I brought my goldfish back from the brink of death. I’ve had the little fish, Gatsby, for a year and a half now. He has lived through tremendous neglect. Despite my inability to take care of him, he’s a survivor—to be fair the bastard did kill off most of his competitors—but he’s a survivor, nonetheless.
I left him alone for a weekend.
When I came back Gatsby was floating like a feather kept adrift by swaying air currents. The water had evaporated some, and I hadn’t fed him in a few days, but he had endured far worse. I couldn’t believe the fish-killing asshole would fall ill because of two days of inattention. I saw his body once capable of cleaning the skin clean off an aquatic frog, fading.
My Gatsby was fading.
I rushed to the bathroom where I kept all my various fish-maintaining supplies. I filled a bottomless movie-theatre popcorn bowl with water and dumped it into his tank. As the water disrupted the flow of the filter, Gatsby was flung about. He barely made an effort to re-orient himself after the disturbance. I rushed to get the medicine that would supposedly get rid of any fungus or bacteria.
After I had done all that I could, I watched him lay like a crooked comma on the seafloor.
I went to my desk to finish up the homework I had put off over the weekend. I thought of Gatsby the whole time. I occasionally went back to look at him; each time I returned he hadn’t moved. I concluded that he was dead—but I wouldn’t admit it fully to myself until all my work was done.
When I shut my laptop for the night, I went to the bathroom to grab the small blue net I had used to scoop the once fearsome body from his home. He couldn’t put up a fight this time.
I brought him to the toilet. I had always wanted to hold him in my hands to feel his muscles flex in my palm—the muscles that propelled him so swiftly and gracefully through the water.
As he lay motionless against my skin—his muscles no longer powerful but puny—I thought of everything we had endured together.
When I was depressed in my dorm room bed, Gatsby was living. When I was crying at my desk, Gatsby was living. When my room went to shit, Gatsby was living. When I wished I could sleep forever, Gatsby was living.
Now he was dead.
As I bent down to place him in the toilet, I saw his rock-hard gills moving. I googled if dead goldfish gills spasmed after death like a dead human whose muscles contract postmortem. Google told me he was still alive still. I rushed to put him back in his tank, and once his body sunk to the bottom, I googled how on earth I could keep him alive. It told me to wipe his scales and to make sure his gills weren’t glued shut. I took him in my hand once more and felt at his body. His gills were in fact sealed; I pried them up with my fingernail. They cracked open. Once I released him, he gasped. He was still tipping around, but I saw him breathe.
Overjoyed I went to bed, resolved to cure this stupid fish.
I went to the pet store that morning and bought fifty dollars’ worth of medicine for my thirty-two-cent goldfish. Now his survival was out of my hands. All I could do for Gatsby was pray—and LORD knows I don’t do that often.
Three days later his health declined again. Bent and broken, he was gone. The little bastard
fooled me one last time. I put him in my freezer for a couple of days so I could give him a proper send-off. After crafting him a boat, I took him to my parents' pond to give him a Viking's funeral. I read him his obituary, lit the boat on fire, and pushed it from shore.
It immediately capsized.
I scooped him from the water and tossed him into the depth of the pond. He slowly sunk down, his little orange body lingering at the surface for as long as it could.
The last thing I wrote to Gatsby, and what I will leave you with is this:
As he journeys into deep oblivion, may Gatsby know he was wildly loved. I'll see you wherever I do, I don't know if they let bastards into heaven.