Don’t Judge a Carnie Fish

So you know Donner and Dancer…oh wait. I don’t have reindeer. I have dogs. I have cats. I have children. And now, I have fish again. But not just any fish. We have carnival fish. 

Years ago, we had a fish who lived for eight years. He molted a lot. He got smaller at times instead of bigger. For eight years. There is a point when it’s just too late to say we had sixteen fish – really, I have no idea how many we had. Maybe it was nine. Maybe it was twenty three. But, just know we had a fish for eight years. Once my daughter, whose first or third word – no, I don’t remember, it’s a toss-up between shoes, cat, and fish – was fish, I got her a fish. She promptly named him Fish. When she was nine years old, Fish died. He may have molted again into a new beautiful Phoenix fish, but I was busted. She saw him floating before I could call onto the magic of Phoenix fish. All three of my kids missed a day of school and begged me for more fish. I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t let them go through the pain and trauma of the truth. Frankly, I was tired of cleaning the bowl. So, Fish was no more. 

About two weeks ago, my beautiful middle child won a goldfish at her school’s Winter Carnival. 

Oh no…

Here we go again. I don’t know where the fishbowl is inside my halfway packed mid-renovation home, my youngest is now my oldest daughter’s age when Phoenix Fish passed on to the River Styx, and I’m certain carnie fish won’t live long. 

My amazing, gorgeous girlfriend is so full of hope and love. I admire her and adore her. She brings Carnie Fish home with hope. A new pet. New life inside our home. It will be beautiful. Her smile says it all.

I’m a bit more cynical than she. We are a perfect balance of love and war, realism and impracticality, cynicism and imperfect blind faith. I say to her, “This is a Carnie fish. He’s been on the road. In a bag. In the cold Arizona winter air. He won’t live through the night.” Suddenly I am a fish trauma surgeon. I’ve done all I can do.

Beautiful puts her hand on my arm calming my cynicism and says, “This isn’t just any carnival fish. He wasn’t on the road. It was cold out there. But it is Arizona. And I had him wrapped in a hoodie because the kids got warm. Because as much as you hate winter, Arizona winters aren’t harsh. And this isn’t a traveling carnival. A PTO mom got this fish from a pet store today, probably just moments before rushing to the school to set up on time. He’ll live.” After she filled me with hope and comfort, she prepared our daughter for the potential of her new pet fish, who my daughter named Alpine, to not make it through the weekend. 

Well, make it he did. While I was on fish death watch, walking in waiting for a greeting in the form of a float and flush, Alpine lived. But he wasn’t the happiest fish on the block. On day three, I said, “Alpine is lonely. I haven’t seen him eat. And he’s psycho too. Each time I walk up to the bowl, he bounces off the sides to get away from me.”

Miss Hope and Positivity goes out and comes home with two new fish who she promptly named Salt and Pepper. 

We are now starting week three with three fish, three dogs, three kids, and two cats. Alpine, Salt, and Pepper have an upgraded condo with a filter and disco lights. And they are happy. They eat. They dance under the light. And they sleep. All in our bathroom. One day, if they survive winter, we’ll take them to the kitchen to live. But for now, my daughter is happy to have a carnie fish and his two friends, and my girlfriend loves the night light in our bathroom. 

There’s always room for more love in a house. And it might be best not to judge a fish based on his carnie life. He’s pretty domesticated. But I still quote Navin R Johnson around him often – you know, so he doesn’t forget where he started his little fish life.