From all outward appearances, I may appear docile, even harmless. I don’t take part in political or religious arguments, I resist the urge to deck the Salvation Army bell ringers at Christmas time, and when an idiot driver cuts me off in traffic, any resulting bird shootings play out only in my mind.
Several years ago, after a series of unfortunate events plagued my home, I began to notice a disturbing pattern. A number of unforeseen deaths, all having one common denominator. Me. I realized, to my horror, that I was a killer. And my victims couldn’t even run from me, not that they didn’t try.
The season of death began with the free goldfish my child brought home from a church event. The doomed houseguest named Stanley appeared pretty low maintenance, just swimming around in his glass bowl staring out with his wide, fishy eyes. Not easy to interact with, but we knew he was there and we changed his water, fed him, and kept the cat out of his bowl. When I found Stanley floating fins up one morning, we merely flushed and moved on.
The next unfortunate resident, a Betta named Valentine, endured a more miserable fate. Whenever I changed his water, I transferred him to a small bowl via fish net, an unpleasant experience for the transferee when the task falls on an inexperienced fish keeper. Stupidity and a plate of solidified bacon grease set the stage for tragedy one day. An apparent adrenaline junkie, Valentine sprung from the net and found himself plastered to that bed of grease, like a morbid sushi appetizer. Since he arrived without a living will, a fast decision became necessary. I peeled him off the plate and plopped him into his freshly cleaned home. He expired three days later. Another flush-and-go.
Victim number three. Against my better judgment, I brought home a pretty little rainbow shark from a pet store. Word must have traveled from Wal-Mart to the local pet stores, because that fish wanted no part of me. He splashed around in the fish tank one night while I watched television, and I thought he was just playing and having himself a big time. Perhaps an issue with depth perception caused him to misjudge the area between himself and the side of the tank, or maybe the cat held up a mirror, fooling the tiny shark into thinking there were others like him, waiting on the other side. Whatever the motivation, the dehydrated carcass awaited me on the carpet the following morning. Hoping for an explanation and a hydrated replacement, I called the pet store and recapped the events over the previous twelve hours.
“Rainbow sharks tend to jump out of tanks sometimes. Did you try putting him back in the water?” Reconstitute him! Brilliant! Why didn’t I think of that?
“It’s not a Sea Monkey. So…no, I didn’t think of that. He was unresponsive to CPR, and I couldn’t find a good vein to get an IV started. Any other suggestions ( Genius)? Maybe I should try to cryogenically preserve him in the freezer.”
A good friend of mine is the closest resource is have to a fish whisperer. He grew concerned after the body count reached around ten, so he donated a stack of his aquarium/fish magazines in an effort to save the innocent. He even fish-napped the last survivor in the tank, a happy little danio fish whose immunity to cumin powder saved his life after my twins (around three at the time) seasoned the water one day with a generous helping of the ground spice.
Months later I worked up the nerve to set up another tank. I drove to the local pet store, only to find they had moved their location to another town. I wonder why.