True stories with a twist!
I didn’t want a fish. I don’t want a fish. Anything but another fish on this house. How many tanks do we have, thanks to my husband’s hobby? Two salt water tanks, two fresh water tanks and a koi pond outside.
Another fish was not my dream. But it was my friend’s big birthday, she loves animals, and I thought a small, unobtrusive tank with one colorful Siamese Fighting Fish would be a cheerful addition to her kitchen.
Her kitchen’s decor is overwhelmingly blue, so I bought a blue fish with long, diaphanous fins. This will look great in her kitchen, I thought.
But before I could present her with this sensationally thoughtful gift, she said to me,
“I am tired of taking care of everything, and as of this birthday I don’t want anything else to take care of.”
Not even a little blue fish, I wonder?
But her answer was clear. A fish would not make her birthday a happy one. So there I was, fish-sitting HER fish.
How long do Siamese Fighting Fish live? I wondered.
I named him Sparky, and set his tank in the center of the kitchen counter, surrounded by my white begonias and red kalanchoe. How patriotic; my kitchen is suddenly red, white and blue.
“OK, Sparky, dinner time,” I say, as I drop one pellet of food at a time into the water. Sparky zooms up to fetch his reward. He zeros in, flapping his little blue fins joyfully as he consumes his pellet.
Every morning I come into the kitchen and turn on the light on top of his tank.
“Good morning, Sparks,” I find myself saying, “How are you today?”
He zooms to the top, recognizing a human presence nearby, his little fish heart hoping that the human has a treat for him. His fins are working overtime. They resemble a car’s windshield wipers running at maximum speed.
When several months have passed I notice a change in Sparky’s behavior. Now when I drop a pellet of food into the tank he swims around pathetically trying to find it.
“It’s up here,” I say, reassuringly. I even tap the top of the tank cover, trying to help him locate the food.
It’s no use. Sparky is blind.
I didn’t want a fish, and now I have a special-needs fish.
I feel sad and sorry for such a harmless, innocent creature, who cannot find a pellet of food in a tank the size of a basketball.
He can no longer appreciate the landscape of his tank. The pretend palm tree goes without his appreciative glances, the pretend castle remains uninhabited by Sparky’s imaginary friends. The blue pebbles on the bottom no longer delight him.
Feeding time for Sparky is frustrating. I drop one piece of pink flake fish food at his nose. He seems to look right at it, but it slowly drifts away, down to the bottom of the tank. Try another piece. One single flake just to the left of him. He remains in one place, unmoving and unaware of the succulent snack gliding past him. Now two flakes sit at the bottom of the tank. Sometimes he snaps at food, but misses the piece. Down it floats.
Every piece of food on the bottom of the tank causes pollution in the water. That pollution translates into many more time consuming water changes. The water must be spilled out of the tank, tank walls scrubbed, plants and decorative structures cleaned. Then with fresh water with a few drops of “R.O. Right”, a chemical that puts minerals back into the water, the fish and fancy furnishings go back in.
My husband, fish fancier and hobbyist since boyhood, informs me that “Serious collectors euthanize fish requiring so much extra care.”
“Well, I could never do that,” I assure him.
“If you want me to do it just tell me.”
The time costing routine continues for a while, until one day I lose my patience and say, as I leave the house, “O.K.; do it. Just don’t do it while I’m home.”
He understands what I mean when I say “do it.”
Late that afternoon I return to an empty house which seems quieter than usual. Don’t be ridiculous. A Siamese fish doesn’t make any noise; why should the house seem quieter?
Yet the feeling remains. “Oh, he did it. Sparky is gone.” I sidle up to the tank and see nothing but a plastic palm tree and a little castle.
I never wanted this creature but I feel surprisingly sad.
My fish-experienced husband probably matter-of-factly swished a small aquarium net into the tank and swooped Sparky out. I imagine a splash of water and hear the sound of a toilet flushing. Sparky is forced through the sewer line and comes out right into a treatment plant.
“Oh no.” What a cruel end for a little creature whose only fault was losing his eyesite.
And it’s my fault. I wished this fate for him. What kind of human being am I?
As I stood near the tank a small blue fish waved its fins and swam up to the top.
Sparky is alright! Nobody swooped him out of the tank. Nobody threw him into the toilet bowl. Nobody sentenced him to ending his life in a treatment plant! The exuberance I feel makes my head pound and my heart sing.
There must be a way to feed him. I will figure it out. It just will take a little more time. I vow he will eat. He will survive. He is mine.