Most people go to a street fair and come home with potpourri. My son went to our local fair and came home with a new pet.
I won him, he declared, holding up a baggie with a pathetic looking goldfish in it.
What did the loser get? I asked, peering at the sad specimen of a fish.
My son ignored me. His name is Vladimir, he said adoringly. Can we keep him?
I sighed. Wed been down this trout stream before. We get a fish. We get the fish stuff. A week later, the fish is doing the backstroke and were hovering over the toilet giving the fish last rites and preparing for a burial at sea.
You know those things never last, I warned him.
No, Vladimir is hearty, he protested. Hell live to be a hundred.
Ten bucks hes sushi by Thursday, chimed in my daughter.
I glared at her. Nice.
Ultimately, I acquiesced. Not because I expected that Vladimir would surprise us with his longevity or because I thought caring for a fish would teach my kids some responsibility. It didnt work with our dog, lizard, or chinchilla, so I didnt think it would work with Vladimir the Wonder Fish, either.
No, I caved because we still had a fish tank and some food leftover from the last short-term aquatic resident. Besides, the fair was over, so now there was no giving Vlad back. We were on the hook, so to speak, and there was no way to worm out of it.
OK, fine, I said. He can stay. But you feed him. You change the water, if he lives that long, and if at any point I find a sorry looking goldfish in my sink or bathtub, youll both be in hot water!
So now we had another addition to the Beckerman Zoo. I did the math and realized that before Vlad, we people had the advantage there were four of us to three of them. But now the teams were tied which meant any day the animals could rise up and overthrow the ruling class and then it would be all kibble, all the time. Of course, Im not really convinced the fish could instigate an uprising, but the lizard would. Hed already escaped twice and sent two cleaning ladies packing. However, since I was fairly certain that Vlad was not going to be around long enough to tilt the balance of power anyway, I didnt give it too much thought.
My son, however, was sure that Vlad was going to follow him to the retirement community. The next day he went to the pet store and bought some pebbles, plants and other must-have fish tank accessories for the fashionable goldfish. Vladimir was now one cool sea dude. He was the Big Kahuna. The Kingfish. The Prince of Tides without the tides, of course.
Youre wasting your money, I said to my son.
Hell outlive us all, he responded.
I waited a day. A week. 2 weeks. But shockingly, Vlad shouldered on, or rather, floated and swam. Finally, I surrendered.
I guess hes staying, I said reluctantly. Ack, four pets! I cant handle it.
My son smiled. Come on, Mom. Lets get your mind off it. Wanna play cards?
What game? he asked.