fact that the others were striving for the award was the only reason the two fish were still in charge, otherwise they’d be forgotten on their high shelf.
“Well,” stated Bass, “we can’t just give him one because he wants it,” as if there was actually a selection criteria for the award.
“It would make him so happy,” said the Commander.
“If we gave it out like that,” replied Bass, “it would lose all meaning.”
“Maybe so,” said the GI Joe, shuffling slowly toward the edge of the bookcase. When he made it to the end, he looked down the ruler they used for a ramp to the dresser for a long moment, then turned back and said, “though, I think you two are just being shelf-fish.”
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