I've been waiting a long time to make this announcement.
The fish is dead.
If you've been in my kitchen during in the past months, you probably glanced at our fish tank and thought to yourself, "Oh no! Why did I have see that? Do I tell them? Should I pretend I didn't notice?" But you were a good person and you took an deep breath and said, "Ah. I think your fish is dead."
"Nah!" I answered you merrily and gave the tank a good shove. The little orange fish then started swimming crazy laps around the bottom of the tank until it stopped and laid back down on the brightly colored aquarium rocks and proceeded to look dead again.
That was the state of this poor fish for more than a year. When it first started to act dead, it swam upside down right at the top of the water. Very disturbing. Later on, the fish gave up dead swimming instead choosing to simply lie on the bottom of the tank. Even worse.
I'll never forget the day this fish entered our lives. It was 2004. The Girl was walking up the driveway after being dropped off at a birthday sleepover party. She had something shiny in her hands. It was a glass jar. What's up with the jar?, I thought. As she got closer I saw the tiny orange fish swimming in water.
"Look what we got as a party favor!", The Girl announced gleefully.
Moments later, I'm on the phone with Fearless C0-Leader, whose party it had been. "What are you doing sending live animals home as party favors?"
"What's the big deal?" She sounded dead tired, like she'd been up all night with a bunch of nine-year-olds. "Just throw it in your fish tank."
"We don't HAVE a fish tank!"
"Oh." She paused to consider this. "I thought everyone had a fish tank. I guess you should go get one."
So we went to get one. Actually it took two trips because the "Everything-You-Need-Except-The-Fish" aquarium set we bought didn't come with an air pump. I once worked in a fish pet store for ten long weird weeks. Not a bright point on my employment record but the point is that even though I had never in my life kept fish, I did know a few things about them. The one thing I definitely knew was that you can't just fill a tank with water and throw a fish in. The water has to run through a filter for at least twenty-four hours. Since we didn't have any other options, I put the end of the air hose in the glass jar with the fish, filled the tank with water and went to bed.
The next morning the little fish was still swimming and the tank was ready. We plopped him in and there he stayed. Until yesterday.
That little fish, who was named Finn, had plenty of other tank mates over the years. Other goldfish, tetras, a few plecos. None of them lasted. Finn was a fairly aggressive goldfish it seems and made short work of anybody smaller than him. If they were bigger, he picked them to death. Not a nice guy. But even so, I knew that if we got another fish while he was in his weakened condition, they would rip him apart. I couldn't let that happen.
So we've been waiting. And waiting. And waiting. Since Christmas, I've seen him move even less. I wasn't sure when he was eating. I wasn't sure he was getting enough air. Most days I would go to the tank and see him lying their lifeless and ask, "Is today the day?". He would give an all over wiggle and open and close his mouth a few times. Nope, not yet.
But yesterday was the day. He looked just a little more dead than usual and that was because he was dead for real. We completely emptied the tank and scrubbed up all the pieces. Come Spring we'll go out and bring home a new assortment of brightly colored and fully alive fish to populate our aquarium once more. Until then, the kitchen will seem just a little too quiet without the gurgling bubbles from the air pump and constant company of a mostly dead fish.