Just Keep Swimming

28 Jan

Saturday morning, the rest of the house is asleep. Even the dogs, one of whom has already claimed the pillow I vacated, just raise a canine eyebrow when I ask about going outside.

So it’s just me. And the fish.

He’s a beta, purchased for $2.49 at the local pet shop where he was stacked with the other betas in tiny plastic cups because they are not social. If you define “not social” as “murderously violent.”

But he was gorgeous, and so anti-social or not, he was the fish my son wanted for his 8th birthday. I acquiesced. Fish are not really a huge pet commitment. They swim, they poop, they eat, they die, they get flushed down the toilet.

But this fish refused to follow the usual arc. Two years later, it’s still swimming around. It will not die. Its fins get all manner of weird hanging filaments off them, we prepare for the inevitable bathroom funeral. The fish lives. I once forgot the anti-chlorine treatment and plopped him back into the bowl. He remained alive and unphased. Cockroaches and this fish will survive the apocalypse.

My son, of course, now wants a German Shepherd. He’s done with the fish.

This brings us to Saturday morning, just the fish and I.

In the quiet of the morning, we have a standoff. He is swimming in his own poo water. I know it needs a change.

So I get the net, the backup bowl, the de-chlorinator because I ONLY FORGOT IT ONCE, PETA. GET OFF MY CASE.

You’d think, after 2 years, the fish would know what’s up. Get in the net, get out of your toilet water, get in the backup bowl, let me clean up this mess.

But the fish is not having it. He creates whirlpools as he performs evasive manuevers worth of a Top Gun pilot. He swims under the net, around the net, over the net.

“Fish,” I say. “Give me an effing break.”

But the fish doesn’t. He hides in his little rock, and I have to roll up my sleeve, and in the still, small, quiet of the morning, I grimace as I plunge my arm into the poo water to remove his refuge. Then it’s back with the net. And because I am more persistent and determined than the $2.49 fish that will not die, I catch him. He goes into the backup bowl, the poop water goes down the drain, the bowl is cleaned, he goes back in.

“Fish,” I say. “This would be so much easier if you didn’t fight me on this. I’m just trying to get you out of your own crap. I don’t know why you exhaust yourself trying to stay in this mess. Haven’t we been through this a thousand times?”

And the fish, of course, doesn’t answer.

But somewhere, in the quiet of Saturday morning, if I listen hard enough?

I hear God laughing. 

“Oh, child. I know just what you mean.”

9 Responses to “Just Keep Swimming”

  1. Matthew Egan January 28, 2010 at 1:37 pm #

    When the fish DOES respond. You let us know. I’ll keep the nice people with the comfy jackets on standby. =)

  2. Elle January 28, 2010 at 2:04 pm #

    That’s hilarious! I love a good fish fight. Olivia’s Beta has outlasted any other fish we’ve had. Cheeky little bugger.

  3. Melissa Wayne January 28, 2010 at 2:13 pm #

    Enjoyed that. Funny.

  4. punkinmama January 28, 2010 at 7:50 pm #

    Woe, great post. I wonder how often God looks down & thinks, “When will they learn?”!

  5. ingrid January 28, 2010 at 9:04 pm #

    🙂 Good one. We had one of those Beta fishes and it lived forever until my youngest over feed him but I guess that’s nut such a bad way to go.

  6. ingrid January 28, 2010 at 9:04 pm #

    Oops I meant, not, not such a bad way to go.

  7. Ed Harvey January 28, 2010 at 10:07 pm #


  8. Icy Blue January 29, 2010 at 9:36 pm #

    Fun post in which I did not know in which direction the end would go. And yet message is right on. Happy story we can relate to as fish, (people) as fish owner, as parent, and mostly of course as child. Thank you!

  9. LizzieB February 5, 2010 at 9:09 am #

    What a beautiful (and funny) post. Thanks so much for sharing that – I’m sending it to a friend of mine who I think will find it very timely and inspiring. I love your insights and your writing style!

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