Death is a part of life. Sad, yet true.
Four years ago the kids and I bundled up and headed to Wal-Mart, and with great merriment they pressed their faces up against the glass of the goldfish tank, oooing and ahhing at the half-dead offerings before them. I was oooing and ahhing, too, not at the fish, but at the booger stuck to the edge of the tank, obviously deposited by a previous visitor to the Wal-Mart Aquarium.
For ten minutes they stood by excitedly as we waited for that gangly young man with the fish net and the “I’d rather be scraping shit” look on his face. Gleeful chatter ensued as he filled the plastic bag with dirty water, chased the right one down, then scooped the little turkey up and plopped him into his cheap, albeit temporary, accommodations.
Ninety-seven cents. That’s what that little blob of orange cost. His accessories cost me far more, yet the smiles on the faces of my foursome made up for it, and we were on our way home with our newly acquired pet.
For four years that little poop machine has swam in circles around his bowl. For four years he has required that pinch of food (have you ever smelled that stuff? egads…). And for four years, I, yes I, cleaned out his rank, slime coated home. FOUR YEARS.
Did the kids notice him? I think twice. Watching him swim got pretty boring after the first half an hour. Truth be told, the fish didn’t get much attention at all until the last two days, when he started floating more than swimming, and I knew the end was near.
The elder two children knew this too, and every trip through the room where he was stationed prompted a stop off at the bowl, to check his status and report it to the rest of the family. Much fretting went on as the seriousness of the situation became more apparent by the hour.
Finally, after lunch one rainy afternoon, the “beloved” pet was doing the backstroke. For a guy who barely got looked at after he made the trek home, he sure did garner a lot of wailing and carrying on. I can only hope I’m as popular when I keel over.
A funeral was in order, because that’s what you do when something dies. “A funeral is a solemn event,” I kept telling myself as my nine-year-old daughter offered up a prayer bowl-side. And we’re not talking fishbowl here.
One line struck me above the others, and it was with great restraint that I kept from cackling out loud when she said, “We offer up a prayer for Beatil, who no one paid attention to until he was dead.” Hmmm, so she noticed… but was that accusation in her voice? I didn’t recall seeing her butt cleaning out the tank.
With seriousness, she looked at me and asked me to say something special. So I straightened to my tallest height, cleared my throat, and after looking each of my children in the eye, encouraging them to be strong, I said a poem.
The fish swam in,
The fish swam out,
The fish is swimming,
With sewer trout.
Horror. Four sets of eyes bored into me like hot coals. I quickly encouraged Kaelan, who is seven, to drop the deceased into the water. This distraction worked immediately, because her younger brother and sister could not believe we actually put a fish in the commode.
There was much screeching when I pressed my finger firmly down on the lever. I think I became a murderer in the eyes of the three-year-old.
We went our separate ways afterward. They to their rooms to discuss their fond memories of Beatil (WTF??) and me to the kitchen, to pour the water out of the tank and chuck it out the back door. This accomplished, I returned to the kitchen, scooped up the can of goldfish flakes, and in Michael Jordan style, sunk it from across the room.
My audience, however, was unimpressed. There they stood, in the hallway, their sad eyes condemning my actions. “You didn’t even care about the fish!” the eldest told me indignantly.
“Sure I did,” I comforted her. “Much the same way that daddy cares about that bird that keeps shitting on his grill.”
If anything, I think that stony silence meant she didn’t believe me.
So I’ve come to the conclusion that even a goldfish funeral has etiquette involved.
1) Don’t laugh or celebrate when you find the fish dead.
2) Never let them see you toss the food (aka, precious keepsake).
3) Children in mourning don’t find humor in septic tank jokes.
4) Save yourself the trouble, and don’t buy one of the damn things.