One fish, two fish, dead fish, blue fish

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One fish, two fish, dead fish, blue fish

There’s something very soothing about gazing idly into a vibrant aquarium. Watching my own finned friends swim about, I almost envy them for their calm, hassle-free lifestyle. Their only worry is how best to navigate from one side of the tank to the other, occasionally checking the surface for food-shaped silhouettes. Then I remember that my own life is not much more complicated than theirs. Granted, my “tank” is a good deal larger than 10 gallons, but we both share a love of oxygen, water and food-shaped blobs.

It is this connection I feel with my scaly dependents that makes my complete inability to care for them that much more painful. Over the course of the past few years, I have brought a number of fish into my home through the front door and watched as they left through my bathroom in a slow, counterclockwise motion. I have continually upgraded and revamped my fish accessories – or fish-cessories – only to fail time and time again. I have added not only the traditional green fish net, but also a specially made siphon to vacuum the gravel at the bottom of the tank. I have de-chlorinating drops, two kinds of food and a real plant to make my fish feel more at home. Still, they keep dropping like celebrities.

My first fish had no idea what he was getting into, and for that I sincerely hope Kip Dynamite, my rambunctious beta fish, is exchanging baudy stories and otherwise carousing with Flipper and the original Shamu in a kind of underwater Elysian Fields. The specifics of his demise are still unknown as I was out of town when Death stuck his icy hands into the coffee pot in which I kept poor Kip. My girlfriend had purchased a fish of her own at the same time I got Kip, so when he was tragically struck down in his prime, I was given Principal Blackman to care for.

Instead of learning from my past and fatal mistakes, I left Principal Blackman for my then-roommate to feed and keep an eye on while I was out of town. I had only known Principal Blackman for a short time, but I loved him deeply. He was a great swimmer and kept mostly to himself, the strong and silent type you don’t see much in fish nowadays. When I returned home, I was greeted by the sight of a half-evaporated fishbowl, minus the fish. As quickly as he had come to me, he was gone. I never even got to say, “Goodbye.”

It was several months before I worked up the courage to purchase another fish, but I was determined to do it right this time. No more of this elementary-school-class-pet-fishbowl nonsense. I wanted an actual aquarium, one with a light and a little filter that would hum in the background like a fish life support system. Something that would say, “I may not have a job, but at least I’ve got this fish business figured out.”

The funeral for Sparkle was short but tasteful. Thinking I had finally mastered the art of not killing things, my girlfriend and I bought Sparkle as a companion and possible love interest for Ong-Bak, our other fish at the time. My girlfriend said a few words, I pulled the lever and then we both went out for sushi. Ong-Bak was so grief stricken that his immune system was unable to fight off an Ichthyophthirius multifiliis infection and he died shortly after.

Today, however, I have a better handle on water purity, proper food allotment and other things fish find extremely important. Still, that didn’t stop two hookworms from plunging their filthy barbs into Butch, our beloved and final fish. At first, the two white translucent parasites eluded our detection. When they continued to grow and develop disturbing, hookworm-like features, I got my biology student girlfriend to pluck the hangers-on from our fish with tweezers as the Internet instructed us.

The most likely source of the hookworms was that mangy orphanage of a store they call PetSmart. Each fish I pass on the shelves seems to look at me with eyes that scream, “Please, buy me or flush me now.” What’s sad is that even if I do buy one of those hapless goldfish, in the back of my mind I know he’ll probably just end up in a porcelain tomb next to the shower anyway.

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