I wrote this a few years ago and, after I stumbled upon it recently, I decided it was worth a laugh or two. So, in memory of Raoul and also Babette, Enjoy!
It was a long slow float into the darkness. . .
but I should begin at the beginning. My usually-chipper Fancy black goldfish, Raoul, started to lose his grip on reality…or at least gravity…yesterday afternoon. I came barreling through the door, exuberant to do my after-school quick change from teacher-woman into regular 21 year old…and saw him. Floating. His little black tummy was facing the wrong direction, but his gills still moved normally and a fin would stick out from time to time, propelling him around the tank like some kind of a wind-up toy that accidentally flipped in the bathtub. It wasn’t until evening that he started to bounce.
Up and down.
Up and down.
Hour after hour, Raoul would drop from top to bottom and then float back up. His comrade in captivity, a sunny Gold Fish named Babette, would help push him to the bottom, showing more love than I thought goldfish capable of.
I went to bed with a heavy heart. I didn’t have it in me to flush a fish whose gills still gasped. Not a Sparrow falls…and all of that. So I closed my eyes temporarily, knowing that hit was only a matter of time until Raoul’s were closed permanently.
When sunshine hit the red curtains, waking me, I slid across the chilly wood panels to take a hesitant look into the round fish bowl. I felt like Francis Scott Key, seeing the gill still wave after a night of darkness, not knowing if death would be the victor. Unlike Key, however, my dawn’s early light fell on a still-floating Goldfish. Without a miraculous cure, the nightmare would not be over, merely prolonged.
So I did what every good fish owner would’ve done. I waited.
8 hours later, the gills still moved as I logged onto the internet with a dear friend and an accommodating apartment-mate to see what the symptoms might indicate. A few moments later, when we realized that I had no “hospital tank”, no medicine for the water and was not likely to feed peas to the little bugger…we logged off. Without bringing peas into things, we’d done all we could…would…do.
So we sat, chatting and laughing; old friends make for fabulous conversations. I sat back to let them catch up and found myself mesmerized by the bobbing of Raoul. The Fancy Black Goldfish slowly bounced up and down in the light current created by my filter. Detached from the conversation, I focused completely on the tank-life. I watched as Babette hovered around Raoul, trying to pull him back down to the bottom. Then, suddenly, it happened.
I know the exact minute that Raoul stopped breathing, because Babette left his side in the back of the tank and sped over to my side. She, and I kid you absolutely NOT, made direct eye contact with me and screamed.
At least, it would’ve been a scream if fish made noise. As it was, her mouth opened wider than I have ever seen ( and trust me, babette has had some gluttonous moments at feeding time) and told me he was dead.
My fancy black goldfish had died. We put him to rest in a glorious swirl of watery grave. And that was all. Babette is, as someone so aptly put it “freaking out”. Her fishy friend is gone. Never again will they walk (swim) the meadows (fish bowls) of this Earth…Never again will they swim in a circular motion together. Quothe the fishy “Nevermore”.