I made a new friend and he is dying.
The friend in question is a certain Laszlo St. James. Miraculously, my sister won him yesterday at the Great Allentown Fair from a game stand that combined the business ethics of Enron with the budget of your childhood lemonade stand. Before you file any human trafficking charges, I should specify that Laszlo is a goldfish. A very special goldfish.
Why, you ask? It is true that my family has cared for several pet fish in our time, each purchased from an actual store, and not a dirty trailer peddling fried dough. But Laszlo is a carnival fish. That baggie he came in might as well have been a bodybag. When Pink Floyd wrote, “We’re just two lost souls swimming in a fish bowl, year after year,” they obviously had no idea how brief goldfish lifespans are. My guess is that the guys from Pink Floyd were swimming in a different kind of bowl, if you know what I mean.
We are doing our best to make Mr. St. James comfortable. In lieu of a proper fishbowl, Laszlo resides on the kitchen counter inside an old glass golf trophy, living out his final days as the winner he was always meant to be. Our purpose is clear–we feed him breadcrumbs and affectionately tap on his wall. I’ve even starting referring to the kitchen as “fish hospice,” with the hope that one day our food preparation area will be filled with dozens of dying fish.
I considered bringing in a priest to give him his final rites, but the whole idea seems redundant. When you spend your entire life in water, you’re bound to be baptized at some point, if only accidentally. Come to think of it, that’s probably why the logo for Christianity is a fish.
For now, all I can do is keep Laszlo’s worries at bay as he finds peace. In the wee hours of the morning, a throaty whisper drew me toward his trophy bowl.
“Helen, is that you?”
“No, Laszlo. It’s me. Dan.”
“Right. I’m sorry. [cough]. You know, I’m starting to think I’ll never make it to the South of France.”
“Don’t worry, Laszlo. We’re there right now.”
“Ah, good….is that you, Helen?”
“Yes, it’s Helen.”
And I’ll be Helen for however long it takes.