Jay brought home a bunch of goldfish for his boy only to discover that their favorite hobby was dying off.
''The next time,'' he said, ''I'm using the toilet as a fish bowl. They can swim around in there as long as they live, and when they float, I'll push the handle. No fuss and no muss.''
It's probably the best idea yet in the continuing war between family pets and the family bathroom.
It's not that I hate pets. I've had quite an assortment myself, from dogs to snakes to cows and almost a skunk if Mom had let me.
Still, I think there are certain places where pets and their people should part, and the bathroom door is chief among those.
But if we can't keep Rover and Cuddles out, we might as well make use of the commode accommodations. If the fish are happy, so am I - as long as the neighbor doesn't mind me visiting several times a day.
Cat and dog owners I know insist on keeping lids shut in the bathroom so their pets slurp only from water bowls on the kitchen floor.
But Teresa said of her cats, ''I didn't care. It was fresh, clean water, and pretty cold. They loved it.''
And she never risked stepping into a water bowl while carrying a steaming pot of stew.
Then I remembered Jim and Bev, former neighbors who padlocked their bathroom door every time they left for work. Otherwise, their cats amused themselves all day long by flushing the toilet to watch the water swirl down. And the water bill swirled up.
The cats also learned how to turn the door knob, hence the padlock. One had to plan well in advance to use the facilities at their house.
Cats also have a tendency to grab a clawful of paper on the roll and scamper about the house. Kids TP the outsides of homes; cats vandalize the inside.
Dogs are more pragmatic. They just want to gulp without the entertainment. They might lick a goldfish or two, but they wouldn't flush them.
But it still disturbed me every time I'd throw back the shower curtain to see a dog staring up at me, either wondering why he couldn't have an indoor mud puddle, too, or smirking.
"You don't look so cute anymore yourself," I growled.
While we're at it, let's ban pets from the bedroom, too.
I don't need fingers nor face slurped while I'm slumbering. And once, it was an escaped guinea pig that awakened me from a deep sleep.
I became vaguely aware of the pitter-patter of little paws scurrying up my leg, over my belly and across my chest. When I felt whiskers that weren't my own tickling my chin, my eyes popped open to see another set of beady, black eyes behind a twitching nose. Mostly, I saw fur and teeth.
I still am not sure which of us landed first. The blanket fluttered to the floor first, I think. I'm guessing that the guinea pig's little paws let go of the ceiling before mine. My fingers and toes are longer and dug a decent grip into a crossbeam.
We both still were hanging on when my daughter rushed into the room and yelled, ''Daddy! Stop scaring Nutmeg!''
I hope we never get pet penguins. I never appreciated cats stealing my easy chair, but I think I'd like it less to open the fridge and find a tuxedoed bird finishing off my fish sandwich. That and I'd probably have to haul buckets of ice into the bathroom. The penguins would take over the tub.
Plus, I'd have to padlock the toilet. Otherwise, they'd eat our pet goldfish.
----- Pet Old Grouch Cole at firstname.lastname@example.org.