I was kind of hoping they’d forget to stop back at the ping pong game on their way out of the fair. One of the visiting granddaughters was a pretty good shot and had won a goldfish around Labor Day – last year. County fairs aren’t really their thing, but they tagged along with us and Ta Da! had won the prize that now sits on the dining room table.
“What should we call him?” I asked.
“Ping!” Lillie said without hesitation.
“Yeah, we won him playing ping pong,” she said with a “duh” look on her face, one eyebrow arched.
I laughed. “Okay, then, Ping it is.”
Ping’s home is a fish bowl. One of several I had leftover from a wedding reception. We cleaned it up, put some dollar store crushed stone and seashells in the bottom and plopped Ping into the water. Then we decided he needed a place to hide so I found an old shot glass and put that in there, too. Oh – and a pretty blue marble.
Last month the girls were here again and I thought it would be fun to go and buy a friend for Ping. Yeah – call the new fish Pong. You saw that coming, didn’t you? So we piled into the car and headed for Wal-Mart where we soon found out they’d discontinued selling fish. Not to worry, Pet World was only a road over so we went there next.
Wow, a whole wall of fish. Excellent. We ducked and bobbed looking at all sorts of interesting sizes and colors. Best of all the prices which began at thirteen cents all the way up to thirty eight cents each, for the goldfish anyway. I was in bargain heaven.
“Can I help you?”
We turned to find a perky young woman smiling inquiringly at us. “We’d like a goldfish,” I said. “We have one now and . . .”
“What do you keep it in?” she asked.
“Um – a regular goldfish bowl. Round, glass. “
“Oh, we don’t recommend those bowls anymore. Every goldfish needs twelve gallons of water. They can grow to be six inches long.” She spread her fingers so I’d know just how long that was.
“Maybe we need something bigger, then,” I said as she led us around the corner to the fish tanks which started at twenty one bucks for the smallest. Plastic. Kind of cheap looking. Not bargain heaven anymore. Of course there were others – of course.
Perky did a pretty good Vanna White along the top shelf as she extolled the virtues of the various methods of housing fish. Gosh, we could buy air thingys, toys, filters. Quite an array. So - I could buy a thirty eight cent goldfish and keep him and Ping in a twenty five dollar tank - if I went cheap. Hmm.
“I only wanted a second fish as a friend for the one we’ve got,” I said. “You know, so he won’t be so lonely.” My enthusiasm for a second fish was dying fast.
“Oh, goldfish don’t get lonely,” Perky said with conviction. “They prefer to live alone.”
That did it. “I don’t think we’re interested,” I said with conviction. Then I rounded up the two younger granddaughters who were off looking at the Guinea pigs.
On the way out of the store I could see Elaina’s wheels turning. She’s the oldest granddaughter who stood beside me as we got our goldfish lesson.
“I wonder how all those fish could live in those tanks on the wall. There had to be at least fifty in each one,” I said.
“Yeah, that's what I was thinking. They didn’t have twelve gallons each. But maybe the tanks were aerated.”
“Maybe,” I said. “And how does she know goldfish don’t get lonely?”
On the way home we talked about fish in the wild and how they’d survived, some in a lot less water than twelve gallons per fish.
Later I Googled a bit and discovered that in Great Britain and China gold fish bowls have been outlawed under their animal cruelty laws. Yeesh. I could almost feel the FFP (Fending For Fish) cameras hoping to catch me abusing Ping.
All this zipped through my mind as I cleaned Ping’s “prison” this morning. He’s a happy little fish in case you’re in China or Great Britain reading this. If you used to make gold fish bowls for a living, I’m sorry for you. But know this – sometimes you just can’t believe what people and the experts tell you. Ping is fed twice a day and I clean his bowl every three or four days. I even bought him a plastic seaweed so he has a second place to hide. I tap on the glass as I sprinkle his food and he comes hurrying to the surface. I think he loves me. Sometimes I sing to him. Sick – I know.
If you have a goldfish from the fair and your love has kept him alive let me know. We can swap wonder fish stories. Right now I think I need more caffeine.
Thanks for reading.