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Dead in the water

Suzanna Pratt | Friday, September 16, 2011

I may be a peace studies major, but my history with goldfish is nothing short of a bloody massacre tainting my otherwise virtuous college career.

The unintentional slaughter started freshman year when I discovered that Meijer sells goldfish for 19 cents. This meant every time I went to buy laundry detergent or shampoo, I bought a goldfish. Or four.

The first two fish were named Theseus and Ariadne, and they perished when they drove five hours to Illinois with my then-roommate who babysat them over Christmas break. She brought me back a new fishbowl as a consolation prize, but we aren’t roommates anymore.

The next fish was a so-called “fancy” goldfish that cost a whole $5. He was silver with a red spot and large, creepy black eyes. I named him Sushi and he lived for about a month. When he died, I fished him off the bottom of the fishbowl and flushed him away to a watery grave in the sewer. And then I bought more goldfish.

The next two victims were Jonah and Ben. Jonah stuck it out for a few days until he too, decided that he just didn’t want to stay alive any more. I returned from class to find him floating belly-up in the fishbowl. I didn’t even bother with the toilet; Jonah went straight to the trash can.

Ben persevered the rest of the semester and halfway through the summer. He croaked midway through July, traumatizing my cousins who agreed to fish-sit.

I bought four fish to kick off sophomore year. They were named BOB Time, Giant Swing, Satsuma and Making Friends. I lied to myself and everyone else in the world when I promised the fish would live.

BOB Time and Making Friends expired within a week, leaving Satsuma and Giant Swing all alone in the fishbowl. I did everything I could to encourage them to stay alive. I bought fluorescent purple aquarium rocks and a Buddha statue to make life in the fishbowl that much more exciting. I changed their water and fed them religiously. They had a fantastic life swimming in circles, eating green and red fish flakes.

Then one morning, calamity struck. The fishbowl leaked water onto the coffee table, so like a caring, attentive fish owner. I decided to put the fish in a different container. I lifted the fishbowl and it exploded. Half the bowl stuck to the table, and the rest shattered in my hands, cascading water, glass and day-glo purple rocks all over the carpet.

My roommate catapulted out of bed and we got to work. We peeled the two surviving fish off the drenched carpet, scraped up tiny bits of aquarium rocks, turned out couch on its side, pulled up the carpet and mopped up water, all at 8:30 in the morning. The fish, rug-burned and abused, survived.

Satsuma and Giant Swing lived in wine glasses until one inevitably died. I bribed the survivor into surviving by buying it a glass vase from the thrift store. But the vase was cracked, and it slowly leaked water into my dresser and the fish suffocated in an empty glass coffin.

I didn’t even bother naming the next three fish. They lived in an empty wine bottle and died like clockwork. After that, I gave up.

Two years and a dozen dead fish later, my room is bereft of aquatic pets. Clearly, it’s time to go back to Meijer.

The views expressed in the Inside Column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.

Contact Suzanna Pratt at spratt2@nd.edu