An animal entering our house would be wise to bring an updated will and phone numbers for next-of-kin.
We’ve boxed and buried guinea pigs, flushed fish, and had hermit crabs wander away in the middle of an electrifying race, never to be seen again. Back in June we managed to kill a crawfish and Speedy the goldfish on consecutive days. The very first post I wrote was about the death of a different goldfish named Speedy and his enemy, Brownie.
Right now we have three pets, though that number could change at any moment. Elvis, the dog from Hell, has managed to stick around for a couple of years now, mainly through sheer cussedness. Drew’s parakeet, Texas Ranger, requires little care. He’s extremely shy and has yet to utter a word, which is a great disappointment to Drew and quite a relief to me.
Finally, there is the fish who swims in his bowl by the coffee maker, looking at us with baleful eyes, knowing his days are numbered. He can feel his impending demise in his gills, and he’s not being dramatic. He’s but one of a multitude of fish to live in that bowl, and his name, Bingo 3, can hardly provide reassurance.
Earlier this summer Bill won two fish in a game of Bingo. Speedy was dead within hours.
Bingo bravely soldiered on without his counterpart.
Several weeks later we went to New York to visit Aunt Lulu. A seventh-grader down the street came to our house once a day to check on the pets and bring in the mail. Bingo, used to a house full of screaming inhabitants, was unsettled by the sudden change in his environment. Apparently the shock was too much to bear. Our sitter made the tragic discovery, and took steps to prevent our boys from facing death head-on. His note read:
Dear Mr and Mrs. Glamore:
I regret to inform you that during my housesitting your goldfish died. I think I overfed it. I’m so sorry that this has happened. My mom and I went and bought you a new fish at Petsmart. They said that the fish needs at most five flakes a day. Once again I apologize that you have to come home to this. I’m deeply and truly sorry.
We were most impressed with the way the sitter had handled the death, by not only accepting responsibility but also going the extra mile and replacing the fish.
However, I noticed immediately that Bingo 2 didn’t have the zest for life that Bingo had exhibited. He didn’t swim to the surface and pucker his lips endearingly when I poured a cup of coffee, and he didn’t barrel around his bowl in circles when I came home from work. I was beginning to resent the amount of space the fishbowl took up on my kitchen counter.
We called our sitter again when it was time for our beach trip a week later.
“That was kind of you to replace the fish,” I told him, “but really, if it should happen again, just flush him and forget it. The boys are getting older and they’ll deal with it.”
When we came home from the beach, the mail and papers were neatly stacked on the table, and another note was waiting by the fish bowl:
Dear Mr. and Mrs. Glamore,
Once again an unfortunate event has occurred during my housesitting. Your fish died. I know you weren’t as attached to this one as you were to the last one, but I’m extremely sorry. We are unsure how it died. My mom and I bought you a new fish. It has already been fed today. I hope it lives a long life.
Bingo 3 has lived for nearly a month, but his swimming, once a sturdy glide, has a tremble I hadn’t noticed before. He doesn’t spring to the surface to gobble his flakes, but meanders upward as if the three inches of water is too far to traverse.
I’ve seen Death of a Goldfish more times than I care to recall, and I hope this latest performance will be the last in the Glamore family theater.