Max Banner

I used to live down the block from the pet store and one of the rabbits had it in for me. The damn rabbit almost got me thrown out of there, said I’d been “deliberately upsetting the animals” which was a complete lie. What really happened was the rabbit put a sign next to his carrots that said “free samples” and I hadn’t eaten that day. Entrapment.

Anyway, the owner negotiated a treaty where I’d stay out of the rabbit part of the store and the rabbit would stop blaming suspicious fires on me. So I spent a lot of time at the goldfish section which was more enjoyable and the police got called less. Plus, goldfish society is fascinating to watch. It’s like ant colonies, except ants define their social boundaries more strictly than goldfish. The lower-class ants don’t mingle with the queen unless there’s a photo op. Fish are more freewheeling and they’re more resistant to drowning.

Goldfish have their drawbacks. They’re not good parents, and they don’t see anything wrong with that. The only thing they want is the child tax credit. Once they get that, they’re not interested in their kids at all. I told the pet store owner about this and we set up a child care center for the young goldfish. He wanted to call it “Pre-school” – “a good fish joke, eh?” he said, but I kicked him in the knee and then it got named something else. The rabbit suggested “Jerk School” but it was obvious he wasn’t taking the fish child care center very seriously.

One thing we didn’t count on was that one of the fish was a delinquent and just wanted to mess with everybody. He would always turn his back during story hour, or swim away from the class so he could challenge the angel fish in the next tank to fights. We hired a social worker to straighten him out but she just started in on me and the owner about how fish preschool was a dumb idea and don’t either of us have anything better to do than fool around with goldfish. I explained it was child care, not preschool, and I dumped a barrel of fish food into her car but she wasn’t very student-centered so it didn’t make a difference.

So I pulled the troubled fish out of school and tutored him myself. Night and day we worked on penmanship, arithmetic and telling the difference between poo and food. But the day before the big standardized test, he played hooky and ended up in a tank with some Siamese fighting fish that were bullying everybody, and he became their little flunky. No more child care for him. No more arithmetic. No more anything. It’s only a matter of time before he starts running numbers for the rabbit.

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