“And now for something completely different . . .”
Quirky One brought me to tears this week with the sad sad tale of her sorry fish (“al-oh-WISHes”) and its tragic (and seemingly long and drawn out) demise. I couldn’t help but suspect that the real tragedy here was NOT the loss of the one and only animal in her life, but the fact that some pet store guy was willing to sell her a fish in the first place. It’s just like when the cashier at the gardening center takes my money for some doomed houseplant. Anything to make a buck! Capitalism run amok! (Hey! That rhymed!)
I should probably admit here – in the spirit of full disclosure – that my track record with fish is also not a glowing one. Not that I ever personally owned a fish. No, but I did stay married to a man with a 10 year long aquarium habit, which, I guess, makes me an enabler. In those years we went through various permutations, starting with a reasonably sized tank housing some attractive fish. Unfortunately the Great Freeze of ’95 put an end to that phase. We returned from a week-long skiing vacation, only to discover that the heating oil had run out while we were away. The house was icy. All the fish were floating sideways on the surface of the very cold tank.
My husband was not daunted. He used the episode as his chance to upgrade and we finally ended up with a whopping 200 gallon tank which accounted for about 2/3rds of my living room and 1/3 of our electric bill. Inside were some very special exotic fish found otherwise only in one particular Lake Tangawimalayanaki (or something like that) somewhere in Africa. There was a particularly ugly one called “compressiceps” that just kept getting bigger and bigger until the day we came home and found him lying on the living room floor. His death was never officially declared a suicide, but I have my suspicions. The rest of the fish were all gray/black and not particularly interesting either in their form or behavior. I suggested we add some colorful guppies or gold fish to spice up our boring aquarium and my husband just scoffed. He said, “Sure! But we should probably give them names before we toss them in there. I’d suggest ‘Breakfast’, ‘Lunch’ or ‘Dinner’ – something like that.”
He then explained to me the some fascinating facts about our boring fish. They were not only predators, they were mouth-breeders, meaning the (female?) fish held the “youngins” in her mouth until . . . ??? . . . some point. (Can fish gag?) I tried to get into it all, but, honestly, how long can you sit and watch a puffy cheeked fish? Eventually, one of them spit her brood out before my eyes. One or two were quick enough to dart into a hiding place in a rock somewhere. The vast majority became breakfast, lunch or dinner.
I contemplated my electric bill. I redecorated my living room in my imagination.
As with many of my husband’s hobbies, this one started to lose its hold on his fascination over time. Eventually the huge tank was fishless. Then it was plantless. Then it was waterless. It continued to occupy my living room, but at least the electricity bill improved.
A year or so later, with the help of an Ebay-like internet site, it was removed permanently from our house – and that was the most amusing part of the whole thing for me. Two young guys showed up with a moving van and only enough money to cover half of the agreed price. We all stood there awkwardly and then my husband said okay. I added my okay, but only on the condition that they take ALL of the accessories and equipment along with the tank. They had trouble hiding their smiles at the great deal they just made. I had trouble hiding my smile about the fact that I would have paid them to remove all this crap from my living room.
All’s well that ends well.
But where did this all begin?
I assume Quirky One had a much easier time disposing of her small glass bowl and marble. My deepest apologies for making fun of her foray into pet ownership.