Fishy Tale - Part One

Several years ago, the wife decided a spot of yard just off our back patio would be perfect for a pond. Just  a small pond with a waterfall, water lilies and a few flowers around it. Knowing the work that would be in store for me, I voted against it. Unfortunately, I was outvoted 1 to 1. I'm still not sure how that works, but it always does. So off to the garden store she went while I stayed home digging a hole in my manicured yard. She returned with one of those black plastic tubs and all the other items we just had to have, including a few things I wasn't aware we had to have until she saw them in the store. Of course the little tub she went to get turned out to be bigger than the hole I had dug. Silly me. What was I thinking digging a hole just big enough to hold the tub we had agreed on. Since it was my fault the tub she brought back was bigger than the hole, I had to pay for my mistake by digging a hole around the first hole while she did all of the hard work of supervising to ensure I didn't screw up again.

After everything was set up and put in place, it actually was rather nice - the soothing sound of the water trickling down the rocks into the pond of Waterlilies. And with the rocks stacked just so around the lip of the plastic tub holding the water, it looked natural enough to fool the eyes.

Let's go back in time now; several months back in time to the day the wife and youngest daughter came home from a carnival where said daughter won a goldfish and brought it home in a plastic baggie. Since youngest daughter was only about 4 years old and had already become very attached to this fish, what was I to do after looking into those big, beautiful pleading eyes but head to the pet store to buy an appropriate home for her pet. Not knowing the first thing about keeping a fish indoors, I returned with an instruction manual, bowl, gravel, water purification, and what turned out to be about a two year supply of food. And, of course, another goldfish so the first one wouldn't be lonely. After carefully following directions, the two newest members of our family were happily swimming around.

Several days later, those nasty little swimmers were living in water so murky you could barely see them. After changing the water a little at a time over several weeks, I guess they gave up on being properly cared for and went to that big lake in the sky. Youngest daughter was devastated. A proper burial ensued. Shortly thereafter, a rather large fish tank was acquired at a garage sale. Off to the pet store Daddy did go. More gravel, a large filter, a heater, aquarium plants, a glass cleaning cloth, a net, a sucker fish and 6 neons returned. Youngest daughter was happy again. At least until a few weeks later when the neons started dying off one by one. Evidently the sucker fish and the last remaining neon had a suicide pact as they both gave up the ghost on the same day.

I was ready to pack it in. I was tired of the tank cleaning, the dying fish and the constant hum of the filter. And the cost of that "free" fish was higher and higher. But no, youngest daughter wanted more fish and this time she wanted a goldfish like the first one. Two came home from the pet store where I was now being called by my first name by all the sales associates as I walked in the door. Youngest daughter was happy and named them Goldie and something else I can't remember.

And this brings us back to the pond. Shortly after the pond was in place, the filter in the fish tank quit. The tank was dirty yet again, and had developed a slow leak. I was not spending any more money on a damn fish and was not at all inclined to clean another fish tank. In a moment of pure genius, I managed to convince youngest daughter that Goldie and that other fish would like it better in the new pond. Neither of them were looking very healthy and I figured they would only last a couple of days, but into the pond they went and into the trash that leaking aquarium went. I was right about the one with the forgettable name. A couple of days later I came home from work to find him floating belly up. Not wanting to go through youngest daughter's accusations that the move into the pond killed her fish, I made another quick trip to the pet store and procured another goldfish which, to my eyes, looked just like the dead one. Youngest daughter wasn't exactly fooled as the next time she looked, she commented that the forgotten name one looks different. "Well, maybe he looks different because he's getting healthy and growing," I replied. Sweet, innocent, trusting child she is, she bought it. I felt guilty. Very guilty. Just not guilty enough to fess up and tell her the truth.

Well surprise, surprise, those two fish seemed to thrive in that pond. Goldie got her bright gold color back and enthusiastically swam around. The stand-in fish did fine. But then that winter, there came a freeze and the pond froze over for several days. After the thaw, I steeled myself for youngest daughter's anguished cries and went out to get the now dead fish. But they weren't dead! I found them at the bottom of the pond, moving very slowly as I'm sure they were half froze, but still very alive. And alive they stayed for several years. They got bigger and survived several winters with no heater. When the pond got low on water in the heat and drought of the summer months, I just put more water in straight from the outside hose. No water purification, no filter, no cleaning, just the water lilies and the algae that grew on a couple of rocks at the bottom and the occasional pinches of fish flake food when we remembered. Pets that don't take much effort are my kind of pets. I started kind of liking Goldie and what's his name.

And then one afternoon I came home and there were no fish in the pond.
(To be continued)