When Life Gets You Down - Eat Peas!
Updated: Aug 25
Based on a True Story
The following is a true story about Princess, the fish with nine lives. I'll wager that Princess is the only fantail goldfish in the world who comes with her own real-life adventure story!
Five years ago, I got a frantic phone call from my sons (who at the time were aged 8, 7, 7 and 5), "Mum! Mum! We've rescued a fish from a muddy puddle. Pleeease can we bring it home?"
“Sure,” I said. “Just stick it in a plastic bag and fill it with water.” All the while, I was thinking,
That fish will never live after a weekend tied up in a plastic bag!
On Sunday afternoon when my sons returned home, they excitedly held up a grey plastic shopping bag with a knot tied in the top and proudly exclaimed, “Here it is!"
I untied the bag expecting to find a floater, but miracle of miracles, there was a beautiful orange and white fantail goldfish looking all perky and very much alive!
My youngest said, "I think she was very sick because she was coughing up mud but she's much better now and she's not coughing anymore."
A Fishy Welcome
Then it was action stations to get the fish a house ... $70 later, we had a giant fishbowl with pebbles, plants and a clam shell.
I then had words with said fish,
“Listen up fish. You'd better not die on me after I’ve just spent a small fortune buying you your own little fish paradise!”
When I realised that the fish wasn't going to die on us, we began debating names. Little boys being little boys, came up with some pretty outrageous suggestions that included a long list of boy names.
I declared it to be a girl fish and that we needed to give it a girl name. There was strenuous opposition to it possibly being a girl and my sons wanted to know how I knew that. Naturally, I had no plausible answer since I’m no fish expert and sexing fish is not my forte. I said I would take her to the vet who could look her over and confirm whether she was a boy or a girl fish. I asked my sons what name they would call her if she turned out to be a girl and my youngest came up with Princess.
My three other sons agreed that this was a good name – if she turned out to be a girl.
Little did my sons know but I happened to be taking the dog for her annual vaccination that day. While at the vet, I told her the story of the fish and how, as a single mum, I was outnumbered in my house by boys and would she please write a vet certificate to certify that the fish was girl. The vet thought it was hysterical and gladly typed up and signed a certificate authenticating that the fish was indeed a female fish in good health!
I wish I had recorded my sons' faces when they saw that official veterinary certification that afternoon after school. So, Princess it was! My sons treated our rescue fish just like a princess, including giving her choices for breakfast. Every time she was offered food, she would point to which food she wanted, flakes or pellets. She preferred pellets!
Houston! We Have a Floater!
This continued for five lovely long years until one evening, just before bedtime, disaster struck. I found Princess floating in her bowl with only one fin twitching now and then, and her gills not moving at all. I told my four devastated sons that I would deal with her body so that she would be all sorted by the time they woke up in the morning. I couldn't bring myself to do anything while that fin was still twitching, so I resigned myself to waiting up until the twitching stopped. But I fell asleep! I woke in a panic at 4 am realising that I hadn't dealt with Princess. I shot up to find her motionless on top of the water.
As I went to scoop her out with the net, SHE FLIPPED OVER AND SWAM TO THE BOTTOM OF THE BOWL!
I then realised I would probably have to bite the bullet and euthanise her. I quickly jumped onto trusty old Google to find out the kindest way to do this when I had a moment of clarity and instead searched for reasons why she might be floating. Multiple sites suggested she had air in her tummy and that I should empty half the water from her bowl to reduce the water pressure and then hand-feed her a cooked pea without the husk on – a tiny bit at a time – with a toothpick. So, guess what I ended up doing at four o’clock in morning! Oh, the things we do to save our children from heartache!
What was supposed to be a fish burial quickly escalated into a fish medical rescue!
The whole time I was coaxing fish-bite-sized bits of pea into Princess' gaping mouth, I had more words with her, "Now Princess, please don't let my emergency veterinary skills at 4 am go to waste!"
I ended up shovelling in the whole pea and then wondered how I would explain to my sons why their dead fish had a mouthful of pea in the morning. I tried to stay awake to watch if my life-saving procedure had worked, so that if it hadn’t, I could still send Princess off to heaven in the white porcelain chariot. However, I was too tired and decided it was worth the risk to go to bed and explain my endeavours to my sons in the morning.
Lo and behold, the next morning, Princess was as upright and as perky as the first day I’d met her in her plastic bag! And that is how Princess, the fantail goldfish with nine lives, added another chapter to her adventurous life.
Of course, in the eyes of my four sons, I was able to add fish-lifesaver to my superhero status!
Just Keep Swimming!
This is such a great tale of perseverance, both from Princess and me! I never gave up on her and she never gave up the ghost. I couldn’t believe the gratitude I felt towards that little fish for sparing my sons the heartache. It was a whole year later when she did eventually pass – for real this time – but it was not as sad as it might have been without her exciting adventures to recount. It somehow made it okay for my sons, knowing that she’d had a full life.
I need to keep remembering this story as I venture on with my own authoring endeavours – not that I should shove in a mouthful of peas if I feel like I’m dying (chocolate works much better on me!) but that I should keep moving forward with my writing career. I will keep hanging in there during the tough writing days, when my muse has packed her bags and stormed out of house in a huff, or during the long days, waiting for my beta readers, editors, agents and publishers to get back to me.
A little perseverance and patience paid such dividends to the life of our little fish, so why not believe that the same principles, applied to my own life, can yield rewarding results for me too!
Another fabulous tale of perseverance and patience you should check out is the story of my guest blogger, Gail Gilmore, and her adventures of seeking and landing an amazing literary agent!
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