Thursday, September 28, 2017

Zoe vs. the Average Lifespan of the North American Carnival-Prize Goldfish

People think that when Dickens wrote "It was the best of times; it was the worst of times" he was inspired by the French Revolution, but that's not true. It's a little-known fact that months before beginning A Tale of Two Cities, he penned that line at an Amusements Faire after Charles Jr. won a goldfish on the midway.
I'm guessing that he also uttered some Victorian curse words. Because, though it may have caused his child joy, every parent knows there's no greater sorrow than your child winning a goldfish at a fair.

Winning a goldfish at a fair

Last Friday, Zoe was off school for Rosh Hashanah, so naturally we went to a Greek festival, and there she saw that booth, you know the one, where you can win a goldfish if you throw a Ping-Pong ball into a bowl. I remember doing this as a kid. And most of the time, if the ball went in the bowl, it bounced right out again.
Zoe wanted to do it. The odds were she wouldn't win, but there was always a chance, so I shelled out the five bucks . . . and then silently rooted against my only child.
I lost, twice over, because Zoe won TWO goldfish.

My own checkered history with goldfish:
5 deaths, one by fire (I'm not making that up.)

Almost immediately I began preparing Zoe for their demise. Especially since we had a cat.
Let's call them Meal 1 and Meal 2, I said. She laughed. Luckily she had my dark sense of humor.
I said if they made it a week, we'd upgrade their names to Miracle 1 and Miracle 2. Oh, how we laughed!
When we got home, I filled the cheap tank I'd shelled out another ten bucks for with water and served up a pinch of that papery food they'd given us for "free" inside one of those mini plastic containers, the ones that usually hold the soy sauce you dip your sushi in. The irony was thick!

Saturday and Sunday
The whole weekend we were busy with the usual things, though I did change the tap water---some of you are already cringing---every day since I saw how quickly it was getting cloudy and hard to see the goldfish through the murk.
Though maybe it would've been better if they weren't visible, considering our cat Cooper's dishonorable intentions.*

Monday, 1 p.m.
While I ate my lunch at work, I looked up how to take care of God's most pitiful creations. Since they'd made it this far, I figured I'd get some tips. I made the mistake of going to an article on PETA's website, which is when I found out what a horrible person I was. 
You know those videos people take of their friends watching a scary movie with bowls of popcorn in their laps, or maybe watching an episode of Game of Thrones just before an upsetting death? This was me reading about taking care of goldfish.
First thing I discovered was that tap water was basically toxic for goldfish! I gasped and lurched back, spilling some of my metaphorical popcorn.
Tap water has chlorine and other chemicals that burn their gills. That meant that each breath they'd been taking since Friday was agony!
I read on and learned that when you changed the water you had to make sure the temperature change wasn't too shocking (gasp!)
And you shouldn't just dump them unceremoniously in a holding container and dump them back into the tank again because this stressed them out (!!)
And how about oxygen in the water? One way you could tell they were having trouble breathing was if they lingered near the top of the tank.
Metaphorical popcorn everywhere!
Was I an animal torturer? Would these goldfish be my gateway murders on the road to becoming a serial killer? 
According to PETA, these goldfish needed a bigger tank, about twenty different filters, and a daily measuring of PH balance. I was surprised they didn't also need mini-defibrillators and an on-call therapist due to all the stress.
The one thing they had going for them was that they had company. A buddy. Though as Cooper lurked nearby I imagined their conversations thusly:
Meal 2: OMG, that cat's looking at us again, Meal 1!
Meal 1: Why am I Meal 1? I think you're Meal 1.
Meal 2: Oh sure, you just can't wait to get rid of me. Gary warned me you were like this, but did I listen? No!
You may ask how I knew which one was Meal 1 and Meal 2. Well, Meal 2 was definitely more nervous than Meal 1. When Cooper came close to the tank, Meal 2 "reacted" by zooming around, on alert, while Meal 1 just kept still. Now I'm not sure which one's strategy was better, or if Meal 1's lethargy just meant it was closer to death.

Monday, 6 p.m.
I went to the pet store on the way home and bought a solution to add to tap water to remove chlorine.

Monday, 6:15 p.m.
I was too late. Meal 2 (or was it 1?) was dead.
Meal 1 (or 2) really needed therapy now, having spent however many hours swimming in a small tank with the corpse of its companion, and---though their relations had been strained of late---really only friend, floating above him.
Anyway I dumped the body in an unmarked grave, aka the trash, and changed the death water, adding a teaspoon of the pet store's solution.

Tuesday, 7:30 p.m.
Meal 1 (or 2) was still alive! Could the solution be working?

Wednesday, 6:30 a.m.
No. Meal 1 (or 2) was dead.
Perhaps the solution hadn't worked or perhaps it had been too late.
Maybe Meal 1 (or 2) missed its friend, having spent the previous thirty-six hours alone but occasionally rushing into the glass, repeatedly mistaking its own reflection for Meal 2 (or 1), resulting in flashbacks about the hours spent with its corpse, all while each labored breath it took burned its gills.
As I watched Meal 1 float at the top of the tank, mouth open, expression stupid yet tragic, Zoe came in, and we had a teachable moment as she asked: "Is that what a dead fish looks like?"
I put my hand on her shoulder, patted it gently, and said, "Sure is, baby."
We lowered our heads. Because Cooper was rubbing himself against our legs. With a certain smugness, I felt.

Happy day!
Happier Times! Well, I don't know if the fish were happy,
so maybe . . . Alive Times!

Hopefully Meal 1 is now in a far far better place.
Literally, he or she's in the trash. Sorry, PETA. I tried. Sort of.

Zoe: 171; Universe: 0

*If you follow me on Facebook you may have seen my post about how we thought the tank was leaking, but it wasn't. We realized that, overnight, Cooper had gotten up on Zoe's dresser and batted the tank around, thus the water all over. So we moved the tank to our dresser instead because it was harder for Cooper to get to. And he really tried!

For more of Zoe's hijinks, follow me on Facebook and on Twitter at @zoevsuniverse
I need a win here, people. 

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