The Goldfish Incident
Back to a time when life was much simpler, when I was a kid, there was a day my brother and I won goldfish at our local community carnival, it was a great day. We pleaded our case to mom and dad and convinced them into letting us pay a quarter to throw a ping-pong ball into a little goldfish bowl. Every parent knows that a kid will say anything to acquire a desired pet. “Yes, we’ll take care of it, feed it, clean up after it, yada, yada, yada.” And every parent knows that they will either end up taking care of it themselves or nag continuously until the task is complete. Our mom chose the latter. The goldfish that we bragged about to our friends, that we won with amazing mad ping pong ball skills at the carnival, were becoming a chore. And mom wouldn’t let up she was relentless. Didn’t she know about our kickball game we had tentatively scheduled for after lunch or the cartoons that were on Saturday morning? No, I think not.
What a drag it was to carry that goldfish bowl, which replaced the tiny ones, down the stairs to the laundry room. And then we would fill one side of the stationary tub with water, dump the fish in there and on the other side clean the bowl. It was taking up a good fifteen to twenty minutes of our jam-packed eventful summer vacation weeks. About the fifth time we schlepped down the stairs to the laundry room we had to talk loud because the washer and dryer were both in use. Uh-huh. Some of you might have already caught on to the horror that unfolded next. Let me tell you that no goldfish deserved what happened to ours, I don’t care how much they smelled or how much work it was to take care of them.
Right about the time we had the bowl clean the washer decided to go into its spin cycle. There was a slight pause in the hum of the washer and then a resounding click of the dial on the machine as it switched to spin, my brother and I locked eyes and slowly turned our heads to the ominous, black hose connected to the washer that had begun to spew hot soapy water into the side of the stationary tub that temporarily held our trusting fish. We gaped with our mouths hung open for a full three seconds before the pandemonium broke loose, there was some screaming involved, jumping up and down and some crying. Mom, that dear woman, was there in an instant. She slung the hose over to the other side of the tub. But by then the goldfish side was filled to the very top with hot sudsy water, mom must have been doing whites. My brother babbled incoherently and mom and I peered into the tub. She took her hands and gently sifted through the suds. We saw the first goldfish, floating on its side with its eyes bugged out, “Is it dead mom?”
“I’m afraid so, honey.”
“What about mine?” The first dead one immediately became my brothers, he was in a state of shock and I took full advantage of it.
“There it is, it’s dead too.”
A simple flush seemed cruel after what our carnival goldfish had gone through so we buried our beloved pets in the backyard and made crosses out of sticks for their grave-sites. To this day when we speak of it, the goldfish incident, we bow our heads slightly and have a moment of silence. The horror of that day has stayed with us forever.