Don Juan, Goldfish This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

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I don’t hate many things, but yogurt and fish are two exceptions. I’m still not crazy about yogurt, but fish are a bit different. The story of a hero comes from the short yet inspiring life of my goldfish, Don Juan.

The summer before my sister left for college, her friend decided to buy me fish to keep me company. She invited me to go with her to the pet store to pick out the perfect fish. Naturally, I searched for the cheapest, most healthy-looking ones. We spent two dollars and left with five goldfish.

As we put them in their tank at home, we made bets about which fish would live the longest. We both selected a vibrant and lively orange goldfish. I identified a sickly white one as the fish who would die first. Boy, was I proven wrong.

I wasn’t very good at taking care of fish. I didn’t know when or how much to feed them, and changing their water was a chore. The first fish died a day after its arrival. Surprisingly, it was not the sickly white one. Day by day, I lost a fish until only the white one remained. I figured it would only be a matter of time before he hit the toilet as well.

Months passed, and the white fish was still alive. I grew quite fond of him, looking forward to the times I would feed him or watch him swim in his bowl. I soon noticed, however, that he had some problems.

I would drop a few small flakes of food and watch as they rested on the water’s surface. Don Juan swam to the surface and began to eat … the water. I watched this for some time and came to the conclusion that my beloved fish had some type of eye problem. The only flakes he could see were the biggest ones that were only in brand-new packages of fish food. It took me a while to reach this conclusion, and at the same time, I decided that Don Juan had gone on a severe diet, some type of massive fast.

It finally hit me that I should go to the pet store and buy a new package of fish flakes to help my visually impaired friend. By rationing the large flakes and having Don Juan follow my finger across the water to smaller ones, his eating habits drastically improved.

When he was almost a year old, my fish and I experienced quite a traumatic adventure. Bringing him into the bathroom, I planned to transfer him back into his freshly cleaned bowl. Having performed this transfer many times, I had become an expert. I drained the dirty water until Don was left with just a little, then immediately shifted him into his humble abode. I hit him a bit too hard, propelling him into a nearby trash barrel.

Completely stunned and overcome with shock, I covered my flapping friend with a tissue, figuring he was close to death. I ran out of the bathroom, shaking. I returned his bowl to my room, thinking I would no longer need it.

My mother came home five minutes later. A frantic mess, I told her the story. “Is he still in the trash?” she asked, heading toward the bathroom. I couldn’t watch. I stayed far from the crime scene, praying my mother could revive Don.

I heard her shriek with excitement that he was still alive! I told her to put him in the bowl, forgetting I had put it back in my room. Using logical reasoning and quick action, my mother threw the fish into the toilet bowl. At this point, I ran to see my friend, but he had disappeared. How many places could a fish hide in a toilet?

With much luck, my mother located the missing fish and safely returned him to his bowl. I looked at his white body and fins. Blood spots lined his fins and gills. He resembled the Polish flag more than Flipper. I figured he’d die, suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Once again, he proved me wrong.

This accident brought us closer together. I took extra-special care of Don and even planned to get him a larger tank with fun fish decorations for Christmas. Unfortunately, my plans were altered.

I awoke for school one winter morning. Turning on the light to get dressed, a black spot on my white rug caught my attention. Bending to investigate, I realized it was Don Juan.

Once again, I was a mess. I ran downstairs, screaming for my dad. He made the trek to my room and identified the body. “Oh yeah, he’s cooked,” Dad said. I heard the toilet flush.

I told all my friends the horrifying story as soon as I got to school. They laughed and expressed their condolences. I brushed it off, but midway through the day it hit me: my fish, my friend, was dead.

An autopsy was never conducted. Suicide cannot be ruled out; the place on the rug where Don landed was quite some distance from his bowl. The bowl is also on the top shelf of a small bookcase. The fall alone may have killed him. No one knows exactly how long he flapped on the rug after suffering severe head trauma. My mom thinks the cat had some role in this mystery, but I can still picture Don’s body in my head and I am positive there were no claw marks. Also, the cat has never been very fond of seafood products.

My fish is a hero. He overcame adversity; it’s not easy being a white goldfish. He overcame visual difficulties and an eating disorder. He survived one brush with death. I do miss him; I’ve never gotten that much enjoyment out of 24 cents before or since. His death was quite a shock, as was his life. Don Juan might not have done much for others, but he broadened my appreciation for one thing I had previously scorned. I’m still working on yogurt.

This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.






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KatariClaireThis teenager is a 'regular' and has contributed a lot of work, comments and/or forum posts, and has received many votes and high ratings over a long period of time. said...
Jul. 6, 2012 at 2:05 pm
Cute! I loved this! I can't believe how much this reminds me of my  fish, Flibbles. Flibbles is small, 4 and a half years old, and much like your Don Juan (I love that you named him that), he's nearly blind. So I have to feed him exactly how you fed Don Juan. And I thought I was the only person on earth with a blind fish! I salute you and the late Don Juan! :) 
 
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