(A "Debutante" Fishie)
October 1986 - April 1989
Copyright (c) 1999, Azar Attura
Moostache and her brother Bumblebee were two very cute but TINY goldfish, swimming in the big fish tank at the pet store. For 89 cents each, I brought them home from the pet store to live with me. Although I had been raising goldfish for 20 years (and many of them lived to be 5, 6, even 7 years old), when I saw Moostache, I was in awe of the reponsibility I had of raising her and keeping her alive. She was, at most -- 6 months old -- which is still a "baby" for a Goldfish, and incredibly tiny -- no bigger than the nail on my pinkie. As I watched her and her brother (Bumblebee, who was slightly bigger than her, and had stripes on his fishie-butt, hence his name) wriggling frantically and fearfully in their little plastic bag, I wanted nothing but the best for these little frightened fishes. I gently opened the bag and poured them and their water into a large (already filled with some de-chlorinated and aerated water) aerated fishbowl, adapted a small outside filter for it, and then made a screened cover for the top. They were safe from jumping out, and their tank was clean and aerated (goldfish need lots of oxygen), but the two little fishies were so scared, that for the next two days they tried very hard to burrow out of the rear of the bowl by perpetually wiggling their little noses on the glass. I fed them twice a day and talked soothingly to them. Soon they realized that I, the big shape with no gills, was the source of their food and their sweet-talk.
Bumblebee was brash and a little bigger than his sister. Moostache and the Bee soon began to wiggle over to greet me and "yell" at me in goldfish ("silent yapping" is more like it) for their food. Moostache reminded me of a chubby litle baby girl in a dainty little dress (her fantail), as she wriggled and impertinently "yapped" at me in goldfish language. Mom called her "The Debutante", because Moostache would yap, cheerfully toss her head and wiggle her fantail like a queen (see, they DO have personalities!). I was her loyal subject.
Moostache was female. How did I know?? Well, not to sound sexist, but she acted like a little dainty lady. And then as she grew older, I could tell - female goldfish have non-symmetrical butts. Male goldfish have symmetrical butts and sometimes get "tubercles" on their gills (looks like 5 O'clock shadow) and sometimes on the edges of their dorsal (front) fins. The Bee was a male fishie.
They were a unique pair. Sometimes I would get up in the middle of the night for a drink of water, or PB&J sandwich, and when I passed their fish bowl in the dim light of the hall light, two pairs of bright eyes would be staring up at me. Wonder if they got the munchies at 2 a.m. too???
She and the Bee got along well, but one day I introduced a sweet little Lioncap Oranda (fancy Goldfish) into her tank, whom I named Beauty. Goldfish, being social creatures (they travel in schools) like to hang out together. Beauty as no exception. She swam over to Moostache, who promptly put the equivalent of her fishie-nose into the air, and swam away. Poor Beauty was snubbed! After doing this several times, I guess Moostache felt she had maintained the pecking order, and the two of them co-existed peacefully. The Bee was always a "hail-felow-well-met" type of fish, so he got along with everybody.
One Fateful Day:
When Moostache matured and grew bigger, her ovaries (egg-sacs, whatever) deflated her swim bladder, and she began to have trouble swimming. She'd stagger over to me, just as happy as ever, and would continue to toss her head and yap for her food. But one day, as she tossed her little head, she fell over, righting herself just in time to avoid crashing to the floor of the tank. She even looked a little scared after that happened. Sadly, that was the last time she ever tossed her head at me. After several days, her swim bladders gave out altogether, and she would lie on her side on the floor of the tank (she was now living in a 5 gallon fish tank -- she was still quite small). By this time, I had removed the Bee and Beauty and put them to live with my other fishes, as, sadly, they were beginning to pick on Moostache, the weak member of their school.
A Very Brave Little Lady
Although Moostache was now doomed to a life at the bottom of the fishtank, she still maintained her cheerful demeanor. I kept her in the best of health, even though she was now crippled. My mom lost a great deal of mobility in her legs at the same time (Diabetes) -- she would drag herself over to the tank to see Moostache (she called her "the Kootchy Kootchy Fish") and Moostache would daintily drag herself over to greet Mom! I think they were very good for each other's morale.
I would medicate her with special aquarium medications for goldfish (or would use Golden Seal, which is a powerful natural antibiotic) when she sometimes got the equivalent of "bedsores" from lying on her side on the bottom of the tank. She would heal. I always kept her tank clean, and sometimes I would feed her (in addition to her regular food) a little bit of brownie, which I'd roll up in my fingers and drop in the water so it would fall right in front of her waiting mouth -- what a treat it was to her!
One night, I "heard" Moostache calling to me in my mind -- it was as though a little child was delightedly calling to its friend or its parent to say -- "Come here QUICK! and look at what I found!" I walked quickly to the tank, stomping a bit on the floor with my feet, because she had learned to recognize that those vibrations (which she could feel through the fish tank) meant that I was coming over to her. She had pulled herself to the front of the tank and waas looking at me sweetly (they DO have expressions on their faces!). I "stroked" her nose through the tank glass, and she seemed very happy. When I started to walk away, she tried to wiggle after me, as though she were pleading - "Stay a little while longer, please!", so I did. Then I had to do chores and I promised her I'd be back soon.
When I came back a few minutes later, I saw that she had turned to face the back of the tank..... She had died..........But she and I had said our final goodbyes -- she knew...I had no idea that she was dying..................I was so sad..........A bright light in a beautiful tiny body had been extinguished.
Tears were streaming down my face as I went to pick her up with the net. Her body, which had lost much of its color in death, suddenly became bright again -- was she still alive??? I left her there in the tank overnight. I didn't sleep much that night.
The next morning I went over to her tank. Her body was in the same position as I had left it the night before. Her colors were faded, her gills were still. Yes, she was dead. I picked her up with the net, and when I lifted her from the water, instead of dead fishie smell, I smelled a wonderful fragrance (which I later recognized as Oleander!) coming from her body. A "Sweet Odor of Goldfish Sanctity", perhaps??? I'm not making this up.
I wrapped her in lace, with some of her favorite red-flake fish food (to sustain her on her journey to the next world), wrapped this little "shroud" in tin foil, and then taped it all, so she would remain untouched by multi-legged things. I left home early, before work, and buried her under a wild cherry tree in (what I have now re-named) "Goldfish Park". This park is not too far from where I lived, and it held the little bodies of many of my fish pets (flush em?? NEVER!). It was a damp and muddy day. The lilacs were blooming and I put some over her tiny shroud before I covered her over and tamped the soil back into place (covering everything over with leaves.
I had to go back home to change my shoes, and when I entered the apartment and looked at her tank, there was such a sense of emptiness i my soul -- I felt such a great loss! Mom and I had lost a faithful friend. Her brother Bumblebee, lived to be 7 years old, and died from a tumor on his head. I treated him well to his dying day, and I am sure Moostache was very happy to see him once more.
"Only" a fish? No -- a wonderful living creature who gave and received joy. I hope that when Miss Moostache daintily swam through the Pearly Gates, that God would have been most pleased to place this plump little lady with gossamer fins on the golden flowing robes of His lap.