Constance’s father bought her a few fish. They were tiny 50-cent goldfish. I believe they were sold with the intention they would be food for larger fish. Eventually, they grew to over five inches. In cleaning out the house, I had to decide how to get rid of them.
I do not know if goldfish are aware of their mortality. I often think life would be a lot easier if people weren’t. Still, I presumed the goldfish would rather be alive than not, so flushing them seemed unconscionable. This mirrors the logic that turned me into a lifelong vegetarian when I reached adulthood. If you can live a healthy life without killing animals, why wouldn’t you? I definitely did not stop eating them because I thought they tasted bad. In fact, I spent much of the first month complaining about how much I missed eating meat. Now, I find that person annoying and not relatable.
I always presumed Constance would be a vegetarian too. When she was little, her food allergies limited her to such an extreme extent that I prepared meat for her to eat. She would pick up pieces of bacon like potato chips and happily pop them into her mouth while reading That’s Why We Don’t Eat Animals. As she grew out of those allergies, I put her back on a vegetarian diet. A year into eating vegetarian again, we went to the breakfast buffet at Lamb’s Farm Café. She helped herself to a towering plate of bacon and happily danced around, smiling, while eating it.
I call the pet store and said, “My daughter died. I’m selling our house. I don’t know what to do with her goldfish. I know you have a return policy but it was years ago and they’re really big now.” After a beat, the guy said, “We can get someone to adopt them, just bring them in tomorrow.”
The next day, I took the fish to the store. The sales associate asked, “Why are you returning these fish?” I can’t imagine being someone who would return 50-cent goldfish for the money. What do you expect from your goldfish that you didn’t get? More bubbles? Less eating of fish flakes?
“My daughter died of a brain tumor suddenly and these were her fish. I initially thought they would die but they just kept living and she didn’t so…I was told you could get someone to adopt them. Is that right?”
The sales associate looked as if I’d thrown the fish, water and all, in his face. He apologized for my loss, took the fish, put them into a fish tank of their own, and asked if there was anything else he could help with. I asked him some questions about dog behavior related to Constance’s dog, Otis, thanked him, and left.
I took the fish tank to Goodwill; I didn’t need it anymore. It had been sitting on a table that I mosaicked with the quote, “I am in the world to change the world.” No longer my primary framework, I donated that to Goodwill too.