Peter's flower hit the cycle bin as soon as the power pack failed, and as for the bear, let's just say that pink was never Sally's color.
But Martha fell in love with that silly little fish. She doted on it like old ladies used to dote on their cats before the Mammalian Emancipation Proclamation a few years back. She even named it.
Moby, the Great White Goldfish.
Except of course, there were only a couple of white splotches on the fish, and there wasn't anything particularly great about it, but Moby was its name and its name was Moby, can I get an Amen?
Well, I can't, but you know that already.
Martha found out everything she could about the proper care and feeding of goldfish, and set out to make the perfect home for Moby. She set up a fishbowl, filled it with pretty marbles and a plastic plant and fed him daily. She changed the water weekly, cleaned the bowl monthly, and made sure that he had everything he needed to thrive.
And he did for a while.
But during the summer service break from school, Martha came home from volunteering at the Honored Elders Release Effort to find Moby floating belly up in his bowl.
She was devastated, and called us all to come over for the funeral. Yeah, we knew it was an outlawed and superstitious ritual, but it was just a goldfish. Even if we were caught, who would care? Besides, we were teenagers, and rebellious in our youth. If a funeral for a fish was the worst act of rebellion we could come up with, well, our parents didn't have much to worry about did they? It wasn't as if we were actually going to pray or anything.
When we got over to Martha's, she led us into the bathroom, where the fishbowl lay poised on the counter, next to the open toilet. We didn't know what you actually did at a funeral, so we stood there awkwardly for a few moments, trying to be solemn for Martha, but it was pretty damn hard. I mean, it was just a fish, no big deal, right, except it was a big deal to Martha. We stood there, trying not to laugh, and eventually Martha decided that the silence had fulfilled its purpose, and she picked up the fishbowl, said, "Goodbye Moby," and dumped the bowl into the toilet.
The toilet flushed, the water swirled, and then it looked like Moby began to swim. I thought it was an illusion caused by the swirling waters, but he began to move against the current. He was swimming; he was alive! He jumped once, clearing the water, almost as if he was saying "I fooled you!" and then dove right into the center of the funnel and vanished down the drain.
The stunned silence lasted a few seconds and then Peter and I roared with laughter while Martha burst into tears. Sally glared at me and Peter, and went to give Martha a hug, but Martha pushed her aside and tried to reach her hand down into the toilet to find the fish. She was crying hysterically, we were laughing hysterically, and Sally was looking at us all like we'd lost our minds as Martha probed the toilet for Moby.
Martha pulled her arm out of the toilet and sat on the bathroom floor bawling like a baby. Peter and I got our laughter under control, and Sally again went to Martha, and hugged her, even the arm soaked in toilet water.
"Don't worry honey," Sally said, "Moby just wanted to be free, and now he is!"
Martha started bawling again. "No he's not!" she yelled. "He's trapped in the dark. We have a septic tank, remember?"
I'd like to say that Peter and I didn't start laughing again, but that would be a lie. We collapsed on the floor next to Martha and Sally and laughed ourselves silly until Martha's father came upstairs wanting to know what all the ruckus was. Martha explained and then asked her dad to dig up the septic tank to find her fish.
That didn't happen.
I don't know if Martha ever forgave her father for not rescuing Moby, but I do know that she never kept another pet after that, even legal ones.
As for me, as I sit here in the dark, I think about Moby a lot. Did the change in the water shock him out of whatever stupor he was in, or was something else going on? Does a goldfish have enough brains to plot an escape? Does a goldfish even have enough brains to know he's in prison? Did Moby feign his death to try and escape his prison? As he swam in the filthy water in pitch darkness, did he long for the bright clean water of his fishbowl? As he starved to death in the foul mess of the septic tank, did he miss the regular feedings and the care he was given by his jailer?
Or as he gasped his last foul breath, or bubbled his bubbles or whatever it is fish do when they die, was he happy he'd traded a comfortable prison for an uncomfortable one? Did he come to the realization that there's no such thing as freedom, only comfortable or uncomfortable cells?
Yeah, as I sit here in the dark, in a cell buried somewhere in the bowels of the Dissident Re-education Center, I think about Moby a lot. Was he a very smart fish, or a very stupid one?
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