Wineka: Fun Boy, 14, drowns in his sleep

Published 12:00 am Monday, April 18, 2011

Returning home from a solo weekend in Washington, D.C., my wife, Lindsay, called me at work Sunday night with a question:
“Did you feed Fish this morning?”
Yes, I had.
“Well, you fed a dead Fish,” she said.
Fish — technically, his real name was Fun Boy — was listless (and dead) in the back corner of the tank near the filter.
Under intense interrogation by my wife, I recalled that Fun Boy had not risen toward the top of the tank that morning when I dropped in some food pellets. But I figured he was sleeping, even when there was no response from my tapping on the glass close to where he was lounging.
I neglected to tell her, but he hadn’t swum toward the top to snag his food on Saturday, either.
So Fun Boy was dead.
Dead, fan-tailed goldfish aren’t usually worth mentioning, I guess, except Fun Boy — purchased at Walmart for 28 cents — was 14 years old.
In store-bought goldfish years, he was probably 377.
“We can’t complain,” Lindsay said, doing the math.
Not counting the food, three aquariums, some landscape items for his tank and the electricity to run his filter, Fun Boy had cost us 2 cents a year.
He was actually one of two fish Lindsay had purchased and brought to my office in a plastic bag from Walmart one day — there must have been a sale.
I can’t even remember the occasion, but she insisted that the fish hang out with me in the newsroom. I think I named them “Fun Boys” in weird tribute to the “Fun Girls,” who made a famous appearance on “The Andy Griffith Show.”
Within a week, one of the Fun Boys died, leaving Fun Boy (singular). I figured he also was not long for this world but he kept living — and growing.
Soon he was too big for the one-gallon tank. He then outgrew its two-gallon replacement.
Within a couple of years, I had a 10-gallon aquarium on my desk with several layers of rocks on the bottom, a fake plant and a little tunnel for Fun Boy to swim through.
Except to feed him, I didn’t pay much attention to Fun Boy, except when our darkroom technician, Junior Austin, rolled up in his wheelchair to see how he was doing. Fun Boy fascinated Junior, and we’d joke about setting him free some day into High Rock Lake.
But you can only watch and/or talk about a goldfish so long before you have to get back to work.
When I was gone from the office for extended periods, I delegated Fish’s feeding to Junior or some trustworthy reporter, which was hard to find.
“Just a pinch,” I would say in explaining the measure of food Fun Boy should have.
I eventually tired of cleaning Fun Boy’s tank at work and moved him home, where Lindsay took charge of his feeding and cleaning. For some reason, she refused to call him Fun Boy and settled instead on “Fish.”
For years, his 10-gallon tank held down a corner of our kitchen counter under the cabinet and next to a craftsy wooden cutout that said, “Never Enough Thyme.”
Lindsay nursed Fish through several close calls, including the dreaded ick disease, whatever that is. She relied once on a salt-water bath to bring him back to health when he seemed close to dying.
I often wondered what his perspective was like from inside that tank. Was he getting a magnified version of our family going through the transitions of high school, college and girlfriends?
What did he really think of the recent addition of cats, Jerry and Elaine, to the household?
Lindsay refused to flush the dead Fun Boy down the toilet or feed him to the cats. Those were my ideas.
The next day she placed Fun Boy in a white envelope and buried him outside next to our dog Flash. She set a rock on top of the loose dirt.
She told me later what she had scribbled on the envelope.
“Lord,” it said, “he was a good fish.”
Definitely worth the 28 cents.
Contact Mark Wineka at 704-797-4263, or mwineka@