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The Mysterious Disappearance of Goldie the Goldfish

In which the accused seeks to solve a crime, despite being a cat.

By J. Otis HaasPublished 4 months ago 12 min read

Considering the supposed peculiarities of their limited memories, one must imagine that no goldfish could ever understand the importance its species holds in our culture. These little, gilded creatures have taught generations of children lessons about the fragility of life and finality of death. When little Eve came home from her friend’s seventh birthday party with a goldfish in a bowl, every member of her family, even Bobby, suspected that such an education would soon unfold.

Having been placed in a pickle jar and hung around Eve’s neck with a leather thong wrapped around the glass to travel to school for show-and-tell the following Monday, “Goldie” became the girl’s near-constant companion, accompanying her on errands with Mom and even to Neighborhood Nature Club, which cleaned up litter along the banks of the stream which ran through the nearby park, all the while learning about local wildlife. He was also the source of several arguments, such as when he was not allowed to go with Eve to her swimming lessons or ballet recital.

On the day of Goldie’s disappearance, the family had gone to the beach, leaving the fish in his bowl in Eve’s bedroom, much to the little girl’s chagrin. After they had left, Bobby had spent the lazy Saturday morning curled up on the foot of The Parents’ bed, but had moved downstairs in the mid-afternoon to doze on the couch in the center of a sunbeam that blasted through the open skylight in the high-ceilinged living room. By the time The Family arrived home at 4 o’clock Bobby’s jet black fur was hot to the touch. They sounded like they were in a good mood, and Bobby thought he could likely coax one of them into giving him some deli turkey, his favorite food.

Goldfish may be unaware of the function they play in the lives of humans, but cats are fully conscious of their role as rulers of all they survey, and Bobby did his best to treat his subjects with compassion, despite their limitations. He was dreaming of The Sphinx when the mudroom door slamming open announced the return of The Family, awakening him. The construction of The Sphinx remained a sore-subject among felines, who consider the statue’s completion with a man’s head to be a great insult to their species, though they are mature enough to understand that the whole situation arose from humanity’s jealousy of cats’ perfection, and that imitation is a sincere form of flattery.

The older sister, Dawn, dashed through the house and thundered up the stairs, offering a casual “Hi, Bobby” as she passed the couch. The Parents entered next, with armfuls of bags and coolers. Eve came in last, dropped her wet towel by the washing machine, and ran upstairs without offering Bobby so much as a glance. Seconds later, an ear-piercing shriek cut through the house, and everyone present, including Bobby, assumed that Goldie had taught his inevitable lesson about life and death. They were right, but not in the way they imagined.

Bobby hopped down off the couch, stretched, and followed The Parents upstairs. Entering Eve’s bedroom, he found the sobbing child clinging to her father’s legs. Instead of a goldfish floating on the surface of the water, he saw that the bowl was empty. Everyone assembled turned to him. “Bobby, how could you?” asked The Mom. The sleek, black cat suddenly realized he had been accused of a crime he did not commit.

For the rest of the day, Bobby found himself persona-non-grata. Eve, in particular, gazed at him with loathing in her eyes, and when he waited by his bowl at dinner time The Mom said he probably didn’t need to eat, as he was full of fish. She even poured his little bowl of always-available crunchies back into the bag. Bobby went to bed hungry that night. As he stewed before falling asleep, he resigned to bringing the true culprit to justice, though for the life of him, he could not imagine what had happened to Goldie.

The following morning, after a breakfast of crunchies, but no wet food, Bobby meowed to be let outside. He trotted past the big oak tree next to the house, made his way through the garden, hopped on top of the fence, and jumped down into the neighbor’s yard. Approaching the house, he pushed his head through the dog door and called for Winston. Bobby heard the clicking of claws on tile accompanied by the pug’s labored breathing as Winston came around the corner.

“Hello, Gat,” said Winston. Bobby was always unsure which of the pug’s eyes to meet, as they pointed in different directions.

“Have you seen Angel in my yard,” asked Bobby, eschewing formalities. Angel was a cat who lived in the neighborhood and Bobby’s prime suspect in the disappearance of Goldie.

