29 bagged live goldfish
4 large glass dishes
25 teeny tiny itsy bitsy little cups
6-9 ping pong balls
Without using any magic, transfer all goldfish to bowls and cups. Don’t get cocky when the bowls are easy, thereby covering yourself with fish water when you overflow the teeny tiny cup, leaving the goldfish thrashing in the bag. That one’s not living through the night.
Once 4 bowls and 6 cups have goldfish in them, give up on the transfer of said fish and fill remaining cups with water. Leave the fish in their baggies in the ice chest. This really confuses the kids. It’s a riot.
Forbid your children from taking any fish home, thereby ruining their incentive to play the game at all. 5 down, 30 to go.
Allow 30 kids to aim ping pong balls at cups of water and at cups of goldfish. Laugh when everyone wonders why the poor traumatized things die within 24 hours.
Spend the next hour fishing ping pong balls out of the sand, the grass, the garbage can, and fishy water.
When a child manages, after 73 tries, to get a ping pong ball into a cup with no fish, tell him he won a fish but you’re not giving it to him until the party is over so that it doesn’t cook in the 93 degree sun in it’s plastic basting bag. Because YUM! How good that would smell!
Listen to child run crying to mommy about the mean lady at the fishy game. “You know mom, that lady that smells like fish.” Because the fish water you spilled all over yourself earlier is now basting in the 93 degree sun.
At the end of the party, allow children to pick the “perfect” fish from the stock of nearly dead things in the cooler. Note: waving rank fishy hands in their faces speeds up the process immensely, giving the children incentive to choose in 10 minutes rather than 25.
After all fish have been well shaken and distributed, listen to kids complain to you that someone stole their fish. Try to care. It’s bad form to say, “You know it was going to die tonight anyway, right?”
Upon getting rid of all of the fish and loading everything into the car, notice your 11 year old daughter with a barely swimming lump in an inflated plastic bag. Threaten to flush it down the toilet. Listen to her whine and cry and beg and promise.
Compromise because there’s no way the fish is making it until November.
Wash you hands with bleach. Do the same with your clothes and everything remotely compromised by fish juice.
Halloween Carnival is over.