With absolutely no forethought or conscious knowledge of wanting such a thing, I walked into a pet store in my neighbourhood, one I’d never really noticed before and happened to be passing, on my dawdle home and bought a goldfish. A goldfish! I feel that such a whimsical act is the result of having much spare time, no large or immediate financial worry and a persistent taste for adventure, large or small. In this case, small.
It was eighteen degrees, the warmest day so far that Spring, but even still I had decided against going for a run. At forty-nine years old and after twenty-five years of marathon running, I was finally and more than a little fed up with being a slave to warm weather. I had forever seen the Spring sunshine as my boorish big brother, telling me I had to take advantage of the good conditions and RUN! On that particular day I put my foot down. Once rather than repeatedly. And instead I had a glass of wine, I dilly-dallied down the street, and I walked into the pet store.
“Hello!” I said back. I smiled. I look around, absent-mindedly. The ubiquitous smell of wood chip, aquarium water and a hint of manure that pervades all pet stores was there, reliably and comfortably. When was the last time I had been in a pet store? I knew it must have been as a kid but I couldn’t come up with any particular memory.
“Can I help you find anything today?”
“Um…a low-maintenance, hard-to-kill, inexpensive pet…” I said distractedly, wondering if I had covered all the bases, and also making my mind up about what I wanted (or IF I wanted) as I went along. Come to think of it, if there was a Husband Store where I could make a similar request I would go there.
His eyes darted to the left suggestively. I followed his glance. I laughed. We were standing in front of a tank of goldfish.
“I’ll take one.”
He smiled. He had longish sandy brown hair that suggested being long overdue for a cut rather than that purposefully messy I-don’t-care look. He was a bit pale but had nice skin. Really nice. Creamy smooth, like he’d never had a pimple. He was tall, maybe six feet or just under. His teeth were a bit spacey but white and straight and I smiled back. His name tag read: “Peter.”
I walked down the street, happy with this quirky little turn of events in my evening, puffed water-filled plastic bag in hand. I felt proud and motherly. This little goldfish was going to be my PET. I thought about a name as I walked along. Thinking…thinking…pet store…Peter…PETUNIA! It was funny. It was a “P” thing.
I took Petunia home and filled the one glass vase I owned with water. I immersed the plastic bag in the water. I made a small snip in the top of the knotted-closed bag, about an inch wide. The pet store aquarium water began to slowly seep out and mix homogenously with the tap water. Soon Petunia darted out, too, in short, jagged swims that recognized her confined new home. In fact, her swimming looked panicked. I hoped she wasn’t feeling too claustrophobic. I immediately felt stressed and guilty. I need to get a proper fish bowl.
I’ll have to go back to the pet store.