Only days after I wrote about welcoming Juice the Fish into our family, he killed himself.
I decided to clean Juice’s tank. To clarify, I’ve never owned a fish because when I asked my parents for a fish, they gave me mechanical fish and laughed and I had to talk in out in therapy for five years. But in my parent’s defense, I did ask for a fish almost immediately after my sister crushed her cat in the hide-a-bed and my cat became bulimic and attacked my younger siblings. So, there is that.
Earlier this year, while Dave and I discussed fish ownership, I made it very clear that I wanted to research fish before owning one. I needed to know water temperatures, optimal locations for food storage, proper cleaning procedure, lifespans, breeds, etiquette,Latin names. We weren’t just going to own a fish, we were going to be the best fish owners ever. Dave nodded and agreed. And the moment I left town, he took Ellis to PetSmart and bought two fish. And one suicided in front of her.
The remaining fish, Juice, lived with us for three days until I cleaned the bowl. The bowl had been placed in front of a window, which caused a lot of algae to grow, a fact we would have known if we’d been allowed to properly research. Fearing the risk of a bacterial infection for Juice, I asked Dave a series of questions about bowl cleaning procedure and he just rolled his eyes and was like, “You just replace the water, add drops, wait. Done.”
Helpful. So, I researched. When I took the fish out of the bowl, I placed him in a large mug. My mom, who was visiting at the time, covered that mug with two spatulas and we left the fish and the chlorinating water in the kitchen while we watched a movie. When I came back into check the water temperature, I noticed a blue curly-q on the counter. In the dim evening light, the curly-q looked like a piece of cloth, or a rag. I stared and slowly the object came into focus. There were the fins, there was the head, ohmahgah that is the fish!
I covered my mouth and gasped for air. Dave rushed into the kitchen, saw where my shaking finger was pointing, rolled his eyes, picked up the fish, and dumped it into the tank. The fish began swimming. It was alive! A miracle. Perhaps Juice was the Jesus of fishes, dying to save the cold little finny souls of fish everywhere. I rejoiced.
But all my joy was dashed when Dave work me up in the morning to tell me that we were out of bread and that Juice did not survive the night.
That morning, as Ellis sat in her highchair for breakfast, she pointed at the empty container on our table. “Bish?” She said. “A bish?”
“I’m telling her the truth,” I told Dave. I had read the parenting books. I wasn’t going to shelter her.
“Don’t,” Dave said, “just ignore her.”
“What! No! The truth will prevail!” I turned to Ellis and said gently, “Your fish died last night. He is in fish heaven now.”
Dave sighed. “No, there is no such thing as fish heaven!”
“You’re the one who wanted to lie in the first place!” I yelled.
“No, I just wanted to pretend it didn’t happen. I don’t want to give her bad theology.”
“Fine! Let’s just tell her fish life has no meaning and Juice the Fish just ceased all consciousness and is floating in the sewer with her poop. Read this Kierkegaard, baby!”
Ellis stared at us wide eyed, still pointing to the bowl, her chubby finger crooked and accusing.
Three days later, we bought another fish. This one was a fiery redhead, that I thought looked pissed at us. We didn’t even name him. The high fish mortality rate meant that naming him before 24 hours had elapsed was a waste of emotional energy. We put him in the bowl and he banged his head on the glass. He was dead in the morning.
In order to be a serial killer you have to have at least three murders under your belt. Our fish death toll had risen to three. And I’m not saying we’re fish serial killers, but I’m sure the Feds might want a few words with us. Also, you should check out this awesome fish skin lampshade we made.
Dave got our water tested and returned with yet another fish. After three days of floating near the top and tepidly picking at his food, he perked up and we asked Ellis what his name should be.
“Hi, bish! Hi, duice!”
So, here is Juice the Fish, Jr. We’ll keep him alive, as long as he puts the lotion on his fins….