Friday, October 14, 2005

Last of the Piscines

The last of my piscines is finally gone (in case you're baffled, that's just a fancy word for "fish"). In January, Gil the betta and Finny the goldfish made the 1200 mile trip through the Atlanta ice storm, along with Bradley the bird and the three cats. Despite my worries, they survived the rolling Noah's Ark and made it to Duloc Manor in relatively good condition.

Although I love animals, I'm not particlarly a "fish person." But I feel sorry for just about any living critter, with the exception of mosquitos. Thus, I rescued Gil from the clutches of my grandnephew (think a male version of Darla in "Finding Nemo"). At the time, it was de rigeur to have a betta on your desk at work. Gil lived in my office for a while, safe from the clutches of my carnivorous kitties. But eventually I felt bad about the fact that he faced a forced fast on the weekends. By Monday morning he was always ravenous, so I'm sure it was miserable sitting in the darknes for two days with no food. I bought a locking container to protect him from feline intrusions, and he moved into the condo.

Finny the goldfish was a condemned murderer. A co-worker's children had gotten several goldfish at a party, and Finny had chewed off the tails of all of his bowlmates. Apparently, he was a cannibal, and as Willy Wonka would say, "that, my dear children, is frowned upon in most societies" (even aquatic ones). The poor, tail-less fishies were flushed off into a better place, and Finny was brought to the office. If someone didn't adopt the little miscreant, he was going to find out personally if all drains really do lead to the ocean.

Being a sucker, I took him in. He, too, got a covered bowl and moved next door to Gil. Being a betta, Gil loved to puff out his cheeks and swim furiously back and forth, conveying threats through the plastic wall. Finny, of course, ignored him; he enjoyed swimming up and down in that mindless goldfish way, frantically wiggling his body and hoping for a handout of chow.

Finny was much easier to feed...I sprinkled a pinch of food on the water's surface, and he would ingest it like a vaccum. Bettas are much pickier; with Gil, I had to toss in one nuggest at a time. He had a little plastic plant that he loved to hide in, probably pretending that it was a rice paddy in his native environment. He'd stalk his "prey," then suddenly strike it. I'd keep tossing in nuggets, one at a time, until he was saited.

By the time we were ready to move to Celebration, I'd had the fish for a few years. I didn't know what their expected lifespans might be, but apparently they were hardy little critters. I dutifully fed and cleaned them, and they continued to thrive.

The life aquatic continued in Florida much as it had been in the Midwest. I wondered if the new type of water would prove fatal; at certain times of the year it smells rather swampy, and it always leaves a suspicious red taint on kitchen and bathroom fixtures. But the fish seemed oblivious to their change in looked like they would be around for awhile.

Then, in the summer, poor Finny started looking decidedly unhealthy. Every now and then, he'd list to the side and flip over like the S. S. Poseidon. He would recover quickly, but I sensed that the end might be near.

One day the poor little critter flipped over on his side and stayed that way, panting desperately. I felt sorry for him, but what can you do for a fish? It's not like you can trundle it off to the nearest vet. I kept an eye on him, and by the next morning he had definitely gone to Piscine Heaven, although oddly he never floated to the top of the water. I talked my long-suffering husband into burying him, so he became the first occupant of the Duloc Manor Cemetery for Pets.

This week the betta finally succumbed. He had always been a lively critter, swimming frantically every morning the moment he saw me stir, but suddenly he stopped eating, and his eyes looked murky. I suspected that he had gone blind, as he seemed to be hungry but could not find the food. This dragged on for several days; I would coat the top of the water with pellets, hoping that he would blunder into one. But finally he tipped onto his side like Finny, and I knew the end was near.

Sure enough, his spirit joined Finny's in the Great Beyond and his body joined the goldfish's on the side of the house. At last I am free of one feeding and cleaning duty, although Bradley the bird and the feline trio will make sure that I am kept plenty busy.

I never really wanted any fish, but once they were here, I got used to them. Now the dresser seems rather barren without any life swimming around, but at least they lasted much longer than I ever expected they would.

I won't have to feel sad for too long, as there are plenty of other critters to comfort me. As I type this, Bradley is perched on the couch pillow next to me while Farquaad lies against my other side, trying to pretend he's a sweet, innocent feline while sending veiled death threats to the bird. Stitch is haunting the front door, hoping someone will take him for a walk (even though my husband just did that 15 minutes ago), and Tooncinator is busy under the bed, listening to the voices in his head. There's plenty of life in Duloc Manor, and that's the way I like it.

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