[I've just made a snap decision--that nickname was okay when he was four, but now that he's eight, it seems a little, well...liable-to-get-you-beat-up-in-the-schoolyard-if-it-ever-leaked-out. My eight-year-old son will henceforth be referred to as: Big B. And trust me when I say, he is Big. Soon to be taller than me. At the age of eight. Hold me.]
Please to continue now.
A little over a year ago, Big B earned the right to have a fish as a pet. We outfitted his room with a mini-tank and went to the fish store up the street (which upon entering every single time, I literally have to hold my breath and stifle the urge to vomit. It's very dark and dank and humid in there, and it smells of fish and gerbils.) He picked out a flashy blue Siamese Fighting Fish and we were on our way. He named his new pal Bluey, and he was a friend and a gentleman. Bluey made it an entire 14 months, which in my experience equates to being a centenarian in people-years.
So Christmas Eve (yes, Virginia, it was Christmas Eve), I'm sprinting about the house, to-do list in hand, simultaneously baking, wrapping, scrubbing the toilet (I promise I'm washing well in between), making my last-minute shopping list, juggling knives and folding origami. I'm sitting at the computer googling the nearest store for some emergency item (all of our christmas gifts, I believe it was) and Big B comes up behind me very quietly and stands there. Which never ceases to annoy me.
"What is it, Buddy? I'm kinda busy right now." Niiiiiice.
Huge, gulping sob escapes. "B-b-b-b-b-bluey d-d-d-d-d-d-d-ied." Sobbing. Actual, heaving sobbing.
This here? This is what I'm great at. I pull him into my best mama bear hug and say, "Oh, my poor sweet guy. I'm so sorry. Bluey was such a nich fish and he lived for so long, you did great with him. My poor sweet buddy." Internally, of course, I'm thinking, "FREAKING fish! Christmas Eve? Are you kidding me? You DIE ON CHRISTMAS EVE?!?!?!?!? MOTHER-FLIPPIN' FISH!!! THANKS FOR THE CHRISTMAS MEMORIES, YOU #&*@!")
We curled up on the couch for awhile, he a sniffling mess, me a human version of home-made macaroni and cheese: comforting, warm, Guwi. I asked him how it happened: did he just find him, floating, or what? A fresh wave of tears.
"He was swimming to the top to get some food, then he just sank back and laid on the bottom and that's w-when I kn-new he was d-d-d-d-d-eaddddd...."
Hm. It occurred to me I should check the situation, just in case Bluey was playing a little trick on Big B. He's a trickster, that Bluey.
Staring at the tank a moment later, I was shocked to discover Bluey was definitely swimming. An odd, vertical swim, but swimming under his own power, not just floating on the tides of his 2.5 gallon tank.
"Big B? Can you come up here for a moment?" Big B shuffles in, stares at the tank for a minute, eyes open wide despite the tears, and looks at me with the most awe-inspired grin in the history of the world. And because I'm an ass, I say it: "I can't believe it! IT'S A CHRISTMAS MIRACLE!"
After observing a few more minutes, I come to the conclusion that while Bluey is not quite dead ("I'm not dead yet! I don't want to go in the cart!"), he's not exactly winning any triathlons either.
“B, Bluey is definitely still alive, but I think he’s sick. Let’s clean his tank and see if that helps.” Maybe some fresh water, a plasma-screen, a nice Siamese Fighting Fish lady-friend he can kill and eat, something to cheer him up a bit.
While B gathers the cleaning materials, I google, “Betta Swimming Vertical Lethargy” and within two seconds I have my answer. Swim Bladder! An actual condition! Not being someone who cares much about fish as pets, I wasn’t aware that they got sick, or that people actually treated them if they did. Go figure. Instructions included cleaning out the tank and fasting them for 3-4 days to purge their system. As we were about to clean out the tank anyway, and B forgets to feed him 1/3 of the time, I figured Bluey would be good as new by the weekend. Ready to party!
There we are, cleaning out the tank, talking to Bluey, (“C’mon, dude! You can do it!”) and as I’m arranging the last of the plastic ferns in Bluey’s tank just the way he likes them, I realize Bluey is laying at the bottom of his temporary home, not moving, not swimming vertically, no backstroke, side-stroke, no stroke at all. He is, at long last, dead.
Big B realizes this at the same moment, looks at me, and rolls out a fresh wave of tears. “I j-j-j-ust really thought he w-w-w-as going to pull through, M-m-m-m-om…”
A private Viking funeral was held.
Christmas Eve errands be damned. With the clock advancing at an alarming pace, we went up the street to the fish store, I stifled the urge to vomit, he picked out a new red fish, named him Fireball, put him in the tank where he swam happily around, soaking in that homey lived-in feel, and Big B enjoyed him for a week until he died on New Year’s Day.
Which just goes to show you...fish suck. And they ruin major holidays.