Saturday, September 24, 2016

Goldfish, Dying! (A Minnesota Short Story, 1958) Revised

It is forenoon, the summer of the 1958. My mother just went downstairs, she says, "I won't be long; I got to wash a few clothes."
       I'm at the sink, cleaning out my fishbowl. Grandpa is outside trimming the lilac bushes; my brother is someplace with his new go-cart. As I was about to say, I'm cleaning the glass of the fish bowel in the kitchen, that is, taking the rocks out, replacing the water, cleaning the rocks, and I'm looking at my goldfish (I'm eleven years old); I remain standing at the sink in the kitchen, kind of in a tight body position, sizing up the situation, I think I'm thinking how am I going to get this fish from the water out safely, and into a glass in the sink, a transfer process that has to be done fast, lest I drop the fish into the sink and heaven knows what then, I think I am doing too much thinking, when this should really be a simple process.
       Now I got everything ready: the new water, the rocks are back into the bowel, and I'm about to put my goldfish back into the bowl, and I'm thinking—: I have to do this very fast lest I drop the fish in the sink, then what? Curtains for the fish? I am again sizing up everything, and again doing too much calculating on this simple matter, and I learned from this episode in life, not to think too hard, save you need to be careful, yet not get yourself paralyzed in the process, so again I tell myself, 'Ready or not, do it!' So I drop the goldfish from here to there in one strive—this is what I’m going to do: one swish of my hands will do it, but carefully, so I pick  up my glass with the fish in it, —the goldfish, my intentions are to drop the goldfish into the round hole in the glass bowel. I know I got to be quick, especially coordinated, I will have one chance, only one chance, but I'm ready, or so I tell myself.
       I notice the fish is energetic very lively today (perhaps I overfed them yesterday, I tell myself; incidentally, there are two goldfish): two quick witted fish, I think they are quicker than me anyhow, and I get the notion they do not like this small glass environment; it is perhaps likened to a closet for them, in comparison to where they had come from.

       Now I raise the glass up,  the fish in the glass, to be poured into the glass bowel, fish, glass, and bowel all looking at me, something distracts me, I take my eyes off for a second, just a second, a clap of an eyelid, and my eyes appeared to have went into a process of readjusting, as a result of turning them back to the: the glass, which  hits the rim of the bowel, and the fish falls headfirst into the sink, and I panic, I am near hyperventilating, and I rush, rush, rush to save my goldfish, fingers all over the place, and they are squirming, sliding out of my hands: they are going to die! Death is lingering over them, and dread over me, and I'm responsible: I'm in a terror, fright, alarm...where is my guardian angel? 
       I scream: "…he’s dying!!"
       My mother comes running up the stairs thinking there is a tornado, or earthquake about to take place, or taking place, or I fell into the fish bowl or cut myself in the process.
       Her face is now calm, and sullen after she sees it is all over two goldfish. Her eyes are brooding and alert like owls—alarmed, her adrenaline had kicked into high gear, expression is stringent.  My eyes are like marbles, the fish is in the sink wiggling all about (perhaps having a good old time), but for me, I sense they might go down into the drain, take a trip into the sewer system, and be eaten by a rat. My words are in a stutter.  
       "Fish...dying, dying!"
       I look at my mother, and then the fish: her and the fish: her and the fish        
       "Calm down," she says, then she looks in the sink, hesitates, and says:
"Fish...all this over fish...? What's the matter with you, I thought you were dying!"
       She looks in the sink again, then at me, at the fish in the sink, at me, grabs the fish as quick as the eye can blink, puts them both into the fish bowel, so easy, too easy I say to myself, how come I couldn’t?
        "Explain to me," she says, puffing from the ordeal of running up the basement stairs, examining the situation, "What is the emergency for all this screaming… (she hesitates) the fish?" she asks staring into my marble eyes—I’m frozen in time.  
       She of course knows it's the fish, and I overreacted, but I was never one for under-reacting, at least in those early days, I think she knew this, and simply asked for an explanation, not sure why, because she knew at this point what had taken place, perhaps to calm me down.
       "I couldn't get the fish in the bowl, I hit the bowl and the fish fell into the sink... and they were going to die!”  My breathing slowed, less oxygen to the brain vs. carbon dioxide released...!"      
       "Do you want me to have a heart attack?" she says to me now, with a civil, but serious voice: no more concern, no more anger, just a sigh of relief, and a time for cooling down.
       "Do not every call me up over goldfish again just make sure there is no next time, okay?” (I nodded my head in an agreeable, I was speechless.)
       “Now pick up the bowl,” she tells me, “and put it where it belongs!"
       "Yes," I confirmed, my tongue still a little tied up from the panic; now looking at my goldfish swimming around safely in my fish bowel, and my mother walking down the steps to the basement to finish her washing.

       Now if you good folks, who are reading this, are asking, “Was it worth it?” I’d have to say: yes, I think so—but I'd never tell my mother that, and I'm sorry I caused her to think the worse had taken placed. She was protective in her own way, and perhaps came to fight a whale, and found out it was a goldfish—she was that kind of person: if anything, she was spunky, but that is part of being a parent and I was a kid, learning, and she was a mother, teaching, that's how it works on this planet, called earth.

Written 9-2005; reedited, 3-2009, again in 2-2011, and once again 9-2016