Jamie, the kitchen-dwelling goldfish, is no more. He is no doubt at the gates to that great goldfish bowl in the sky, finding out if he will spend the afterlife swimming around Paradise Plaice or grilling with the despicable small fry in the Deep Fat Fryer.
I found him flapping around his tank in distressed circles yesterday morning, bumping clumsily into his Easter Island statue. He then went into a slow tail spin that ended in a soft landing on his pottery fish. Neptune looked on with compassion as Jamie wallowed helplessly on his side like a drunk marooned on a park bench.
As I strode over to check him out, something viscous squished between my toes. Suffice to say that MM now has irrefutable proof that it is indeed unlucky to cross the path of a black cat, particularly if it has confused your kitchen floor with its litter tray overnight. With the relative hindsight of a whole day, MM can also assure French readers that walking in la merde with your left foot does NOT bring you good luck. Even (-or rather, particularly-) if the foot is bare.
Jamie was as off colour as a vibrantly orange goldfish can be, and I prepared myself to inform Little My that her finned friend was in his final death throes. I’m sure that the sensitive readers are no doubt already dewy-eyed, muttering “poor kid” and grabbing a box of paper tissues before continuing this post. Don’t bother. Little My has a very candid approach to life, hence her nickname. I was already sure that I wouldn’t have to deal with histrionics – a fish is a fish. A dying fish, however, is fascinating.
I called my daughter and brought her to the patient’s bedside. Her eyes widened in surprise. She put her hands on her hips, then stooped over the tank and bellowed with authority, “Oy, you! You can’t die now, we just gave you a bigger tank!” The kid is reality on legs. I had to agree with her. He had a groovy tank with fake plants, Neptune and his sidekicks to keep him company, a gravel bed to sleep on, regular food and water changes, and a REAL Easter Island statue (albeit a little one). It was downright ungrateful of him to try to die on us when he had the goldfish equivalent of Bucks Palace all to himself.
Whilst I ruminated about ichthyic ingratitude, Little My scooted over to the cutlery drawer and returned with a spoon. She carefully prodded the prostrate orange comma on the gravel bed. “There! That’s better! See, he’s straight!” Jamie flapped his fins bravely for the sake of appearance, then bellied up like a walrus, eyes bulging and gills heaving.
With the help of her faithful spoon, Little My transferred the patient to an improvised intensive care unit – the kitchen sink, filled with cool water. She gently sprinkled fish flakes over the surface, a little akin to a fisherman’s widow throwing flowers over the choppy black waters of the North Sea.
Meanwhile, a rapid diagnosis by a friend online had revealed that Jamie had a problem with his swim bladder. (Bladders are becoming a recurrent leitmotif on this blog.) Thanks to the link she provided, I discovered that all was not lost. The solution was easy: I could feed him a frozen pea to help him digest. I kid ye not. Pea sorbet for bloated bladders. Having no frozen peas available, the only other solution the website proposed was to take the fish to the vet for an operation. I was amazed. Do they operate under water with the help of a surgeon fish? Does the goldfish get the equivalent of an oxygen mask with water in it instead? Or does he have to hold his breath out of water, like in “Finding Nemo”? One day I will grow up. But not now, I’m having way too much fun.
Rugby-boy turned up, and they coached Jamie with enthusiastic fish physiotherapy. Aided by high-tech spoon support, Jamie swam a labourious lap of the kitchen sink, encouraged by raucous applause from my offspring. As Rugby-boy and Little My downed tools, victorious, Jamie rolled his flank sideways and bit the dust. Or rather, chewed gravel. (He’s a fish. Or was.)
“Mum, I think he’s dead. Can we bury him in the garden?” Two enthusiastic little faces turned towards me. “Can we, Mum? Pleeeease?”
“Of course you can. Just make sure you bury him deep enough, or the cat will find him”.
They appeared satisfied. That was that, then – and family life immediately returned to normal. “What’s for lunch, mum?” The answer was automatic: “I dunno, kids… Anyone for sushi?”