Thoughts Akimbo

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A fish by any other really cool name

Well, the goldfish were dead this morning, and I’m feeling a little guilty.

I only took them in because they were “rescue” animals. This is a ploy my children use, although later one admitted our rabbit had been “rescued” from a cage at the pet store, where he looked bored.

These fish were rescued from the grisly fate of being a friend’s pet turtle’s lunch. At least, that’s what someone said.

And so they lived out the remaining days of their lives, which turned out to be only a couple dozen, in my computer room.

When I found the fish lingering on the gravel in unnatural positions, I knew they had departed overnight for the Big Glass Bowl in the Sky.

“I was so worried they’d outgrow their aquarium,” I said, “I’m afraid I didn’t feed them enough.”

But then another household member said, “I fed them every day.”

“So did I,” said another. And another. In fact, it’s possible the fish died of overfeeding.

But I still feel guilty. Because one of the fish was named Tangerine Dream. And, to be completely honest, the other one never really had a name.

We couldn’t come up with another name that cool. And anyway, since they looked exactly alike, we could never tell which one was The Other One anyway.

It’s difficult to name pets like fish. Years ago, we called our tropical fish Orangey, Whitey, Brownie, Goldie and Determination Jones.

Not surprisingly, the one with the prizefighter’s name survived long after the others had gone to the Big Rainbow Roundup.

Then we had a series of goldfish named Cowboy. The origins of that name are lost in history, but someone taught the parrot to say it. As the goldfish died and were replaced, he called them all “Cowboy.”

He couldn’t tell them apart, either. So it’s not just me.

When the last of the Cowboys went to the Heavenly Rodeo Up Yonder, we bought two “four-for-a-dollar” goldfish. We let the grateful clerk choose them at random from an overcrowded tank.

In the relative paradise of our 30-gallon, predator-free aquarium, both quickly surged to full fish size – about the size of my hand, or a tasty McDonald’s fish filet.

Those two, who began as seeming twins, grew to be very different. Star was dark orange with a white mouth and white fins, sort of an Al Jolson look. And Heifer looked like a pale, poorly drawn cartoon of a fish with a bulbous body and runty tail fin and eyes very close to the end of his blunt face.

Star would stare you down with his single facial expression, his unblinking eye saying, “I know you are ‘She Who Brings the Flakes.’ And we haven’t eaten in months.” Because fish have poor short-term memories, Star always believed it had been a long time since his last meal.

Poor Heifer never asked for much, but he kept developing health problems that required expensive fish antibiotics. He was a 25-cent fish with a $300 medical treatment plan.

One day, I read online that it’s best to separate a sick fish for treatment. I did that, catching the surprised Heifer and transferring him to a small, medicinal tank, where he died almost immediately.

Shortly thereafter, Star fell ill, maybe from the same ailment that got Heifer, or maybe just to get attention. He was such a drama queen.

Eventually, he transitioned to the Celestial Cabaret.

We had held little backyard funerals for Star and Heifer, Determination Jones and his colleagues, and all the Cowboys. But everybody’s older now, so we just buried Tangerine Dream and that other one “at sea.” Perhaps they’ll “find Nemo” down there.

It was hard to eulogize the one without a name.

If there’s a moral here, and I’m not completely sure there is, it might be something like:

Don’t ever buy goldfish. They’re cheap, but incredibly high-maintenance.

Don’t take in a pet unless you get independent confirmation on its “hard luck” story.

Don’t get a second orange-colored fish unless you can think of a second name as cool as “Tangerine Dream.”

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