When the kids were young we attended a yearly festival that had all kinds of booths with fun games. One year, son and his buddy went in one direction with his friend’s parents, and I took the girls for face painting. Son came running up to me some time later holding a plastic bag full of water, a huge smile spreading across his face.
“Look what I won, Mom. Look. Look.”
Fish? I knew nothing about fish, had never desired owning fish. I looked closely at the seven small goldfish, barely bigger than tadpoles and figured, okay then, nothing too scary here.
“I’ll look after them, Mom. I will,” Son said his eyes wide with pride.
What parent hasn’t heard those famous words? We drove to the pet store on the way home. I was assured by another mother that gold fish don’t live for long. I thought, perhaps the cheapest, and largest glass bowl would suffice. Definitely a large bowl because they would grow, and after all, there were seven. A fish probably likes its own space. I know I do. While the kids discussed which colored rocks to put in the bottom, I examined the bowls and small aquarium tanks. Daughter came running up to me with a bag of glass pieces in teal and turquoise colors. Pretty.
“Can we get these, Mom? Please. And there’s a ceramic bridge that they can swim beneath, and….” She stopped took a big breath, and looked at the shelf in front of me. “Oh, oh, oh, maybe that castle?”
Okay. So this was turning into a bigger event than I’d imagined. A young salesman hovered close by. I beckoned him, and then ended up with an aquarium, a filter system, fish food, fish conditioner, water conditioner, a castle, a bridge to the castle, and several bags of colored rock. Then I tossed in a little plastic island of green stuff that simulated a plant.
Two days later son’s buddy was over for a play date, and his dad came to pick him up. He admired the fish and suggested I buy a guppy to keep the bottom of the tank clean. I did. We have gone through many new goldfish over the years. I couldn’t say how many, or even recall all of their names. I remember some of the funerals though, and the bloated belly-up fish floating on the top of the water, and having to scoop the poor little thing out. And the special prayer I made to stop the kids from crying: “Ashes to ashes, dust to dust, little fish go where little fish must.” And then I’d flush it. As the years went by I stuck to one large exotic goldfish, and the guppy. Oscar Meyer was a big favorite. So was Monty Python. Both so big they required a burial; too large for flushing.
Fast forward 20+ years, the kids moved away, and I inherited the fish. The guppy still lives. I never named him. The kids call him “shit eating fish” which isn’t nice, but kind of suits him. I prefer to call him Guppy. Now I have a problem, and I’d love some advice on how to handle it. When the goldfish die, Guppy goes nuts. The tank is empty and he swims all over the place. He comes right to the glass sides and stares at me. Then he dashes around again. Normally he’s at the bottom of the tank hiding in a corner. You know, a bottom feeder, they know their place.
My questions are: Is he happy and swimming because he has the whole tank to himself? Is he tossing fish confetti, popping fish champagne, singing a fishy version of Celebrate Good Times? Or is he lonely? After the goldfish dies, I observe Guppy for a few days and then feel sympathy for him. So, yes…I relent and go and buy him a new pal. He immediately settles down. The current resident goldfish is Blacky. I can see the changes in him, and know his time in the tank is coming to a close. His belly is swollen and he has turned more gold than black as he’s aged. When he overeats he swims on his back. Or he eats and poops at the same time. (I know, I know, that’s a human problem ‘cause I am the distributor of the flakes, but still. It’s disgusting.)
The main question is: how long do you think Guppy will live? Do I get him another pal when Blacky finally poops out, or not? I really, really, do not want fish.