When our boys were young they won a pair of goldfish from some festival.
I come from a long line of goldfish assassins–no one on either side of my family had managed to do anything with fish except saute, fry or grill them– but I was determined that these goldfish would live their full length of days and die of nothing more severe than old age.
Attached to the Baggie which provided temporary housing for the fish was a card with directions for care and feeding. My husband and I followed them diligently, aware that two fragile lives depended on two humans with fish-killing in their genetic makeup.
The card emphasized that we shouldn’t under or over feed them.
And insisted on clean water. Clean, clean clean. Before letting it sit to room temperature
we needed to boil all impurities out of our unwholesome, foul tap water. You know, the stuff with which we hydrated our children.
We did a great job. Mutt and Jeff (or whatever we called them) were up to the ripe old age of two weeks. The were sleek because we didn’t overfeed them, but nothing to suggest emaciation. Through their sparkling water we could view them and they could watch us. Life was good on both sides of the goldfish bowl.
We had a long weekend away. We trusted a neighbor to feed Mutt and Jeff but not to change the water. We returned late at night. My husband hauled in 3 drowsy boys and luggage for 5 and I attended to the fish. I boiled the water and put it in a jug on the counter to cool faster, then went to clean cracker crumbs from the minivan and push a toothbrush across the teeth of my sleeping sons.
My husband called me into the kitchen. He pointed at a jubilant Mutt and Jeff, cavorting wildly in their fresh, clean water.
“Look honey. They must really like that pure water!”
I was just going to grab my camera when we noticed a change in Mutt, or possibly Jeff. He (possibly she) did a final loop-de-loop, flipped onto his (or her) back and floated gently to the surface. The remaining fish followed suit. Where seconds earlier my husband and I had been enjoying the antics of healthy, highly motivated goldfish, we were how looking at a deathbed.
No, we were looking at the scene of a murder. I stuck my finger in to try to prod Mutt and Jeff back alive, pulled it out immediately and stared accusingly at my husband. The chief executioner.
“This water is boiling hot!”
He stared back at me. Assistant executioner.
“But you never put the water in the jug till it’s cooled!”
Now we know. Fish do not engage in aerobic exercise unless they are being boiled alive. We thought you should know too.