LESS than 24 HOURS after buying my daughters some goldfish, and after reminding them FIVE TIMES not to throw any more coins in the tank (“it’s not a wishing well”) and not to touch the fish (“your fingers are like hot pokers and it’s cruel”), I walked into their bedroom and saw the fish tank filter spurting water into the sky like a fountain. Water pooled on their bedroom floor, soggy tissues lay nearby (the debris of a failed cleanup), and a bed was askew halfway across the room.
“What’s going on in here?” I said to my daughters.
One tried to blame the other. The other said she had been trying to wash her feet in the tank. And so I bored them with yet another stern lecture about not putting foreign objects into the tank (feet included), not touching the fish, about contaminated water, animal cruelty…
Apparently, I was too late.
As bedtime approached a few hours later my youngest said, “Mum, can I sleep in your room tonight?”
“I can’t sleep in my bed.”
“Because it’s in the middle of the room.”
“Then push it back against the wall,” I said.
“I can’t. It’s too heavy.”
“I’ll help you.”
“But…” He voice quavered.
“Well … actually … I need to tell you something.”
I looked down at her with raised eyebrows.
“There’s a fish under my bed.” She burst into tears.
And there it was, a dry fish lying on the floorboards with its stiff tail curled upwards.
This was not the first pet death in our household. We’ve buried a few terrapins (I think one died of shock when my daughter stuck her finger through its head hole repeatedly, forcing its feet to stick out like a bad comedy routine). A few other terrapins escaped over the edge of the tank when one of the girls filled it to the brim with water. Our garden search party failed to find the tiny reptiles, which I guessed were long ago gulped down the gullet of a bird. We had to put down our beloved Labrador last month, for which my children were thankfully not to blame (although the food they snuck her under the dining table certainly didn’t help her arthritis).
So, the dead fish was the straw that broke the camel’s back. The girls are now on one week’s probation with the threat of re-homing their goldfish looming over their heads like a dark cloud.
Is there anyone out there who wants a few goldfish in a week’s time?