July 16, 2022
Long before the Dollar General Corporation became a household name, the acronym, DG, became well-known in my childhood home.
A carnival came to the local elementary school grounds during my sixth-grade year. My young friends and I rode the Ferris wheel and the Tilt-a-Whirl, ate cotton candy, and shot air guns at a moving line of swimming plastic waterfowl.
Apparently, my ducks were all in a row. That evening I walked home with a plastic sandwich bag containing one scrawny goldfish. My mother looked at me sideways when I showed it to her.
“What are you going to do with THAT?”
“Oh Mom, I won it. If you give me something to put it in, I promise I’ll take care of it.”
She sighed and opened the hard-to-reach cupboard above the refrigerator, pulling out a clear glass bowl, just the right size for our new boarder. She filled it with tap water.
“Go get that big bag of marbles from your bedroom and dump it into this bowl. We’ll pick up some fish food at the store tomorrow.”
I did as she told me, then plunked the fish from the plastic bag into its new tiny aquarium. It swam around contentedly.
Mom just shook her head, and muttered, “Dumb goldfish.”
The name stuck, and we eventually shortened it to DG.
I tried to keep my word about taking care of it. Every day I’d sprinkle some fish food into the water and watch as DG gobbled it eagerly. Before long, I didn’t think it looked quite as scrawny. I fashioned a screen to set over the top of the bowl to keep Scooter, the cat, from getting too close. But cleaning the bowl didn’t appeal to me much, so sometimes the water became increasingly cloudy until Mom nagged me to clean it.
Cleaning the bowl involved dipping DG out of the water with a net and placing him temporarily into another container of water, then pouring the contents of the fishbowl into a strainer so the dirty water ran off. Easy enough, but then I had to scrub the slime off the marbles—yuck! I really should have done that more often, because DG always seemed happy when I put him back in with clean water and marbles.
Mom must have got tired of nagging me about it. One day I walked into the kitchen and caught her standing over the sink as she took a cleaning shortcut with the fishbowl. She tipped the bowl to get rid of about half of the water, then ran clean water directly into it without removing either DG or the marbles.
I saw poor DG swimming frantically to stay away from the incoming stream from the faucet. Oblivious to me, Mom tipped the bowl more and more to get as much of the murky water out as she could.
“Whoops!” Mom suddenly righted the bowl as DG sailed over its rim into the sink—and straight down the garbage disposal.
I shrieked, “Mom!!!”
With her hand down the disposal, Mom looked at me sheepishly. “My fingers are too big. I can feel DG wiggling, but I can’t get hold of him.”
“Let me try.” I put my hand into the black hole and felt sharp blades, some sort of nut or bolt, and finally, my fish. My fingers curled around it.
Relieved, I dropped him back into his bowl, which Mom had finished filling with clean water. We looked at each other for a moment, then we both broke into uncontrollable laughter.
“This,” my mother said as she gasped for air, “is a perfect example of do as I say, not as I do.”
After that I got a lot better about doing my own fishbowl cleaning. But one day when I came home from school, I looked into the fishbowl and saw DG floating, belly up.
“Mom!” I called loudly enough to bring her running in from the kitchen.
She somberly stared at the floater, then looked at me, then sighed.
She picked up the bowl and I followed her into the bathroom. She unceremoniously dumped the fish into the toilet and flushed it.
“Nothing lasts forever,” she said. “Now go clean your marbles and put them back in the bag.”