I fear that I should turn myself in to the SPCA, but I’m not sure: There may not be a precedent for what I have done.

Years ago, I grew tired of the struggle to stop mosquitos laying eggs in my cistern. I use this waterwhich comes off my roof into an aboveground, 1,700-gallon tankfor everything but drinking. The solution needed to be safe and clean, so I appealed to friends for help: How do you stop the mosquitoes without poisons or dunks?

After some truly bad ideas, someone suggested that I drop a goldfish into the cistern, sending one “upriver,” so to speak, to the big tank in the sky. Brilliant: Since I added some goldfish to my little yard pond several years ago, I hadn’t worried about mosquitos breeding in those waters. I feed the goldfish rarely, but they’ve grown and multiplied considerably on their larvae diet. They do well in the winter, too, even under ice.

So I scooped up the biggest one in a net and transferred him (or herI like my goldfish, but I’m no ichthyologist) into the cistern. The tank has two chambers with a hole between them, so water fills both simultaneously. The contents of the second chamber were out of sight entirely, and it was into this chamber that the fish immediately swished. Off into the deep dark depths it went, gone from sight. I even considered throwing in some company, but because I was unable to identify the fish’s sex, I decided to stick with one.

Three years have passed: I often peer into the tank, shining a flashlight in hopes of verifying the continued existence of the fish. If it isn’t there, where might it have gone? In through my shower nozzle, bit by bit? Into my dishwater, scale by scale? My boys and I have imagined that, if the fish is still in the cistern, it might be of monstrous size by now, forever unable to squeeze back through the hole and be rescued. Maybe he’s totally white by now. Or blind. Or stark raving mad, poised to go for the jugular the next time we open the screen lid.

My water doesn’t smell fishy. The mosquito larvae have vanished completely, so I believe he’s still in there. Did I do a good thing, all in all? I’ve reduced the mosquito threat, but is it cruelty to condemn this fish to a life alone in the dark? The only answer I can live with, since I can’t get this poor fish back out, is that I’ve been a vegetarian for 30 years nowsurely I have a cache of animal-kindness credits on my side.

Maybe that will hold some sway with the SPCA.

Judy Martell lives happily on her little homestead in retirement, finding ever more things to write about with her free time.