Slices of Life

by Jill Pertler

Thank you for the goldfish, I think

 

This is an open letter to the Carnival Guy who “awarded” my kid with a goldfish at the local fair this past summer. What can I say? Thank you doesn’t even begin to cover it.

Everyone knows that nurturing, feeding and otherwise sustaining any and all household pets (including goldfish, salamanders and tree frogs) is at the top of every mom’s job description. We live to de-poop the fish tank.

But back to that fateful day. I innocently sent my kid to the carnival thinking maybe he’d come home with a bellyful of corn dogs or mini donuts. Instead he marched into the house with a clear plastic bag filled with water and a goldfish (not necessarily in that order). He was beaming ­– my son, not the fish. To say he likes critters is an understatement. Coming home with a goldfish? It was his lucky day!

I wasn’t feeling the love. I’d sworn off fish as pets years ago, after three large tanks and many births, deaths and countless instances of parents eating their young. Fish can be complicated, barbaric beings.

That said, our current situation seemed simple enough for fish aficionados like us. We could deal with just one tiny fish. How much could he eat and poop?

Problem was, our situation was about to multiply.

My kid is a critter magnet, and the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. I’m a bit of a sucker for them myself. It seems other moms don’t share my weakness. A few of my son’s friends also won fish at the carnival but they knew better than to take them home. Before long, a second carnival “prize” showed up at our doorstep. And then another. And another. Apparently other moms have mastered the word, “No,” better than I have.

That is how we went from zero goldfish to four in less than an hour. I’ve seen fish multiply before, but never like this. We looked for a larger bowl. We put in some rocks and de-chlorinated water. We tried to make the tank homey for our new pets. It took some effort, but we got the four musketeers settled in their new habitat and I remained optimistic that our fish situation was a temporary one. I figured they’d be belly up and ready for the flusher in short order. How healthy could four carnival goldfishes be?

In a word: Very.

Apparently carnival life is a great start for goldfish. One might think they would be squished together in large numbers in small tanks all swishing and swashing as the carnival travels from one town to another. Our goldfish flourish with swishing and swashing. They’ve completed the two-plus hour car trip with us to the lake three times now and we haven’t drowned a single one.

It’s been a couple of months, and our fish are thriving. I feed them twice a day. When I do, they congregate at the top of the water in anticipation of their goldfish flakes. I don’t want to brag, but as goldfish go, I think they are at the top of the intelligence meter. They have voracious appetites and are growing bigger.

In short, they show no sign of going belly up anytime soon. We’ve even committed the universal gesture of permanent pethood. We’ve named them: Big Goldy, Little Goldy, Brownie and Spot. I guess our quadruplets are here to stay.

So that is why I’m writing today. It is because of you, Carnival Guy, that we are in our current situation. We owe our good fortune to you (as do Goldy et al.) and for that I send a weary, albeit wet, “Thanks.” The fish have sort of grown on us and I guess we’ll keep them. As for next year and your carnival, we may have to take a pass. I think my kid will be busy that day – changing the water in the fish tank.

Jill Pertler is an award-winning writer and syndicated columnist.