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.”