Conversation with a Fish

Great fish stories abound, but Bill Barrell has a fish story of a different sort. It’s called “Conversation with a Fish” and it’s about those little goldfish you sometimes bring home from the pet store.

…. I built a small pond in the backyard garden of our house in Jersey City. Not a large pond,  just big enough to hold the few goldfish that we had in a bowl.  It was a small garden, but I had planted grapes and a fig tree and built a small charcoal pit. The pond was situated under a magnolia tree at the foot of the garden. I installed a small pump with the water running over a few rocks. It was a pleasure –  especially when we had dinner there on those warm summer nights.

Years went by and the goldfish grew quite large.

When we moved to Easton, PA, I took the goldfish with us. They did not want to leave. I can’t blame them. To return to a fishbowl life was no fun. But I couldn’t leave them in Jersey City as there was nobody to care for them. The filter had to be changed often or the water would become really murky.

I carted them off to Easton and installed them in my studio. The fish would glare at me, mad as hell that they had lost their pond. Things did not go well. I became sick and was not able to give them the attention they needed.

There were five fish in all and they had grown very large. One by one they started to die. When I was down to three, I called a friend who lived on the Delaware River and asked about putting them in the river. He said they would be gone in flash, eaten by other fish. 

 I kept them.

They had a big tank and it was tough to clean and change the water and me being sick at the time made it really difficult. I was down to one fish. Then he/she developed some kind of skin problem and no matter how often I changed the water and the filter, the goldfsh got sicker. One day I went to the studio and it was belly up. It was over.

I had bought those fish in a Woolworth’s store on Newark Avenue in Jersey City when they were little tiny things. They must have been ten years old when they died. It was a sad ending for them, but I figure they had a longer life than if some well meaning kid had bought them.

I have good memories of those goldfish. I remember sitting in the garden with them and feeling like I could converse with them. They were a part of the family.