The Mast-Head: Carnival Fish

    When the thought crossed my mind well before my family headed out to the Sag Harbor carnival last week to get a fishbowl ready, I should have acted on the impulse. Instead, we returned with a bag of three goldfish from one of the games of chance and had no place to put them.
    Chlorine-laced water from the tap does not really make a hospitable home for even this hardy breed. It was lucky, I suppose, that I had a small, unused tank and a bottle of water treatment from the pet store tucked away. So, before I went to bed, I set up what would be the fishes’ new habitat. Unfortunately, Evvy, who is 7, named each scaly new friend before she turned in.
    I fell asleep with the fish still in their plastic bag, though I had opened the top and clipped the bag to the side of the tank. In the morning there were but two. Actually, there were still three, but one was no longer moving. Into the trash it went. Evvy, used to fish mortality by this point, asked what had happened to Snoopy, or whatever its name had been, but was less upset than I had imagined she would be.
    At the carnival, kids and parents crowded around the goldfish game. The harried, ice-eyed guy who ran the booth looked ready to crack at any moment. He sold baskets of Ping-Pong balls for $5, which were to be tossed toward a low table covered with small-mouthed fishbowls.
    Winners took home fish in bags of two or three; there were plastic tanks available for a couple of dollars, and fish food. I wondered how many of the fish would survive until the next day.
    The odds are not good for carnival fish. We have seen them lost under a car seat never to be heard from again. Some, like Evvy’s short-kept Snoopy, perish quickly. Others, like the one that lived for several years and whose name I forget, are found on a bedroom floor and returned to their tank, but they never recover.
    Now, several days later, Evvy’s two remaining fish from the recent winnings seem to be doing well enough. Lisa, her mother, wants them moved from their spot near the cappuccino maker, however, something I will need to attend to. Time will tell how they do long term. If they don’t make it, there’s always next year’s basket of balls to be thrown.