"Andrew," Karen said, looking at him over the top of her book, "did you know a goldfish will forget everything after just three seconds?"
Andrew looked up from his own book, the pages open to a colourful panorama of animals in a zoo. "No," he answered, and he glanced over to Goldfishie and Crystal Light the Second. They were swimming around in their bowl happily.
"That means they don't remember that I got them married," Karen sighed, turning back to her book.
Andrew got up and went to the fish bowl, resting his chin on the table and gazing mournfully in at the goldfish. They swam around, nudging the blue pebbles at the bottom of the bowl.
"Hi," he whispered. He watched them swimming for a while, wondering what they were thinking. He tried to think about what it would be like to only have a memory that lasted three seconds.
He counted, just to see how short the time really was.
One, hippo-lot-amus, two, hippo-lot-amus, three, hippo-lot-amus.
Goldfishie eyed him through the glass.
"Hi," Andrew whispered again. "Remember me?"
Goldfishie swam to the bottom of the bowl and started nudging pebbles again. Andrew listened to them click together.
He thought about everything that had happened morning, and then tried to imagine what it would be like to forget it all. He tried to forget what he'd had for breakfast (toast and juice); he tried to forget that it had been sunny when he woke up (even though it was raining now); he tried to forget that Charlie had promised to take him and David Michael for ice cream later (he was going to get strawberry).
Andrew dobbed his finger gently against the bowl, leaving a warm smudge. He thought it was sad that Goldfishie and Crystal Light the Second would forget about him as soon as he went back to his book. He thought it was sad that they couldn't remember their wedding, or what they had for breakfast every morning.
His thoughts were interrupted when Kristy came into the room and Karen started talking to her.
"Kristy," Karen said very seriously, "did you know goldfish only remember things for three seconds? Then they forget everything again."
"I didn't know that," Kristy answered. She knelt and started gathering up their books. "Come on, guys, I know it's raining, but you've got books and board games scattered from one end of the house to the other."
Andrew turned back to Goldfishie. "That's Kristy," he whispered. "Remember her?"
Kristy bundled a pile of books into Karen's lap. "Take these upstairs and put them back on your shelf, okay?" she asked.
Karen closed her book with a thoughtful expression. "How long can rats remember things, Kristy? Would Emily Junior remember meeting me?"
"I really don't know," Kristy answered. "I think rats are pretty brainy, Karen, so maybe..."
Karen clutched her books to her chest, looking pleased, and left the room. Andrew kept peering in at the goldfish.
Kristy sighed and blew her hair out of her face. "What's wrong, Andrew?"
"Nothing," he answered.
Kristy knelt beside him, peering in at the pair of goldfish swimming around the bowl. "Are you worried about Goldfishie and Crystal Light the Second?" she asked him after a moment.
Andrew dobbed his finger against the glass again. "No," he answered, though he wasn't really sure.
"Goldfish aren't like us," Kristy said. "They're quite happy to be forgetful. I mean, every time Goldfishie sees Crystal Light the Second again, he thinks he's made a new friend."
This cheered Andrew slightly. "I guess," he said.
"And they don't have to remember anything important, like names or phone numbers," Kristy said. "All they have to do is remember their way around, and you've never seen them looking lost in there, have you?"
"I guess not," Andrew replied, smiling at Kristy.
Kristy grinned at him. "Want a snack?" she asked.
"Ants on a log?" Andrew asked hopefully.
Kristy sighed. "Gee, I don't know if I can remember how to make ants on a log..."
Andrew smiled at her, because he knew Kristy was just playing a game. "I'll remind you," he said, and he glanced at Goldfishie one more time before he led the way into the kitchen.