“I haff not been going in the yard! Beeg bird is out there,” said Winston. Bobby grimaced. The previous spring the neighbors across the street had hosted a Sesame Street themed party for their young son, and the sight of the costumed characters had done something to Winston’s brain. He’d gone from being a generally nervous wreck to being positively terrified of going outside.

“Winston, that was a long time ago,” replied Bobby, dismissively.

“No!” ejaculated Winston, “Beeg Bird come and sit on the fence and lick his beak. He vant to eat poor Vinston.”

Bobby realized he wasn’t going to get anywhere with the damn pug, but what did he expect? Winston’s one brain cell was working overtime. Of all the inferior species he was forced to interact with, none were as frustrating as dogs. Their obsequience annoyed him as much as their dirtiness disgusted him, but it was the extent of their domestication that truly rankled him. Embarrassingly eager to please the humans, but still driven by base instincts, everything about dogs sat bothered Bobby. Winston’s breath always smelled like poop, and everyone knew why. Bobby turned and left without saying goodbye.

Winston stuck his head out of the dog door and called out as Bobby made his way off the porch. “Hey, Gat! Vatch out for Beeg Bird!”

Bobby made his way down the sidewalk and then crossed the street into the park, which had a mowed field with a gazebo, but most of which was made up of trails through a rather thick wood with a stream running through the middle. It was a haven for local birdwatchers, and the presence of cats in the park had created a not-insignificant amount of controversy among bird-lovers and local cat-owners. One cat, in particular, had become a symbol of the conflict.

Angel was a white cat whose owner let him roam free. An incredibly skilled hunter, Angel loved nothing more than the taste of blood, but also relished in proving his superiority by leaving his kills in conspicuous places. Able to massacre hundreds of rodents and dozens of birds in a day, Angel was dismayed by the fact that he lived in a time when his skills went not just unappreciated but were often punished.

At first, Angel wore a bell on his collar, then many bells, but it was not enough. These days he was only allowed outside outfitted with a jangly, multicolored collar that stuck out around his head, making him look like a frilled gecko. Despite these indignities, he persevered. Angel loved the park, where he could terrorize not just rodents and birds, but squirrels, rabbits, and even challenge larger foes. Bobby made his way to the edge of the field, to where he knew the foxes lived. He scampered up a tree and cried a mournful cat call to announce his presence.

While he waited, Bobby thought about how he both admired and pitied wild things. He envied their freedom, jealous of how their only responsibility was to survive. They didn’t have the burden of overseeing and guiding human civilization according to a covenant that had been in place for thousands of years, since cats had graciously bestowed the gift of agriculture during a time people regarded as “prehistory” but which all felines remember.

Suddenly there were two foxes at the base of the tree, looking up at Bobby with annoyance. “Have you seen Angel?” he asked.

The foxes regarded Bobby carefully before one of them spoke, saying, “If you mean that clown cat, we have thankfully not seen him recently. He is wasteful, like many of your kind, just as your human masters are.”

Bobby snorted, disappointed with the answer. He swished his tail, annoyed with the creature’s insolence. Then the other fox offered a warning in an ominous tone, saying, “You should be careful, Black Cat, nature is returning to these woods.”

As Bobby made his way out of the park, a screech from deep within the woods, from the direction of the stream, made him flatten to the ground in fear. He paused, listening to the sudden silence of the forest, before continuing on his way to Angel’s house, unsure of what sort of thing had made such a terrible sound.

Bobby found Angel sunning himself on his back porch, outfitted in his full regalia. The white cat stood and stretched, jingling his bells as the black cat approached. The natural tension between them filled the summer air as Bobby neared. “I know what you did,” he said. “I just don’t know how you got out of the house afterwards.”

Angel stared at Bobby with his icy blue eyes. “What isssss it you think I have done, Housssssecat?” he asked.

“You broke in and ate the fish,” replied Bobby, accusatorily. Angel blinked and said nothing. “Admit it,” said Bobby.

“Oh Housecat, you are ssssssooooo lazy and unobservant, you cannot even see what is happening around you.”

