Oh Slimy, I Hardly Knew Ye
I wasn’t looking for companionship when Slimy, a neglected hobo of a goldfish, along with his companion, one-eyed Big Fish, swam my way….in a tank Marc confiscated from his son’s house. “I told him that since he couldn’t keep the tank clean, we would take care of them,” he explained.
That was almost three years ago. Now I have never been a fish fan. True, I enjoyed visiting them at the Shed Aquarium as I reflected over centuries of ichthyoid progress. But someone else bothered over them in the big tanks there. I could just love them and leave them.
Who knows why I never wanted any in my house? Maybe it was the memory of eating fried shrimp in my Grandpa’s lap to the point of massive indigestion. I think it might have been the fishstick overdose at the age of five, followed shortly thereafter by a swim in Fox Lake watching a bloated, green, dull-eyed ich-y fish drift dangerously close to the little Linda zone. It might have been my fish, game, and animal loving sister Donna’s jumping fish that found its way to our dining room floor when the tank lid was inadvertently left open. Or, when I was pregnant with my first child at the age of seventeen, my brother Bill chasing me around the house with a dead fish from her tank, wiggling it in my face, cornering me in the bathroom as I huddled in terror inside the bathtub until my mother finally said, “Stop, Bill, that’s mean.”
Whatever. So you know I wasn’t exactly thrilled to see the tank in my husband’s hands, but resigned because I knew that being married to Marc meant Being Kind and Considerate to All Living Creatures (except humans, necessarily, but that’s another story. To them one need only be basically polite I guess.)
Marc showed me how to split open green peas and drop some into the tank as Slimy and Fish all but squealed in delight snapping up tender morsels. I eventually learned to be strategic in the pea-bombing because Fish’s one cataract-covered eye left him at a disadvantage. I would distract Slimy through baiting him with a pea bomb on one side of the tank, and getting Fish to follow my finger to the other side, where I would drop down two of them so he would get his fair share.
Donna had me read a book on animal behavior and training techniques and from it I learned that yes, even garden variety goldfish can be trained to do all kinds of tricks. Eventually Slimy learned that Sushi rolls were so irresistible to me that as soon as he discerned my face close to the tank, he would take a running leap, as it were, and roll over a few times before my astonished eyes.Within seconds he would have a little fish reward just for making me laugh—some pea smush or a delectable hunk of bloodworm. I am tearing up just thinking about it.
Fish has been trying to perfect the Sushi roll, but he isn’t built for the roll any more than I am built for distance running. Slimy was the more elaborate type of goldfish, kind of lumpy and roly poly with diaphanous fins that drifted around him like fancy sleeves. He would flip with ease. Fish is more typical Fish, hence his name: he looks like this, and flat too:
You know, it was Fish I always worried over most. Fish had been a carnival refugee of indeterminable age, purchased with the pennies of a youth too young to handle his own coin. (Max is 12 now). By the time I met Fish, he was half blind and a bit spotty looking on the scales (but no disease—we had him checked).
Mercifully, my husband woke me gently this morning with the sad news. He told me he hid the body from me, and that he planned to take it to the fish store with a water sample “just to be sure it was natural causes.”
I went over to our tank, eyeing Fish, Scumster our scavenger, and our newest fish, Spot, to see if anyone looked guilty. When Marc brought Spot home, I said he looked like he had a spotted tattoo, and I knew fish schooled, but was he part of a gang? We laughed at the time.
Well, the outcome of this is that the Fish expert at Reef Connection said our water was perfect, and Slimy probably died of natural causes with no man or fish to blame for the sorry situation. And, after all, he was several years old, too.
I will miss Slimy. He was funny and good, and made me appreciate not only pet fish, but my sister Donna more. She wasn’t available today but I called to ask her husband Greg to leave a message for her with my question: Did she think maybe Slimy was sad we got our new goldfish and possibly thought we were replacing him? I guess I am still a little suspicious of Spot, though he is, we were told, just a baby goldfish. Yeah, well maybe they start young in the hood he’s from.
I know, this sounds like a joke, but it isn’t a hundred percent funny because I realize that I actually cared about a fish, and cried over it, and I don’t understand why he had to die. Slimy seemed so darn happy yesterday.
Such is life I guess.