Tuesday, November 24, 2009


I am beginning to suspect that you readers did not cross fingers for Swimmy because last night after just one and half days as a member of our family he kicked the bucket.

This was disheartening. I thought he’d make it through Thanksgiving at least.

Good thing I braced Primo for the worst as soon as we got him.

“Fish don’t live very long, honey,” I warned.

“You mean they live for, like, five minutes?” he replied.

(Kid knows how to play the game, huh? I bet when he’s old enough he can successfully navigate the waters of the “Guess how much this sweater was on sale for?” David has never mastered this game. He always comes back with a ridiculously low guess, like $5, which makes the sale price of $40 look like highway robbery.)

“Oh, longer than that,” I answered, “But it could just be for a day or two.”

Managing expectations is the name of the game.

The trouble was, David started to do a ton of goldfish research, and announced that if we took care of him, Swimmy COULD live for 15 years and grow up to 10 inches!!!!!! Unfortunately, he did this research only after we had made several care-taking decisions which seem to have jeopardized Swimmy’s survival. Did you know, for instance, that you should de-chlorinate tap water before putting the fish in? And that you should gently dip the bag in the tank for while to acclimate the little sucker? When you don’t, the fish just rests on the beautiful pink gravel you bought for him and stared blankly at you, like he is severely depressed. What do I know? I’m no Dian Fosse.

This morning when we woke, Swimmy was belly-up. I thought for a minute that he was just being playful, but then I saw the tell-tale sign of the uneaten fish food floating at the surface of the water. I wondered how to break the news to the kids. But of course, they’re not oblivious.

“Swimmy was BAD,” commented Sec, “He didn’t eat his food!”

“SWIM SWIMMY SWIM!” encouraged Primo.

I waited ‘til David came home from working out and beckoned him over for a tete a tete.

“I know,” he cut me off, “He was belly-up last night.”

We had a moment of silence for Swimmy, David and I. We’d let the fish down.

“We better tell them,” I said.

“Why’s Swimmy not swimming?” inquired Sec.

“Well,” said David, “I don’t think Swimmy’s doing too well.”

“You mean, he’s sick?” asked Primo.

“Well, maybe more than sick,” David ventured, “I think . . . I think , , Swimmy died.”

Primo considered for a moment.

“No, I don’t think so,” he said.

We all went into the bedroom to check it out.

“See? He’s not dead,” said Primo, “His eyes are open.”

“But fish don’t have eyelids,” David countered, as gently as he could.

“I think he’s just resting,” said Primo.

It was a bite-your-bottom-lip kind of moment. And I thought, “Forgive me Swimmy, I knew not what I did. You were a city fish, after all. And New York has GREAT tap water.”

Then David said, “I think we better send him back to his family at sea.”

Primo looked at him blankly.

“Flush him down the toilet,” David explained.


“But he’s not DEAD!” Primo insisted.

“Well, he looks pretty dead but if he’s not, then he will still be in the water so either way . . . “ I mumble. I’m not great at these things.

So Primo helped David take the fish out with the net and bury him at sea, as it were.

Primo drew pictures for a few minutes and then he turned on me, “You didn’t take good enough care of Swimmy! You should have fed him first thing in the morning! You should have given him a friend to play with!”

I wanted to yell right back, “YOU should have fed him first thing in the morning, He’s YOUR fish.” But I. for one, am not going to play the blame game.

So we’re going to get a new goldfish – two, maybe, to avoid death by loneliness. Any fish-caring tips? I don’t want to lose another one in the first 48 hours.