The Goldfish Farm
By Candy Shue
We count the goldfish, my father and I, scooping up the flashing bits of orange light in our gauzy green nets. I pour my pouch of wriggling flesh into the silver bowl of a vegetable scale my father bought at the local grocery store.
“One thousand small goldfish weigh two pounds,” my father says, handing me a plastic bag squirming with fins and tails and perfectly round dark eyes. “Plus eight pounds for a gallon of water.”
I wrap the mouth of the bag around the metal nozzle of the oxygen tank and press down on the handle, inflating the bag instantly, its transparent skin pulled taut. Then I twist the open end shut and tie it off with a rubber band, creating a balloon filled with fish. We pack bags of ice in between the fish balloons so they won’t overheat on the way to the pet store.
My father shows me how to break up the carpets of red tubifex worms with a metal rake so they won’t strangle each other and die before we can sell them to feed to the red velvet wrasses and the blue-lined trigger fish. “These worms keep the colors of the fish bright and shiny,” he says. His voice slips by me like the darting lights in the bags, the shimmering tangerine fragments in the holding tanks.
Every afternoon, I turn on the fans that blow air into the water of the hundreds of fish waiting to be packed and shipped out, but they keep swimming down to the bottom, huddling together in the corners, even though it means that they will eventually drown.
Candy Shue's work has appeared in Washington Square Review, Pif Online, The Booksmith Reader, Paragraph and other publications. She lives in San Francisco.
Photo "Little Red Fish" courtesy of Studio Cocopeli, Marseille, France.
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