Mum rang to share her crisis last night. My sister Siobhan and her family went to Spain on vacation last week, are due back tomorrow, and left her in charge of my eight-year-old nephew's two goldfish. These goldfish are so beloved in my sister's household that one has already been taken to the vet a few months ago because it was swimming listlessly. This news of my sister's love for fish was all the more astonishing in that she would under no circumstances allow neither David (my other nephew) nor Ryan a puppy nor kitten when they wanted one on a number of occasions a few years ago. Dogs and cats were decreed disruptive of her home's tranquility, which I read to mean they shed far too much hair and thus much additional household vacuuming would be required. (My suspicions were confirmed subsequently when my mother remonstrated she was not prepared to look after any four-legged animal--they live beside one another--when my sister, her hubby and the kids went off to work and school respectively.
It now appears Mum has failed to look after a finned animal as well because one of the fish, Princess, the largest and sleekest to boot, has departed. And exacerbating the issue is the fact that my sister asked about the fish on a call last night. Apparantly, Mum noticed the now deceased fish was looking "a bit pale around the gills" a few weeks ago and, moreover, that it had developed some white spots around its mouth, but she said nothing to Siobhan and now wishes she had made her observation public...certainly before they left for Spain. Apparently, the tank has a submerged castle replete with an open door, mirrors and high turrets within and the fish has gone inside and cannot be coaxed out with neither pencil, fork nor my father's plump index finger.
"Are you sure it's dead, Mum?" I asked.
"Perhaps the pencil jabbings or Dad did it in?"
"That's not funny." She coughs.
"They normally go belly up."
"It can't. There's not enough room."
"What about the other fish?"
"I don't think it knows. They can't sense these things."
"No, what's it doing?"
"God, I hope it doesn't die, or if it plans to, that it'll wait until tomorrow evening."
The obvious answer--which I, of course, tendered promptly--is to go to a pet store and purchase another healthy fish of the same proportion (and my mother did admit there is one of similar size in another pet shop about two hours drive from her home). However, she feels very conflicted. She thinks it would be deceitful, and she should just tell them the truth on their return because it was not her fault. I said that would be tricky and asked whether she'd do it before they give her her gifts or after.
After a pregnant pause, she informed me that Dad was helping to decorate my brother Dermot's home, the home where I and my siblings had been raised, and complained his wife had had the kitchen cupboards removed on a whim, only to be told subsequently by a craftsman that she'd made a mistake because they were made of some of the best wood he'd ever seem.
"As if I'd have sub-par cabinets in any home I ever lived in, Damian," she said.
Now, my sister-in-law has decided she wants them put back again but a few of the doors have been damaged, which will cost her greatly to have them repaired. The vindication in Mum's voice sizzled through the phone line, and then it darkened again when she returned to her goldfish dilemma.
Anyway, tomorrow will tell which solution she opts for, though I suspect it'll involve a few toilet flushings and Dad being rapidly dispatched to the distant pet shop.
[technorati: goldfish, mothers, family, pets]