The Story of the 36-Hour Goldfish

Eight-year-old grandson Danny appeared at the front door, holding a small goldfish bowl with a crenelated top and blue stones on the bottom, taking careful steps into the house, so he wouldn’t splash water out of the bowl. In the bowl was a ‘goldfish’…a translucent gray-brown sliver, perky as lightning, darting around the bowl.

What are you gonna name him?, Danny asked. Without the benefit of knowing that a new pulse was going to be injected into the household, I blurted, Finnegan. Danny put the bowl on a kitchen counter and took out a silver-foil packet of fish food, purloined from home. He counseled me on the proper amounts, the times of day, changing the water (let it get to room temperature) and talking to it (‘they like that’). “Finnegan’, said Danny, ‘good name’. And then he was gone.

I have had experience with ‘goldfish-in-a-bag’ prizes at carnivals…as we all have. (The bowl instead of the bag was a nicer touch.) Danny’s fantasy of longevity for Finnegan was trumped by the short flush of animation on the march to an abbreviated survivorship that I knew was Finnegan’s fate. But I played my part of good custodian. I floated the prescribed number of food flakes on the water, changed the water, talked as it darted from one side of the six-inch bowl to the other, trying to find a geographical fix to call home. But he became rootless and desperate and, finally, unresponsive. Thirty-six hours after delivery, he departed his earth-bound tethers.

I told Danny the sad news, when he called to ask about Finnegan’s well-being. He asked about burial…I said, ‘in the backyard’. When next I saw him, he gave me a stack of Legos in the shape of an ‘F’ and asked that I use it for a grave marker. And so, Finnegan is in the backyard, a bowl, inverted, covers the blue stones and the Lego ‘F’ to mark the spot.