Scene and Heard

Requiem for Comet, a Goldfish That Truly Grew on Her

(The Washington Post)
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By Scene And Heard
Monday, October 12, 2009

This reminds us of a storybook we used to read to our kids. In that tale, a boy who just wouldn't listen overfed his goldfish, and it grew to the size of a whale.

Where I work in Chevy Chase, employees can take time from work when a family member or significant other leaves this mortal coil. Recently, I had to bite my lip, square my shoulders and head to the office because company policy does not extend to the death of a goldfish.

Anybody who loves creatures great and small would appreciate the horror that happened here in my small Bethesda fishpond, but I must begin at the beginning in order to underscore the significance of my loss.

Back in 1992, I bought a 19-cent goldfish for my then-7-year-old daughter. She named him Comet. Comet thrived in a tiny fishbowl. So much so that we upsized to a two-gallon tank with a filter. Comet continued to grow, and before I knew it, I was back at the pet store for a 10-gallon tank with a more sophisticated filter system.

Like a cat with nine lives, Comet survived his share of near tragedies. A little neighbor boy stopped by one day and fed Comet the entire contents of a container of fish food. Comet, bloated and near death, somehow came back, and life went on. Another time, Comet became stuck in an ornamental arch (in a 15-gallon tank at this point), and my husband rushed to grab a hammer to shatter the arch, and Comet, minus a lot of scales, swam free.

When I bought the 30-gallon tank with an elaborate filter system and had to ask someone at the pet store to help me haul it to my car, I knew where we were headed next: a fishpond in the back yard.

One summer day, my husband dug a hole large enough to accommodate a 75-gallon pond liner and, yes, a new filter system. We bought water iris and lilies and created a lovely waterfall. The pond took my breath away. Comet was thrilled. He now measured a good 12 inches long, and, like a dolphin, he would rise to the surface and let me pat him on the head. He survived the time the pond leaked overnight and left him flopping around in an inch of water. Bitter winters came and went, and Comet endured.

But Comet's idyllic existence was to end in a violent way. Imagine my shock when I looked out the window and there, in the pond, stood a blue heron, swallowing Comet in one gulp.

We live near the C&O Canal, and blue herons glide above the trees, looking for sparkling blue ponds containing shore dinners. Blue herons are considered an endangered species, and I'll tell you now that if I ever get my hands on Comet's murderer, that bird will be endangered all right.

My pond now contains rosy minnows, too tiny to be seen from above and fast swimmers able to hide quickly. They're not the same, of course. I can't tell one from another, and they're not affectionate. I've retired Comet's jersey, so to speak. But he'll live on in my memory as the one that didn't get away.

-- Nan D. Nelson, Bethesda


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