Saturday, July 16, 2016

July 16: Goldfish Bowl, Augustus, a Confession

Something else is happening in the goldfish bowl.  There on the kitchen table, nourished by the simple plank of complex light, the plankton is blooming.  The water yellows and clouds; a transparent slime coats the leaves of the water plant, elodea; a blue-green film of single-celled algae clings to the glass.  And I have to clean the doggone bowl.  I'll spare you the details:  it's the plant I'm interested in.  While Ellery [Dillard's goldfish] swims in the stoppered sink, I rinse the algae down the drain of another sink, wash the gravel, and rub the elodea's many ferny leaves under running water until they feel clean.

Dillard buys a goldfish.  She puts it in a bowl on her kitchen table.  If anyone would know how to take proper care of a goldfish, it's Dillard, who makes a habit of examining the complexities of the universe, from dwarf planets to red blood cells.  Ellery is in good hands.

Let me tell you a little story about my attempt at raising goldfish.  I was quite young at the time (let's say eight years old).  One day, my older brother brought me to the local Woolworth's store and bought me a goldfish.  It was a spur-of-the-moment thing, if I remember correctly.  I carried the fishbowl into my bedroom and put it on my dresser.  I don't remember if I ever named the fish, but let's call him Augustus.

Augustus was a good fish.  When I sprinkled food on the top of his water, he rose and munched, drifted back down to watch the show outside of his bowl for a while, and then rose again for another bite.  Sort of like sitting in front the the television, eating pizza.  The first week of Augustus' life was great.

Then, the novelty of owning a fish wore off.  I was eight years old and had a busy life.  I still fed him, at night, just before bed.  But something started happening in his bowl.  The glass got a little slimy, and the water started giving off a slightly funky aroma.  My bedroom started to smell a little like dead worms.  One day, my mother told me, "You need to clean that fishbowl."

Well, never in my eight-year-old mind did I contemplate the possibility that owning a goldfish would require that kind of care.  I thought it would simply be a matter of sprinkling a few flakes of food into the bowl every day, and that was it.  Augustus would clean his own room, just like me.

So, I cleaned the fishbowl.  A week later, the dead worm smell returned.  My mother made me clean it again.  Another week, more dead worm smell.  I was done.  I came up with what I thought was a brilliant idea.  Now, please remember that I was eight-years-old and had no concept of the biology of living things.  After I cleaned Augustus' fishbowl and filled it with fresh water, I added some dish soap to keep it cleaner for a little longer.

I put Augustus back in his bowl, quite pleased with myself, and went off to fight Captain Hook or Darth Vader.  That night, as I was getting ready for bed, I looked over at Augustus.

There he was, doing the back float at the surface of the water.  At first, I thought he was simply practicing a fishy version of the backstroke.  But, after tapping his belly a few times with my finger and seeing him bob up and down like a piece of cork, I realized that my goldfish had gone to the Big Lake in the Sky.

I quickly gave Augustus a burial at sea in the toilet, dumped out and washed the fishbowl, and put all the incriminating evidence away, hoping nobody would notice.  My mother never said a word.  I think she was happily relieved that the great goldfish experiment was over.

I tell you this story as a confession.  I am a goldfish murderer.

It was Saint Marty, in the bedroom, with the Dawn detergent.,

No comments:

Post a Comment