I believe that rituals are sometimes a necessary thing.
Our family went through a period of several years when my son Joe had pet fish. He had a pair of goldfish named Tango and Uniform. One morning, I found Uniform floating and, in Joe’s absence, flushed him down the toilet. Joe was upset with me because I didn’t give Uniform a decent burial .
The day that Tango met his Maker, Joe was at home and insisted that he must bury Tango himself. I offered to help, but my son, who had a tendency even then toward the melodramatic, declined my participation and said he wanted to do it alone. He took the little corpse out behind our house and buried it in one of the horseshoe pits.
When Joe came back in the kitchen, I asked him how things had gone, and he said, “Well, I spoke over Tango’s grave.”
I replied, valiantly struggling to keep a straight face, “What words did you say?”
He answered, ” I said, “Go with God, my son.”
I’m certain that even God Himself was chuckling over Joe’s reply, as I gravely intoned, “Good job, honey.”
I believe in moving on. The replacement for Tango and Uniform was a Beta fighting fish.
We were advised to have only one, because
when kept in pairs, they will battle each other to the death. Joe named this one Vito, after Vito Corleone in “The Godfather”. Vito, alas, lived only a few months before he took the sad journey to the horseshoe pit, and he now sleeps with the fishes for all eternity.
I believe in hospitality. The next fish who lived at our house were a pair of goldfish named Lennon and McCartney. (The fact that these fish belonged to Joe did not seem to make him feel that there was any incongruity in my being expected to clean the fishbowl, but that is another story.)
Lennon and McCartney thrived for well over a year. When our friend Mike took a temporary FAA assignment here in Anchorage, we invited him to move in with us until he finished the assignment . Mike’s two boys had never kept pet fish, a fact that clearly manifested itself one morning when no one else was home. Mike thought the fish looked hungry and dumped about six weeks’ worth of fish food into the bowl.
Joe and I returned home that evening to two more dead Beatles.
Joe resignedly hauled the carcasses out to the horseshoe pit for ceremonious interrment. That mournful event concluded our term as adoptive fish parents.
The one thing about this series of events that continues to haunt me is that surely some fine summer afternoon when we’re out back playing horseshoes, someone will throw a double ringer, and all the little fish skeletons will pop out of the pit in grim parody of Dio de los Muertos dancers, and remind us of all that we have lost.
If you enjoyed this essay, please consider making a tax-deductible contribution to This I Believe, Inc.