Sunday, July 14, 2013

A Fish Eulogy

Once upon a time, almost three years (it was three, sorry, Twitter. Apparently I can't count) ago, Baby Sister did some sort of class science experiment. To be honest with you, I don't know exactly what the experiment was, and whether or not it involved radioactive substances. Which would totally make sense if it did. But I doubt it, because she's in elementary school.

At the end of said experiment, she came home with a goldfish.
Now, our family history with goldfish is not particularly a pleasant one. Any time anyone would bring home a fish, usually from a carnival of some sort, it would be a miracle if the fish lived a week. We have a little fishbowl, which we would fill with water, put the fish in, and put it somewhere where small children couldn't reach. And inevitably, at some point shortly after it coming home, it would die.

We aren't really a pet kind of family. My mom says it's because there are so many of us, that she doesn't need another mouth to feed :) Which is true, I suppose, but the options of animal are fairly limited, due to the allergies floating around in the family, and a certain parent's hatred of any rodent-like creatures.

So, for the vast majority of my life, I've had no pets, but siblings.

All of that changed that day in October. I wasn't even home when the fish came- I was living in Israel. My mother mentioned it to me in passing- "Oh, Baby Sister brought home a fish."
"Cool," I said. "Is it dead yet?"
"No, but it's only been three days."

And then I forgot about it. Because it was a goldfish living in my house. They don't live.

Two weeks later, Baby Sister mentioned him to me. "And the goldfish..."
"Wait," I said. "He's still alive?"
"Yeah. Isn't that weird?"
It was. It was really weird.

It's not like we killed them, they just didn't live long. And so the fact that this fish had made it to two weeks was cool. And then one month passed. And another.
"I don't know what to do," my mom said one day. "I should probably buy fish food, but I'm scared that if I start feeding him dead worms and octopus and whatever else is in that stuff, he'll die. He's doing fine with matzah meal."

I'm not an ichyologist- I had no idea what to tell her. But in the end, she bought real fish food, and miraculously, the fish lived.
Being six thousand miles away from said little dude made me kind of forget his existence a bit- I had never seen him, and he was a goldfish.
You can't cuddle goldfish. There's not really much you can do besides watch them swim in circles. But somehow, I started getting attached to the little nameless fish who lived on the kitchen counter.

I started getting fish updates- at first because, DUDE! We hadn't killed this one yet! And then because... well, it was the family pet.
Psycho Fish, as he was soon to be named, was just that.

Not that any of us are trained animal psychologists, but y'all? He was the weirdest fish ever. Just swimming around, as a fish does, and suddenly he would go into these psychotic seizuring episodes. And then he'd keep swimming around like nothing happened. He'd stare at us randomly, as if he was actually watching us. As if he knew way more than we gave him credit for. Sometimes I thought he was plotting something evil. He probably was.
Passover came and went, and Psycho Fish survived the change of fish food.
It was summer time, and I finally came home, and Psycho Fish was still alive.

That was two years ago.
My, how things changed.
Psycho Fish became a permanent fixture- swimming in his little bowl on the kitchen counter, keeping us company through every dinner preparation. He'd get an occasional earthquake when the Kitchen Aide would be used, and it never really seemed to faze him in the slightest. Nothing ever really seemed to faze him- until he'd spazz out for no reason.
But he was Psycho Fish- and that's what Psycho Fishes do.

And the trauma the first few times I bathed (a word which means clean out his fish bowl and relocate him temporarily to a different bowl until his fishbowl was clean) Psycho Fish- because apparently he thought bathtime meant time to attempt suicide. Although there were times when he was just swimming in his fish bowl where it looked like he was trying to jump.

We had theories about Psycho Fish. About how he was living so long. About why he was so flippin' weird.
Animagus. Animorph. Posessed. A reincarnation of someone, although we never could agree on who. Radiation.

All the Finding Nemo jokes were made. All the Animorph and Harry Potter jokes were made. And Psycho Fish swam on, being his weird self.

Friday morning, Psycho Fish was lookin' like his normal, fishy self.
Friday afternoon, I went over to the counter to give him his bath, and nearly had a heart attack. Psycho Fish was flopping near the top of the water in his fish bowl.

He couldn't be dead.
He couldn't.

I put the bowl down as fast as I could, and he started swimming again.  Not regular swimming- downward, in circles, like he was being sucked into a tornado.
I couldn't watch.

My mom was just coming home from work. "Mommy," I said, close to tears. "I think Psycho Fish is dying."

We've had a few Psycho Fish death scares, but this looked like it was for real.
Nobody wanted to watch- and there was nothing we could do. I never really understood why people would put their pets to sleep until this weekend.
Psycho Fish was dying- he was probably in pain- and there was nothing we could do for him. Nothing.

Saturday afternoon, his gills stopped moving.
He lay there, flopped near the top of the bowl. Not straight, because even in death Psycho Fish was weird.
I don't know who did the actual 'burial'. I couldn't watch. But it's Sunday, and the fishbowl is gone.

It shouldn't hurt to walk downstairs this morning and find an empty spot next to the Kitchen Aide. But it does.

Rest In Peace, Psycho Fish.
You made a lot of people happy in your little bowl on the counter.
I hope there's such a thing as Fish Heaven. I know if there is, Psycho Fish is swimming around, probably weirding out the other fish.
Swim on, Psycho Fish. Swim on.

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