fifty-two goldfish

Midori Orange Goldfish Paper  //  $5.50

(Wouldn’t this be so pretty wallpapering a hallway bathroom?)


When I was in elementary school, we would have an autumn carnival every year. There was a game that was a favorite of all the students but dreaded by the parents: the goldfish ping pong game. I’m sure it had an exciting, kid-friendly name but I just remember it by its utilitarian title. The basic idea was that they would fill up a bunch of clear, disposable punch cups with water and every few cups, in they would plop a small, feeder goldfish.


Looking back, I suppose the idea of the game was to teach kids hand-eye coordination. Or to give them a head start on their beer pong skills. I’m not really sure but either way, the goldfish to no goldfish ratio was so high that as long as you tried more than two or three times, you were bound to hit a goldfish cup at least once. Actually, I’m pretty sure that even if you didn’t hit a goldfish cup, after a few tries they would just give you one anyways in an effort to prevent any meltdowns from disappointed (if not uncoordinated) children.


The year I was in fourth or fifth grade, a lot of kids on our cul-de-sac wanted to play the goldfish game, but none of the parents wanted to keep the fish. Somehow our house became the official goldfish orphanage and in came bags and bags of defenseless little fish. Before I knew it, fifty-two goldfish inhabited a large, thirty gallon tank we had borrowed from some neighbors.


Slowly but surely they all died off. Feeder goldfish, at around 7¢ a pop (this was circa 1995, remember) are not meant to survive for very long. But I remember thinking that I was so blessed. Fifty-two goldfish. No one I knew had that many fish. No one I knew had fifty-two anything! Sometimes I look back and wonder how silly I was to think fifty-two goldfish were such a large treasure, $3.64 worth of glorified live bait. Now it just makes me laugh and makes me want to stock up on some of those poor little guys and give them a chance at a pardoned, albeit still brief life.


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