Memoir: Three Steps on How to Care for a Dead Goldfish (Award Winner, Lee County Aspiring Author Contest)

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Memoir: Three Steps on How to Care for a Dead Goldfish (Award Winner, Lee County Aspiring Author Contest)

Myscha Dang-Harris

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I don’t remember much from my early childhood, especially given that I have short-term memory. Bits and pieces, major events, important people. Now, if there was one thing I remember the most vividly about my early childhood, it would be Garfield.

Not the cartoon cat, but my pet goldfish. Garfield lived in a small glass bowl in the corner of my room, next to my desk, by the window. I won Garfield in a ball toss at the Delaware State Fair.

“Name him Nemo,” my father had suggested.

So, of course, I named him Garfield. And he was the best pet I ever had.

Garfield died within twenty-nine days of receiving him.

It didn’t take me long to realize he was dead. But having a dead goldfish made it significantly harder to care for him. My father told me he was my responsibility, and so he never came into my bedroom to check on Garfield. It didn’t affect me that much, I didn’t want him in my room anyways, but it meant that I was on my own caring for a dead goldfish.

And this is how I figured out how to do so:

Step One: Feeding. Feeding a dead goldfish is a much messier and hands-on experience than when it is alive. Take fish food in one hand, and your goldfish in the other. Be careful when handling your fish. I accidentally ripped Garfield’s smaller fin off on my fourth try. It’s all trial and error. I didn’t have any fish food, but ground up dog food worked just fine. Try to hand feed him as much food as you can, he may need help trying to get it down. Dead goldfish tend to have trouble doing a lot of things on their own.

Step Two: Cleaning. It’s important to keep the tank clean. The dead fish smell will force you to clean often. Don’t worry, this is all normal. To help with this, you can wash the fish as well. You must be careful, as the fish gets more fragile and his bones become more brittle. I stole some of my mother’s shampoo, and started washing him. Some scales and flesh may fall off, but I made cute little clothes to hide the holes.

Step Three: Patience and Perseverance. Taking care of a dead goldfish takes hard work, dedication, and commitment. It takes a delicate touch, but also a hand that isn’t afraid to get messy. Maybe you can even create a profile for him. I made Garfield his own Instagram. The comments spewed nothing but hate, and about how it was animal cruelty. I turned the commenting feature off.

I saw nothing wrong with keeping Garfield. However, my father didn’t have the same vision as I. Dad kept grandma above the fireplace. There’s a shrine for my great aunt in the attic. So why can’t I keep a dead goldfish? As long as I took care of him myself, I shouldn’t need to let him go. Right?


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