Poor Jack is dead. Poor JackAgain is dead. I noticed him laying on the bottom of the bowl a few days ago, his untouched pellets swollen on the surface of the water. This is not unusual for JackAgain. He will sometimes lie on the bottom of the bowl for days at a time as if sleeping or in deep thought, only to startle when the glass is tapped and then sink back down to the bottom.
I think he was always prone to depression, a little fish stuck in a bowl with no chance of escape.
When I tapped on the glass this time, his lifeless body just swayed with the motion of the water but nary a fin did he flap. I tried again, this time noticing that his body seemed to be covered in sort of a waxy film.
So I told the kids. They took it okay. Laylee was off and running in a few seconds. Magoo seemed fine until suddenly he was not. His eyes filled with tears. “JackAgain is dead?” he cried. “Yes buddy, I’m afraid he is. But it’s okay. It’ll be okay.”
Magoo reached out for some mama loves and I picked his giant boy body up in my arms and held him like a baby. Seeing the attention he was getting, Laylee came running over. “I can’t believe he’s dead,” she faux-sobbed in a voice vaguely reminiscent of a half-way decent impression of real sadness. “I just can’t believe it. Oh JackAgain!”
My eyes did not do a full roll. They just sort of drifted heavenward and my eyelashes only fluttered a bit as I reached out a hand to touch her un-Oscar-worthy play-grieving arm. “Yeah. We’ll sure miss him,” I lied.
So we held a bowl-side flush funeral for the fish. Dan asked for advice on what he should say and we came up with a Finding Nemo meets The Lion King sort of Christian sermon about how all drains lead to the ocean and he’ll then be eaten by a bigger fish in the great circle of life but his spirit will live on in fishy heaven. You see, I have a firm belief in an afterlife and resurrection but I’ll be darned if I could explain exactly what JackAgain’s spirit was doing at that moment. Honestly I didn’t much care.
I have disliked that fish with a fervent dislikishness since nearly the day we brought him home almost THREE YEARS AGO. We had gone through a series of fish rather rapidly. They would die or eat each other and we’d get a new one. I was sick of cleaning fish poop out of the bowl but each time I’d cave and buy another to quell Laylee’s grief. When she was 3, it was more believable.
The day I bought JackAgain, I told Dan he was the last fish I’d ever buy. In 3-6 months when he kicked the bucket, I was done. The kids loved him for about 2 minutes every couple of weeks when their friends were over but other than that, it was just me, Jack, and the stinking bowl of fish ish. He couldn’t do anything cool. I sensed he was unhappy in his little glass prison. He looked weird. My confessions of periodically forgetting to care for him earned me nasty comments from pet lovers who felt I should not be allowed to reproduce considering my inhumane treatment of Betta fish.
At some point, around when I read the first book in the Twilight series, I began to wonder about how he was living so long. Maybe he wasn’t alive but some sort of undead fish who would “live” forever, pooping and tormenting me, long after my children were grown and gone.
Apparently he was un-undead because now he’s actually dead and I think we all know that’s impossible for an un. I can’t say there wasn’t some glee as I cleaned out his bowl for the last time, running his little glass rocks and plastic plants through the dishwasher to remove any deadness that might have rubbed off on them.
Since he left no last will and testament, his home and other personal effects will be donated to my neighbor Natasha, the marine biologist, to be used in some sort of humane and deeply noble project that will possibly absolve me from openly admitting my failure to love one of God’s creatures.