Wednesday, October 04, 2006


When you go into any kitchen around here you will see a fish bowl with at least one goldfish swimming around inside of it. The reason you will see this is that everyone around here attends the annual PTA carnival at which the poor deprived children of this suburb are given the opportunity to win a goldfish.

No parent really wants a goldfish but no parent wants to be the one to stand up at the PTA meeting following the spectacularly successful PTA carnival and say, "For the love of god can we lose the friggin' goldfish!" No. No one wants to be the killjoy to say that.

So year after year there are goldfish at the carnival.Every fall you troop off to the PTA carnival and despite your best efforts to distract the children, "Look Michael here's the clothespin drop, you could win a plastic parachute guy," they are lured by the siren call of the goldfish tank. It does not help that your husband is standing a few feet away saying, "Dude, forget the lame parachute guy, if you throw a ball in an empty applesauce cup you win a LIVE FISH! Look it's easy even the first graders are winning!"

Yes, your son is pleased as punch when he carries his new pet home in a baggie that night. But the next day you are forced to go out and buy a goldfish bowl and food. And guess who gets to clean the bowl? Not the bonehead who encouraged your son to win the goldfish. And no, not your son. You. Because despite the fact that you vowed when you brought the stupid fish home that it would be a good experience for your offspring, that it would teach him to be responsible, it turns out that his tolerance for fish scum is much, much higher than your tolerance. And so by default you find yourself emptying the fish bowl and scraping that green gunk off the sides of the bowl.

Nevertheless, you feel sorry for the little guy swimming around all alone and you let Michael talk you into buying the fish a friend. After all, no creature should be alone, and they only cost 10 cents at the pet store. And so it goes, month after month, you scraping the fish scum, you feeding the darn things because although you have no affection for them you certainly don't want to see them starve to death and though Michael never forgets what time "Simpsons" is on, he cannot seem to remember when he should feed his pets.

Sometimes you go on vacation and you hope your neighbor will forget to feed the little devils. No such luck, your neighbor is alarmingly reliable.One day you think you can't take it anymore and even Michael and all his siblings are tired of pretending they want the fish let alone pretending they take care of the fish. You pass a major hurdle; you get all the children in your house to agree that they would not be very sad if the fish went away.

Now you have the nearly insurmountable task of getting rid of three (you've been to another carnival in the meantime) relatively healthy goldfish. The pet store doesn't want them. None of your friends wants them; they have five or six of their own. You know from all the "Nemo" publicity that you can't really humanely flush them. You think if only someone would sneak into your house and take them out back and bury them you would not be sad. But you cannot bring yourself to be the executioner. So you keep feeding them and scraping the scum off the sides of the bowl.

Then one night it's time to go to the carnival again. You have an idea. You get out a Tupperware container and you fill it with water and put Pearly, Nemo, and Squiggley inside. You carry this container boldly into the carnival.Your crime is surprisingly easy. You march right past the big long line of children and their idiot fathers waiting to take their own fish home in a baggie. You walk past the poor unsuspecting teenager who has been roped into running the booth this night. You open the container and dump your three pets into a tub of goldfish. They look much larger than the others, but they look quite content. The teenager looks surprised, "Didn't your kid want his prize?" she asks. She is wondering what the return policy is.You simply say, "No. He didn't want them after all."

A few weeks later you visit a friend. She is lamenting that her daughter won some fish at the carnival this year. She has won fish before but this year it was different. The fish she won were full-grown. You agree with her that that is very strange indeed.

by Judy Zimmerman


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