Swimmin’ with the fishes
Several years ago before we were married, my wife and I dated and lived apart. Together we bought a fish, because at the time that was all the commitment as I could handle and nothing says eternal love like a slimy creature with a two-year lifespan. Below is an email sent to her after an … incident.
Dear most loving and understanding girl in the world,
I am so sorry to bring you this news. But since I was with you on the day of birth/purchase and have lived side-by-side with your friend since that very same day I should be the one to break this news to you. I do hope you are sitting down. However, I don’t know why bad news is so much easier to take in the sitting position. Perhaps if you were in the “lotus” position it would be even easier. God only knows how you’d take it if you were standing on one leg like a flamingo. But I digress. I guess I just don’t know how to tell you this. So, being the manly man that we both know I am, I have sucked it up and decided to tell you the news – via email. I am saddened to tell you your fish, what’shisname, has passed on.
I know this is hard to take. I was there when you asked me if we could get one. I was there to tell you there was no WAY we were getting a stupid fish. I was there when you gave me The Look. I was there when I suddenly decided getting a fish would be a pretty darn good idea. I was there when you picked him out and I was there when the clerk told you to pick out a different one if you wanted it to live more than a day. It was almost as if he was waving to you with his little fin saying, “Pick me! Pick me!” when the clerk scooped him out at random.
It may comfort you to learn he went silently and peacefully. To my knowledge fish don’t make a whole lot of noise to begin with, but his death was no different. That’s just who he was, which is comforting. I tried in vain to revive him, even going so far as to give him mouth-to-mouth. I did this for several minutes until I realized:
1) fish don’t actually breathe oxygen and
2) it was disgusting as hell.
But take care in knowing my efforts eased or, more likely, expedited his passing. Know his last image was of my (to him) enormously flabby wet lips pumping deadly oxygen into his already dilapidated lungs. I’m sure it’s the way he wanted to go. I know it’s the way I want you to go.
As he passed on, I removed the sign I taped on the side of the bowl that said, “The Ocean” that made it seem a little bit more like home. I’m glad it was me that did that. He would’ve wanted it that way.
As far as the funeral arrangements, do not fret. Your man took care of them. A notice was put in the paper. I invited the neighbor’s cat and left the invitation for the crazy raccoon in my garbage can where he was sure to find it. It was an open-casket wake, but don’t worry – I used some of my makeup to fix him up good. Er, your makeup I mean. I don’t have makeup. Nope. None. I recommend we deal with one horrible discovery at a time.
Entertainment at the funeral included me and the turtle singing Amazing Grace a cappella, though he was considerably better dressed (he was in a shell, I was naked from the waist down) and also in tune.
As far as burial, the ground was not an option as I couldn’t find a casket small enough and the cat was eyeing him suspiciously during the service and had to be removed. I think burying him would have been a poor decision as some of him may have been “resurrected” if the raccoon had any say in the matter. When I tried to return him from “whence he came,” the pet store told me they wouldn’t take him back. Evidently they have a policy of not accepting deceased fish. When I told the manager, “Oh yeah? What if God had that policy? Heaven would be pretty darn empty, wouldn’t it?” he threatened to release the spiders.
Instead, I decided to cremate him (the fish). At least I think battering and frying in oil counts as cremation.
To ease the pain, here is an excerpt of the eulogy.
“Oh, what’syourname, I’ll always remember you. I’ll remember how you pressed your little stick of a head against the plastic whenever we watched Finding Nemo - which, as you know, was almost every day. True, this behavior never appeared to be any different than when I watched Will and Grace, Yu-gi-oh! or Mexican wrestling, but I knew you liked it. When two creatures are around each other for so long you can be certain of some things. Just like the way all the blood rushed to your eye upon your passing just proved how patriotic you really were. Don’t think I didn’t notice that. I did.
“You were the best buddy and by far the greatest roommate a guy could ask for (although you still owe me rent, and if you think dying is a way to get out of it, you’ve got another thing coming). I’ll miss you.”
I leave you with this: life is as fragile as an egg. Unless it’s hard-boiled. Then life can be peeled and deviled. Amen.
With deepest sympathy,
P.S. In totally unrelated news, I have been out of fish food for the last three weeks.
Kelly Van De Walle can be reached