We spent ten dollars on three tokens at the fair so our four-year-old could accidentally win a seventy-five cent goldfish. We didn’t think she’d actually win one. If we did, we would have redirected her back towards the petting zoo because that was free, and who doesn’t like to have a goat chew on their shorts?
You had to toss a ping pong ball into a small fishbowl full of blue water. Every other bowl was clear water, and there were about two hundred of these little bowls. Since my daughter can’t even get her socks into the laundry basket, we figured it was a safe bet she wouldn’t win anything. They gave her a basket of balls, and on her third try, the ball sailed right into a bowl of blue water and just like that we were the proud new owners of a goldfish that no one wanted but her.
This wasn’t our first time with fish.
A few years ago we bought two goldfish, Starsky and Hutch. A week after we made a home for our new fish friends, I noticed Starksy was really fat, and Hutch, who was much smaller, looked like he was being picked at. I suspected his buddy wasn’t too thrilled about sharing food and I was right. The next day, I found Hutch floating at the top of the tank.
The four of us gathered around to pay our respects to a fish we didn’t even know—it’s so hard to get attached to something you can’t hold or pet. We loved him as much as you can love a fish that’s not deep fried. We gave him last rites using our meal time prayer, because it was was the only one our daughter knew, and sent him to the big fish tank in the sky by way of our toilet.
Starsky continued to eat like a pig, including rocks. He spent his days trying to devour the glass on the side of the tank or the cord from the filter. He wasn’t a very interesting pet, unless you consider watching a fish try to eat its own tail interesting. As he continued to get fatter, he dirtied the water faster, and I got tired of taking care of him. I began to think unmotherly thoughts about his untimely demise. Still, I let him alone and went on taking care of him. Wondering how long a goldfish could live.
One afternoon, I put Starsky in the clear plastic measuring cup he always went into when I cleaned his tank. I did the same routine of cleaning it, rinsing it, wiping it, rinsing it again, and letting it air dry. I replaced the water, added the bacteria and water stabilizer that I always added. When the water was ready, and at room temperature, I put Starsky in his tank—like I had done hundreds of times before. Something was different this time, though. He was jittery. Like he was coming off a four-day Tetra food high. He was also breathing weird. His mouth was really wide, like he was trying to inhale the entire tank of water in one fell swoop. Within seconds, he was belly up.
I stood there with my hand over my partially opened mouth staring at Starsky’s floating fish carcass. My first reaction was to laugh because really, what the heck just happened.
I broke the news to the family at dinner later that evening. My husband made fun of me and my daughter asked if we could get a horse. Evidently, wounds would need time to heal.
So, here we are, almost two years later with another Goldfish. This one’s name is Hush. So far he seems to be okay. As okay as a fish gets I suppose. I have a new tank with a better filter that requires much less cleaning than our old one. Still, I don’t like fish. So, next year, we’re going to have to skip the games at the fair. We’ll go straight to the petting zoo where we don’t have to worry about any goats going belly up on our watch.