“What do you mean by that?” asked Bobby, who was certain he was missing something, but unsure of what.

“I have not been out much asssss of late,” replied Angel, “It is hard to hunt asssss encumbered as I am, especially when there are other predators around.”

“What do you mean by that?” asked Bobby, annoyed with himself for sounding repetitive.

“Sssssssometimessss I watch you ssssssleep,” said Angel, “I watch you from that window in your roof, so fat and lazy and sssssleepy. I could drop down and kill you before you even woke up, Housecat.”

Bobby narrowed his eyes at the white cat and snorted a goodbye. Disappointed in his fruitless investigation, he plodded back home, feeling like he had wasted the day, suspecting that there would be no wet food for dinner. While he was eager to solve the baffling mystery of what had happened to Goldie, he was more concerned with the idea that The Family would never see him in quite the same way again. This fear was confirmed when he arrived home and began meowing at the door to be let in. Eve approached, and he saw the pickle jar around her neck, with something golden flashing inside. “I’m not letting you in so you can eat Goldie 2,” she said softly on the other side of the glass, but loud enough for his keen cat ears to hear. Then she walked away, leaving him outside. Bobby felt betrayed, but at the same time, he understood.

Rather than wait by the door, Bobby had an idea thanks to Angel. He scampered up the big oak tree in the yard, made his way across one of its branches, and leapt onto the roof of the house. He padded across the shingles until he stood by the open skylight. Bobby looked down at the couch from a great height, thinking about Angel observing his defenseless, sleeping form below when a shadow passed over him, making him shudder with sudden fear. Just then, he noticed a large feather stuck to the edge of the skylight. He batted it free with his paw and tried to imagine what kind of bird it must have come from. Whatever it was, it was huge.

Bobby was trying to muster the courage to leap down onto the couch when a great rustling noise behind him broke his concentration. He turned to see the largest bird he had ever seen alighting on the roof next to him. It was the same kind of bird he had seen on beer commercials and advertisements for used car lots. The talons gripping the shingles looked sharp enough to easily pierce flesh, and its beak was a fearsome weapon. Spreading its wings, to Bobby the bird seemed to be the size of an adult human.

“Get out of my way, Cat, I’m going to eat that new fish,” said the bald eagle.

Suddenly Bobby understood. “You followed her here from the park, didn’t you?” he asked the eagle. The bird laughed with a screeching cackle and nodded. Bobby lowered his eyes and moved away from the opening in the roof. The bird hopped closer and looked down into the house. Without warning, Bobby leapt at the eagle and sent them both tumbling through the skylight.

Feathers and fur flew as they crashed into the couch. Bobby was too entangled with the bird to land on his feet, but he twisted so the eagle took the brunt of the fall. There was a moment of silence after they both hit the couch, then the eagle shrieked with rage. Bobby shot like a bullet under the low coffee table where the bird couldn’t easily get him, and screeched like the devil was chasing him.

Dazed, the eagle looked around just as the whole family entered the living room. Spotting Eve, the bird spread its wings and flapped into the air, then drove itself at the pickle jar around the little girl’s neck. Bobby dashed from his spot under the table, and launched himself at the eagle, landing on its back and sending them both crashing into the wall next to Eve. Everyone present was screaming, screeching, or shrieking.

Suddenly Dawn was there, waving a broom like a warhammer and yelling for her mom to get the door. She batted the bird to the ground and swept it into the kitchen, through the mudroom, and finally outside. The Mom slammed the door as The Dad closed the skylight.

Afterwards, the family discussed what they believed had happened while Bobby waited under the coffee table. They realized the bird must’ve seen Eve at Neighborhood Nature Club and followed her home because of Goldie. They couldn’t quite seem to figure out how Bobby had been in the right place at the right time to prevent a second fish murder, but once he deemed their tone towards him to be apologetic enough, he emerged to get pet and let them tell him how proud they were of him. That night Bobby slept on Eve’s bed with a bellyful of deli turkey.


In Loving Memory of Angel, Terror of the Neighborhood


About the Creator

J. Otis Haas

Space Case

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  • Gerard DiLeo4 months ago

    Great to be the first to like this.

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