Originally posted 5/31/09
Last Wednesday Shep's sweet loving teacher sent an email that said this: "Dear moms - as an end of the year gift, and to coordinate with our ocean unit, I want to send all the boys home with a goldfish. Please let me know if you would prefer not to have one for some reason."
Who, me? Me prefer not to have one more living creature in this household to clean up after, feed and care for?
Oh, little goldfish, how I do not love thee, let me count the ways.
Images ran through my head of Shepherd in his classroom, watching all the other boys receive their fish, a solitary tear running down his face as his chin quivered - and debated whether or not to say no. But, as my goal in parenting is to avoid any of my own children starring in their own personal after school special, I bit my fingers. And sighed. And emailed all my friends instead, asking, what do I need for a goldfish?
Oh my word, the fish horror stories that filled my inbox! Stories of fish ending it all by flopping out of their bowls! Stories of gills turning black! Stories of preschoolers dumping a whole can of fish food in and killing all the gluttonous fish in the aquarium!
Oh wait, that last one, was not a story. It was a personal memory. The fish were my grandma's. She handled it very well.
I began to get less and less excited about the newest member-to-be of our family.
Friday, when I picked Shep up from his last day of school, he proudly held up the ziplock of water in which swum his pride and joy. "I got a fish, Momma! Look!"
"Awesome, Shep!" I feigned excitement. "So cool!" I faked some more. "What's his name?"
"How on earth did you come up with that name?" I asked.
"It's cool. I like it. That's how."
"Ahhhh, gotcha," said the woman who named her sons "Shepherd" and "Ingram".
In between protecting Buxton from his oooing and ahhing new aunts and uncle, I decided to wage a preemptive strike. I explained to them all that I had heard some sad stories about fish, that they often don't live very long, that if Buxton died in a week, we should not be too disappointed, because that's just how it goes with fish.
On the way home, Shepherd stated, "Momma, I want to take Buxton to church on Sunday."
"To church? Why?"
"So he can learn about Jesus. If he dies, I want him to be in Heaven with me. So he needs to come to church."
"That's very sweet, but you know," I explained, "he doesn't need to come to church to hear about Jesus. You can tell him about Jesus, Shep!"
Shep chuckled, shaking his head. "No way, naw. He needs to come to church."
Note to self: discuss evangelism with Shepherd. Evidently he doesn't know what it means to be a fisher of men, much less a fisher of fish.
So Buxton was welcomed into our family, and Shepherd showed him around his new home before leaving him in his room while I scrounged around for some kind of impromptu fish bowl.
A few minutes later, Shep left his Legos to check on his new pet.
Then I heard the screams.
"AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!! AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!! HE'S DEAD!!!!!!! BUXTON'S DEAD!!!!!!! AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!"
I raced upstairs to find, there on the hardwood landing, a very cold, very stiff Buxton, his little plastic starfish scattered about him, an empty ziplock tossed nearby! Surveying the crime scene, I interrogated the bystanders. "Who did this? Who dumped him out?"
"Not me!" Eva Rose cried. "Unnhhh," Ike grunted. And pointed. Because that's what Ike does most, he grunts. And points.
"I di it!" Maggie announced, with her speech delayed way of talking that makes her sound like she should be asking if you want a pedi with your mani. "I yet him ou!" she admitted. Proudly.
"YOU KILLLLLLLLLLLED HIM!!! MAGGIE IS A FISH KILLLLLLLLLER!!!!!!!!!! AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!"
"Maggie," I explained, "fish need water to live. They can't live unless they are in water. When you let him out, he died."
"Ohhhhh. He die? Ohhh. I sowwy Sheh," she patted him on the back. "You get nodder one."
Then Maggie put her hands up by her shoulders, and hopped around, her head bobbing, and said, "He go yike dis."
At which point I almost died on the same cursed hardwoods in trying to suppress my giggles.
Shep was still screaming and crying hysterically in my arms, Maggie was hopping her dying fish dance, Eva Rose was running up and down the hall, wailing in grief, and Ike was grunting and pointing. Something had to be done. I kissed Shep's tear stained cheeks, looked into his eyes, and said softly, "You wanna flush him in the toilet?"
A look of excitement instantly replaced the tears. "Okay!" He hopped up and cradled Buxton gently in his hands. "Bye, Buxton." He slid him in the toilet, his siblings echoing bye, Buxton, and Unnnnnh. Then he slapped his sister's hand away, "No, it's my fish, I get to flush him." Just like I knew he would.
And Buxton swirled out of lives.
"Momma, I want to go to the pet store and get another one, okay? Please?"
I exhaled. "Of course we will, honey."
"And this time I'm gonna put it WAY UP HIGH where NO BABIES can get him!"
And next time, I thought, I hope you give him the gospel immediately. Because fish, they just might not make it till Sunday.