By John E. Carey
Peace and Freedom
“Just for fun” category
Every word of this story is true and many of you probably have similar, shall we say, tails.
After recently writing about the importance of cats and dogs as pets to Americans, more than one family member reminded me of our family’s “Great Tropical Fish and Frog Caper.”
Mother, who is 88, decided she was bored and the cure certain would be tropical fish. One of her daughters immediately rejected the idea and started a campaign to convince everyone else in the family that this was a bad idea.
Mother swore she would do all the work, learn everything she could, and love and care for the fish.
Votes in the “No to tropical fish” camp started to line up.
Undeterred, Mother bagan to widen her circle of relatives and friends in the hopes of finding someone to aid and abet in her intended criminal activity. She planned a finned revolt. She was going to get those fish even if no one else in the household agreed.
One day, as we came home from work, we were all presented with a fait accompli.
There is was: an aquarium of at least 70 gallons filled with various tropical fish rascals, gravel, and even live growing sea-bed plants.
I have to say, Mother, despite her 88 years, seemed to have done the work of at least three men in one day.
The first question was: since Mother doesn’t drive, who drove her to the “fish store,” as she calls it.
A few days later an uncle confessed, telling us when he heard the words “fish store” he assumed they were going to buy dinner, not aquatic entertainment.
Mother kept her word and diligently guarded her new friends. No amount of algae or dirt was tolerated in that tank.
Before a week was out mother was “fishing” the fish out of the tank daily and replacing the water with good clean tap water.
Anyone with experience with fish (or old people with fish) knows what happened. In the second week all the fish were dead.
Each recieved a burial at sea in the toilet except for the final survivor. I assumed he was destined for an autopsy.
The sister who had the least involvement with all of this was convinced by her mother to take her to the pet store and serve as her advocate. They wanted to get Mom’s money back.
With a small plastic bag filled with tank water and one dead critter, Mother and daughter lit out for the fish store.
My sister blasted the pet store manager, bag in hand, and pleaded with him to return Mom’s money. After a three minute chemical test the pet store owner announced to my chrestfallen sister that the bag contained tap water with chlorine, not the recommended tank water.
Mother had killed her own fish.
My sister stormed from the store, flushed, the Mother at her heels.
For a few days the tank was dry and dormant. Then, in mid-week 3, we came home to find that sucker refilled and alive with sea creatures once more.
The uncle who had engineered the first fishing expedition was grilled under a hot lamp. Fearing he might himself get filleted, he ratted out his brother as the get away driver in the second fish-ex.
This time the fish lasted a little longer.
Maybe three whole weeks.
Then, slowly, one by one, the fish began Poseidon’s Perish.
By the end of week nine every fish had a burial at sea in the toilet.
Mother agreed to hang up her harpoon and trident to restore peace to the manor.
About week 10 ior 11, my brother in law figured he could get some educational use out of that empty tank. With two kids in grade school, he was always seeking educational opportunities.
Before long my brother in law had a tank full of tadpoles and the devotion of his two boys well in hand.
Then tadpoles (or whatever they were) began to die.
After three or so trips to the pet store, my brother in law found out his sea creatures were not the critters he had when he was 10 years old. He had purchased a kind of non-aquatic creature.
The water got dumped out and the aquarium became a terrarium. You can do that, you know?
But the little critters would not eat. So after three or four stops at the pet store, my brother came home with live crickets. These cost about 10 cents each but the pet store guaranteed that these were the appropriate food. Two weeks later all the crickets and all the other critters were dead.
We swore off “pets.” There was some discussion of wanton destruction of the animal kingdom.
At Christmas that year my sister announced she wanted to get a bird.
She got locked in her room.