Friday, January 8, 2010

Golden slumbers

One of the highlights of the year around here is the county fair. It's a small county, so the fair is small too. The midway is, of course, my boys' favorite part, especially the ping-pong ball toss game. You know it -- a table full of glass bowls, and you toss the ball to try and get it into the bowl. The prize is a goldfish, or sometimes a lizard, and you see kids and parents carrying little plastic bags around the fairgrounds with the hapless goldfish bouncing around inside. It's not a surprise that we've never had one survive longer than a day or two, even if we were very careful and had the game guy "hold" our fish for us until we were ready to go home. This has never been a bad thing, because I've never been a fan of plain old goldfish. I've had lots of fish, but always more exotic stuff, and every time we won a goldfish it was not exactly a great prize in my book -- just something else to feed and take care of. But because my younger son is a midway barker's dream and is a pretty crack hand at the ping-pong ball toss, we've had more than our share of fair goldfish. Finally, this summer, Nick won a goldfish at the midway, who we named Chaz, and who miraculously is still alive. Then at the fair this fall, we added two more, Rocket and Bob and they are also thriving. To be fair, he also won Patch, but he only lasted about a week. Still, a seventy-five percent survival rate is phenomenal when you've been zero-for-howevermany. We even went out and splurged for a real aquarium with a filter, since the fishbowl got too nasty too fast.

I live with lot of animals. I've learned to understand what they want most of the time -- when they need to go out, when they arere hungry, or want attention. The dogs and cats know when it's dinner time, and at bedtime they follow me to the bedroom and jockey for position. But the point is, they know; whether because it's dark outside, or from my actions, they have a cue that lets them know we're headed for the barn. But I have never had a non-mammal that did this, that knew when it was time for bed. Until I watched Chaz, Bob and Rocket last night.

I turned off most of the lights, except for their aquarium light, and worked at my desk for a while. When I went to turn off their light, this is where they were:

They were just sitting there, on the bottom. The two little catfish that share their tank were nearby, also just hanging out on the bottom (which is what they do most of the time, since they're catfish, but hey, they weren't moving around either). From left to right: Chaz, Bob (bright orange), and Rocket (white). Aren't they handsome? And then it occurred to me what they were doing.

They'd put themselves to bed.

They weren't moving, and didn't budge when I got up in their faces with the camera. I'd noticed that in the morning when I come out to turn on the lights and feed them, they're ususally in that corner near the bottom, but I'd never seen this before. And as I sit here typing this, I've been watching them swim around, but now it's 9:30 and getting near bedtime (we are an early-to-bed bunch for the most part), and they are in their corner again.

This just makes me smile. I'll never badmouth plain old goldfish again.

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