Oh Fishsticks!

I am currently curled up on my couch with a glass of sweet red wine, type-type-typing away on my novel. I need to complete a minimum of 5,000 words today and tomorrow each to get finished on time. I just crossed the 43K mark, so I still have a lot of work to do. But as much as I hate my novel right now, I cannot imagine getting to midnight on Thursday morning and realizing I failed NaNoWriMo with less than seven thousand words to go. That would be ridiculous.

However, getting to the same time on Thursday and realizing I failed NaBloPoMo by only two days would also be excruciating. So, I'm taking a break from typing that to type this. You're welcome? Probably not... Anyway, I thought I would tell you the sad sad story of Lola Betty, the Betta Fish and her true love Marty Allen, the Bluest Betta.

Lola Betty was my beautiful magenta betta fish... Wait, I should back up.

It was the summer between Junior and Senior year of college. Roommate and I had just moved into our new apartment, finally escaping Liar and the financial havoc she had inflicted. What with the move and finals and jobs and LIFE, we had kind of skipped over Roommate's birthday. I mean, we went to dinner and celebrated, but I hadn't had time to get her a super cool awesome present. Okay, who are we kidding? I am an awful gift giver. They are rarely super, cool, or awesome and are most commonly books.

Anyway, after ages of struggling to figure out what to get her, I just asked. I said, "Roommate, tell me what you want and I will take you out and buy it for you and hand it to you outside the store. And you can just pretend I was thoughtful and also that I wrapped it." Because I am an awesome gift giver.

It was around this time that we had been (half-)joking about getting a puppy--Roommate is not big on cats. But we knew our apartment wasn't really set up for either kind of pet. Plus we had no money and not a lot of time. And? Roommate had never had a pet (I know, right?!), so she was leery of starting with something so complicated. So I would say, "Let's get a kitten!" and Roommate would say, "No cats. How about a puppy?" And then I would say, "We have no money and no time!" and she would say, "Maybe a fish?" So for her birthday, I offered to buy her a fish.

She wanted a goldfish, but I had heard that they were actually rather finicky and died easily and you had to clean their bowls a lot. So when we got to the pet store, I steered her towards the bettas. I knew they were pretty hardy, so she was less likely to kill her first pet, which would be traumatizing and might ruin her for all pets in the future (hint... hint...). We also toyed with the idea of getting a plant first and seeing how it went, but I had great faith in her. So we looked at all of the teensy-tiny cups of bettas.

And look, I know they say bettas need very little space, but I think we go a little crazy with that concept. It's just mean! There were quite a few dead in those tiny cups and others looked nearly there. We wanted to rescue them all. But, like I said, we had very little money. So I ended up picking one for myself. A beautiful magenta female, with long flowy fins. Roommate kept wandering over to the goldfish and I kept telling her, "I'll buy you whatever you want, but I'd rather buy you something that won't die right away." Because I am an excellent gift giver.

Finally, she settled on a dark blue male betta. We carefully picked out glass bowls, rocks, plants, and decorations. I got glow-in-the-dark plastic rocks and a plant that we later discovered (in a very sleepy and strangely terrifying incident) also glowed in the dark. Glew in the dark? No. Glowed in the dark.

When we had everything we wanted, we took our fish and I paid for it all. And right before we got out of the store, we saw that there were some visiting shelter puppies up for adoption. I almost returned the fish--I'm just being honest. On the way home, we discussed names. We couldn't pick just one favorite name and they ended up with middle names. Which is a lot for such a little fish. She had Marty Allen and I had Lola Betty.

Because bettas tend to fight, we set them up in separate bowls. But we had this elaborate and ridiculous (and we knew it was ridiculous, but we thought we were hilarious anyway) story about how they were husband and wife, their love forever hindered by two pieces of glass and four inches of counter space. Sometimes, we thought they might even be communicating, since they would gravitate toward each other, watching through the barriers of their bowls. I'm not sure how often we leaned down to the counter and made stupid fishy-kissy faces at them, but it was a lot. They probably thought we were morons. 

We took great care of those fish. We had a feeding schedule and everything. We took turns feeding them. We had a whole system for marking that one of us had fed them. It helped my flaky brain and satisfied Roommate that she wasn't going to kill her first pet. Our friends used to mock us, saying we were like a married couple with kids. "Did you feed Jimmy breakfast?" "Who's picking Sally up from school?" We didn't care. We loved those fish. And we both agreed it was nice to come home to something living at the end of a long day of work, school, and junk.

We had them for almost six months. Then Christmas rolled around. We were both leaving town for two weeks to see our families. It was the first time we were going to be away from the fish for more than two days. We went out and bought vacation feeders for them and Roommate arranged to have a local friend check on them halfway through the break. We finished finals, packed last minute (like always), and headed out of town. In the flurry, we forgot to give the friend a key. "Oh well!" we thought. "They have fresh water and vacation feeders. They're bettas. They'll be fine!"

There were two things we did not take into account. First of all, we had turned down the thermostat to save money while we were gone. Second, a huge storm hit our normally temperate city. The entire city was shut down for over a week due to snow and ice. Roommate's friend couldn't have gotten there to check on them anyway. In the end, all of the details conspired against us. When Roommate got home, she found their bowls covered in a thin layer of ice.

Lola and Marty were no more.

I felt incredibly bad for Roommate, who did everything she was supposed to do as a first time pet owner. We were so worried about forgetting to feed them or not cleaning their bowls often enough. I don't think either of us expected them to freeze to death. And I feel even worse, because when she called me to tell me, I think I made her think it was her fault. I was pretty much only mad at myself.  Sorry, Roommate. You were an excellent fish parent. Don't ever doubt that.

It's kind of depressing to think of them slowly dying in the cold water. I imagine Lola shivering and Marty reassuring her that we would come home soon and rescue them. And even though it might be cruel to laugh at the expense of the pet I killed, I have a strange brain. All I can imagine of their last days is an epic, Titanic-style death scene. Freezing slowly, calling out their love for one another. Saying sappy things like, "I'll never let go!" I imagine few of those musical fish from that song on The Little Mermaid probably played a tiny string quartet as the water got colder. Lola wishing she was a salmon and built for this kind of water, Marty wishing he had a tiny fishy door to put Lola on...

Wait, I think I took the metaphor a little too far. I think NaNoWriMo and NaBloPoMo have broken me.Anyway, that is the Tragic and Totally True Tale of Lola Betty and Marty Allen, the Well-Loved and Very Loving Frozen Fish. The end.

No comments:

Post a Comment