Scene and Heard

A close call while goldfish-sitting

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Our page seems to be swimming with goldfish stories. This is one of three we received after publishing one the other day:

"Well, you can take care of Mr. Joseph," my friend Rina said. We were talking about her upcoming two-week vacation with her husband, Eran, and 6-year-old, Maya. I had asked her if there was anything I could do. At first, she said no; a car service was going to take them to the airport, and they had a man to mow the lawn and pick up unwanted circulars left at the front door. When I asked her a second time, she remembered her daughter's goldfish, Mr. Joseph. Without much thought, I said I would be happy to take care of him.

I went to their home to pick up the fish. Rina gave me some fish food with instructions for the care of Mr. Joseph. "Just give him a pinch of food every morning." She added, "If the water gets too cloudy, please change it with water at room temperature." Rina then handed over Mr. Joseph, a small fish gleaming in brilliant gold, with a big tail swaying back and forth, happily swimming around in tight circles in a small glass fishbowl.

Before I got to their front door, Maya came running up to say farewell to her fish. "Goodbye, Mr. Joseph. See you in two weeks!" she said a little remorsefully. Then, looking at me with intense dark eyes, she pleaded, "Please take good care of Mr. Joseph."

The life of Mr. Joseph was now in my hands. When I got to my car, I placed Mr. Joseph on the backseat and latched the seatbelt around the bowl. On the drive home, I was the only one going the speed limit on Interstate 270.

When I got home, I placed Mr. Joseph on my bedroom dresser, away from any direct sunlight. He looked a little nervous, swimming back and forth very rapidly. I gave him a pinch of food, maybe to calm him down or maybe to reward him for surviving our harrowing ride on I-270.

That night, I had time to think of some of my own pets that did not fair too well under my care. When I was a boy, I had two dogs: One was hit by a car and died; the other ran away (maybe he knew about the death of the first dog).

When I was in the Navy, I had tropical fish, but they all died within four months. Somehow, this was reassuring to me. Since I was going to have Mr. Joseph for only two weeks, he should survive under my care.

By the middle of the second week, Mr. Joseph did not seem to be his happy-go-lucky self. The gold that made him a goldfish seemed to have lost all its luster. His tail was no longer flapping, and he was definitely listing to the right. If he tilted much more, he would be belly up. But I was not going to let that happen on my watch!

I carefully placed Mr. Joseph in one of my soup bowls filled with water that was at room temperature. I thoroughly cleaned and rinsed the fish bowl and refilled it with water. After letting the water sit to make sure that it was again at room temperature, I placed the fish in it. I was greatly surprised when Mr. Joseph started swimming like his old self. Soon his color returned to its original bright gold, and he seemed happy again. I congratulated myself on saving Mr. Joseph's life.

I was relieved when Rina called to say they were home and she would come to pick up Mr. Joseph. When they arrived, Maya ran to her goldfish to say her hellos. Alone with Rina, I told her about the near-death of Mr. Joseph.

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