Sunday, June 26, 2005
Fish Tales


“Oh shit!” I leapt forward, frantically trying to stop the fall of the Excedrin bottle before it –-THUD!

Too late.

My husband looked up from the kitchen table where he was talking on the phone. “Hon? You alright?”

I fished the wet Exedrin bottle out and peered into the blue mug worriedly. I was changing the water in the giant vase I use as an aquarium and had scooped our beta fish into a little mug until I could treat the water. Only I couldn’t find the stupid bottle of Start Right.

Instead I had found the Exedrin.

“Oh my god, Rich. I think I killed the fish,” I told him in a panic. “I knocked him out with the Exedrin bottle. He’s not moving!”

I poked my finger in the water. The little guy halfheartedly swished a fin, and I breathed a sigh of relief. “Wait. I think he’s okay. He’s sort of trying to swim now.”

Rich laughed. “You probably just gave the poor thing a headache, but with all the migraine medicine in there he’ll be fine.”

“Very funny,” I said with dignity.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . .

I love betas--they have to be the hardest fish in the world to kill. Several years back my children woke me up early one morning, screaming at the top of their lungs.

“MOM!” Both children were shaking me frantically, grabbing my arms and trying to pull me out of bed. “Mom, he’s DEAD!”

These are not words that any mother particularly wants to hear—particularly at seven in the morning. I leapt out of bed and grabbed my robe, belting it around my waist as I followed them running down the hall.

“Who’s dead? What happened?” I kept asking, beginning to get a bit panicked.

The children skidded to a halt and pointed at the fish bowl on the kitchen table. Somehow it had sprung a leak during the night and the little beta lay brown, shriveled and dried up on the gravel.

Tears streamed down Brian’s face. “He’s KILT!!” he said sobbing.

Amber yanked at my sleeve. “Mom—DO something!” Her voice cracked and she began to cry. “PLEASE! He’s DEAD!”

Two miserable little faces looked up at me as if I could somehow fix this terrible thing. I simply couldn’t take it.

“He CAN’T be dead!” I told them determinedly.

Grabbing a cereal bowl I filled it with tap water and dumped the dead fish into it. Maybe I could trick them into thinking it was just asleep, and then I could replace him with a look-alike later that afternoon.

The children stared into the bowl, then up at me in astonishment.

“He’s alive!” Amber exclaimed excitedly.

Brian’s jaw dropped. “Whoa!”

Perfect. It worked, I thought to myself.

And then I saw it.

Something was moving in the bowl. The fish was definitely alive. I don’t know how or why, but the little bugger had made it.

The children were completely awestruck. Over the next week they were so well-behaved that they started to really get on my nerves. If you think misbehaving children are bad, try being around children who are determined to be angels. It's downright unnatural. Amber finally admitted to me that because I had the kind of power that could raise the dead, they were a little worried about pissing me off by being naughty.

Eventually I was able to convince them that the fish managed his revival act all by himself, and we nicknamed him “Lazarus” in honor of his great comeback.

. . . . . . . . . . . . .

Back to the current fish that I concussed with the Excedrin bottle. . .

My daughter picked this one out at Walmart when we first came to California about a year ago. Amber spent almost fifteen minutes rejecting all the brilliantly colored red, blue, green and gold betas because, of course, she wanted to choose the one she thought would have the hardest time finding a home. Even at 21, she still has that Charlie Brown Christmas Tree complex.

She handed me the container, and I inspected it doubtfully. “He looks a little sickly and sort of transparent. Wouldn’t you rather have a pretty blue one?” I looked longingly towards a purplish blue one with red fins that sat on the shelf nearby.

My daughter lifted her chin stubbornly. “No. I want this one. Nobody will buy him because he’s not as showy as the others. But he’s tough, aren’t you buddy?”

I cleared my throat. “He’s PINK, Amber! How tough can he be?”

“He IS tough, aren’t you Spike?”

“Spike?!” I repeated in disbelief. “You’re kidding, right?”

“Nope.”

“Oh come on! It makes him sound like a gay biker fish.”

“Well it’s a heck of a lot better than what you named our last one!” Amber looked at me pointedly.

“It was a perfectly good Irish name,” I replied defensively.

“Fillet O’Fish?” Amber shook her head. “It’s wrong mom. It’s just wrong.”

. . . . . . . . . . . . . .

Anyway, I finally did find the bottle of Start Right tonight and managed to rescue Spike from his mug before a cat lapped him up or a human tossed him into the dishwasher by accident. As you can see he is very content.

Maybe Amber was right, and he is a tough guy after all. Even if he IS pink.
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I'm a 40-something writer, artist, and Jill-of-All-Trades. For me, magic is looking at the ordinary and seeing the extraordinary. My writing tends to take me to unexpected places--not so surprising when I think about it. I had an unusual growing up and have always chosen the offbeat over the "safe". I prefer interesting people over beautiful ones, and I am fascinated by people's stories. What I love most about life is its glorious imperfections and fantastic plot twists.

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