When Axa turned six in February, we decided she was ready for her own little pet. So for her birthday she received a fish bowl with two little goldfish. One was a chubby little white fish with bubbly red “hair.” Axa christened it “Little Redhead.” The other, pictured above, she called “Little Gold Fin.”
Fat Little Redhead was a spunky little fish. He always grabbed the lion’s share of the food. So I suppose we should not have been surprised a few weeks later, when he began swimming upside down. We looked online for what could be wrong with him, and were informed that he had eaten too much, causing his swim bladder to malfunction because of a too-full stomach. The website enjoined us to feed him a single pea, promising that it would clear up the problem in no time. So we duly bought peas, shelled them, cooked them, and mashed one up to feed to him. It didn’t work. After a week of upside-down swimming, Little Redhead succumbed, victim to his own appetite.
Axa chose to hold the funeral at the beach. We buried him in a deep hole in the sand, sang a hymn, and each talked about what we loved about Little Redhead. Then we decorated his grave with shells that we had collected. The demise of Little Redhead endeared the remaining goldfish to us even more. When we moved to our new beach bungalow, we couldn’t help but notice that he managed to match both the dijon mustard-colored carpet and the orange curtains. And he did it so gracefully. When we first got him, he had been a very shy fish, but after a while, he no longer darted away when someone walked in the room. One day, Tony dropped a fruit fly into his bowl. Little Gold Fin snapped it right up, and spent the next few hours alertly patrolling the surface, ready to pounce should another opportunity arise.
When we went to Sicily a couple of weeks ago, Axa asked our landlord to watch Little Gold Fin for her. She gave him careful instructions for how to care for him, and how much to feed him. When we returned, Gold Fin was as chipper as ever. But the brown patches on his fins and scales had turned dark grey. Worried, we made sure to change his water extra often. He seemed fine for a week or so. But then two days ago we woke up and found him on his side, still breathing, but obviously not well. His condition deteriorated throughout yesterday, and this morning he was floating on top of the bowl.
We held another beach funeral today, and talked about how Little Redhead and Little Gold Fin are together now, swimming happily in heaven. Axa bore it very well. Better than Tony and I, it seems. We can’t stop talking about Gold Fin and how we miss him. I need to put away the bowl, but I just can’t quite bring myself to do it. Tony wants to wash and save the rocks from the bottom of the bowl. I feel so sad for our poor little fish. Like I’ve somehow failed as a mother, both to my sweet daughter, whose two fish died within four months, and to the defenseless little fish I couldn’t keep alive. Maybe I just shouldn’t have pets. I remember many hours of crying as a child over fish, mice, and even our pet chicken. Or perhaps I should get a tortoise or a parrot that will outlive me. In any case, even if we ever do get a pet again, today was a sad, sad day. Rest in peace, Little Gold Fin. You will be missed.