My children have a vintage story-book they love about a boy who has a goldfish. Despite warnings from the fish store proprietor, the boy feeds the goldfish much too much, and the fish grows and grows, outgrowing his tank, the kitchen sink, the bathtub, the basement and ends up at the community pool. If you are familiar with the book, you know what happens, and probably think it is just a cute story. But in our family, we know that it is real, and in fact, is based on my brother’s (#22) goldfish, Mr. Fish.
When Dumb was in 5th grade (makes him maybe…ten?), he went to a carnival at his elementary school, and won a little, tiny orange ‘feeder’ fish in a plastic bag. He brought it home and put it in a bowl on the kitchen counter, and named him Mr. Fish (genius and creativity are not bedmates). There was one particularly close call when Tequila (bad pet names run in the family), my mom’s cat, actually had Mr. Fish out on the counter, gasping for water, licking his kitty-lips with glee, when we caught him. Mr. Fish survived the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake, where gobs of water sloshed from his bowl and we didn’t notice, several incidents with Tequila, three housing moves, and lots of neglect from a less than attentive boy. Through it all, in spite of the care he got, he continued to grow.
Due only to my mom’s guilt, he was moved from the first fishbowl to a small tank in Dumb’s room, then a larger tank, then a large tank with filter and fancy stuff back in the kitchen, and finally to a very large tank with no fancy stuff because there was no room for fancy stuff and Fish. This diminutive, guppy-sized fishy grew and grew, with each new bowl and tank, he simply filled it up, as though the extra room was a personal challenge. Remember, this was a “feeder-fish”, the kind made for turtles and other tank-dwellers to dine on. Not even a real goldfish!
So yesterday, my mom and step-dad went to the local fish store to see about getting yet another larger tank (seriously, upgrading to 25 gallons…for one fish) and began to talk to the fish-man about Mr. Fish. Fish-Man did not believe them when they told him about Mr. Fish. So, he gave them a big bucket, and sent them home to get Mr. Fish so he could see for himself. When they returned to the store with Mr. Fish in the bucket, and removed the lid, a group of people gathered around to see this freak-of-nature. For one thing, Mr. Fish is not orange anymore. He is clear. Yes, really. Clear. You can see inside of him. And, he is 12 years old, and over nine inches long. He NOT a koi fish, he is a “feeder-fish”, and Fish-man marveled at him, and got his entire story from my mom. And then, Fish-Man offered to buy Mr. Fish from my mom.
Mr. Fish now has yet another new tank, and a new home. He is in a very large tank at a very nice aquarium store, and I shudder to think how he may grow with the proper care and room. I wonder if Fish-man knows what he got himself into? Really, one carnival fishy turned into a 12 year commitment for my mom. I suspect after the waves of guilt subsided, she danced and little jig out in the parking lot. In the space of one week, she got rid of Dumb and Mr. Fish. Now, that’s freedom…