When Goldy died, I got Goldy 2.
Followed by Goldy 3.
And then Goldy 4.
And the suffixed numbers in their name were pronounced. If someone asked my fish's name I would tell them, "Goldy Three."
After Goldy 4 my next fish was Neptune. He was also a goldfish. Maybe it was a break of the Goldy Curse but I had Neptune so long and he go so big I called and donated him to the Pittsburgh Zoo. He needed a bigger habitat than I could provide. As an adult, this story seems far-fetched. I was 10. I had a goldfish I thought was outgrowing it's aquarium so I called the zoo. And with my altruistic heart, donated my .89 cent fish to the zoo. What a philanthropist!
When we moved back to Idaho Falls, this past Thanksgiving, I took the boys over to see my neighbor Lee. He and his wife are also from da Burgh and live right behind us. In his basement he had 3 huge 'UGE aquariums. The big 55 gallon monsters. The boys were mezza-merized. The next day Lee called and said he was gonna give the boys one of his aquariums for Christmas if I was okay with it. Psht. Hell Yeah! Lee kept his fish and we got one gorgeous tank. In time (after the proper bacteria had accumulated) we got three little fish of our own. I named mine Ari Gold, Ken named him Gilligan, and Kole was at a loss on what to name his. I started naming some names he liked; "Gordon," "Thomas," "Scotty," "Koley," "Charlie," "Tony,"
At which point Kole yelled, "Yeah! PONY!"
So Tony became Pony and we had our fish named.
Now little Pony had some birth defects. He looked like a hunchback goldfish. His poor fin was stunted and he looked like he'd been picked on a lot. I felt bad for Pony. There goes that over-sized heart again. I did my best to treat Pony well...nay. I did my best to treat Pony way better than the other fish.
Which, I mean, is hard to do with fish.
But I'd put in extra food in where he was swimming and... well... that's it.
Come on. What other ways are there?
I did always tell Kole and Joey to be nice to him and not talk about his funny fin.
He was our fish. And we were happy to have him. And we loved him no matter what.
I really felt good to have Pony safe in our tank.
Where no other fish could pick on him.
Or call him mean Fish Names behind his dorsal. Or post rumors on their Fish Facebook pages. Or unkindly mimic his crooked swimming.
He was safe from all the bullying in my tank. Under my aquatic maternal wing.
Things were calm under the water.
But then one day, at dinner time, I noticed Pony chasing Ari and Gil away from the food. He'd just swim real fast by them and kinda surprise them so they'd swim away.
I was shocked!
"Pony! Be nice to them!"
Which probably sounded like "OOOnnnnnnN! Ooouu gauoouuu mmmm!"
You know. *clears throat* Under water sounds weird.
I tapped on the glass by him as a warning. You know. I'm in charge, Pony. You listen up!
Needless to say my disciplining had no effect WHATsoever!
Pony just kept pestering the other fish. And not just at breakfast and dinner. He was bullying them for pleasure.
The drilling is Ken working on our shelving- but it kinda fits the scene. Does it not?When I discussed the issue with Ken- he was completely flippant.
"They're fish, babe."
"Yes. They are. And one fish is mistreating the other fish."
He didn't seem all too bothered by it. Where's your heart, man!
I stayed up thinking about Pony:
He was probably bullied at some point in his life.
He looks weird. He swims funny. I bet he's been made fun of.
He's probably had a hard time making friends. He's just passing it on. He doesn't know any better. This is how bullies are.
Maybe he comes from a single-parent home. Maybe he's missed out on loving relationships.
Maybe he's suffering from depression or anxiety. Maybe he misses the big tank at the pet store.
Maybe he views himself negatively and just needs steady positive reinforcement.
At this point I started dreaming up my business cards:
Patty Poulsen, PhD
For 3 days I watched Pony bully my other two fish.
I watched Ari and Gilligan try to make themselves shrink and swim in smaller and smaller circles.
No amount of glass tapping and above-to-underwater scolding was reaching this dang fish!
One morning. I woke up. And Gil and Ari were hiding in the plant while Pony swam circles around them occasionally nosediving at them.
That was it! I could justify his behavior...NO MORE!
I got a Mason jar. Filled it up. And scooped Pony into it.
"You're in Solitary Confinement today, Mister! That's right The SHU! Get used to it, Meanie!"
My next step was obvious.
Call the pet store.
They told me their policy for aquatic animals was 14 days for full refund.
So, after the kids went to bed, and after a full day in The Box for Pony I toted him back to Petco.
Their first question after realizing he wasn't dead was "Is he sick?"
I explained he was perfectly healthy and that he was just mean.
The two men just stared at me.
"What?," I said.
"You are returning him... because... he's mean?"
"Yeah." (I was not getting their surprise.) "He's a bully. And he's terrorizing my other fish and I don't want him in my aquarium. He's too mean."
They just kept staring at me. Mouths a-dropped.
So I continued, "Your return policy stipulates 14 days. I'm under that mark. I no longer want this aggressive fish. I am returning him. I have my receipt."
At which time I handed over Pony. In the jar. With my receipt.
And you bet your butt I got my dollar sixty-five back. Psht. I also told the pet store people they should let prospective buyers know about Pony's past. But I think they quit listening after they handed me my change and dumped Pony back in the tank with 35 other one-inch goldfish.
A few days later, after Ari and Gil felt comfortable swimming in the open water again we got 3 more fish to complete our aquarium.
And, thank heaven, they all seem to be getting along swimmingly.