Every morning is a ritual. The creature of habit that I am cannot be tamed and because I find comfort in routine and orderliness I refuse to change. Part of the morning routine for me occurs just after the coffee is poured and I haven’t yet savored the first sip of liquid gold. Yes, it is that magical time when I stop to feed our fish: Blueberry, Ruby, Diamond and….dang it. I can’t remember the last one’s name. The kids named them. They are four female Betta fish – Siamese fighting fish to be more precise. Why can’t I remember that last one’s name?
Well you get the picture. Resetting: Routine, Coffee, Fish-feeding.
The fish are forever hovering about near the top of the tank any time they sense that someone is near because they know that at any given moment it is feeding frenzy time. Like charging rhinos, a barnyard explosion or me at the dessert bar, it truly is go time when I prepare to liberally sprinkle the top of the water with…what is it exactly? I’m at home still recovering, so I have nothing but time. Let me go see what it is that I feed them each morning….
Fish meal. Wheat flour. Soybean meal. Rice bran. Potato starch. Krill meal. Corn gluten…
And that’s just the top line in the list of ingredients that goes on for another eight lines and ends in artificial color. How in the world can they pack all of that into these tiny chunks that are smaller than the boogers Trevor is forever picking from his nose? Perhaps more importantly, why is it that the girls (Blueberry, Ruby, Diamond and “Sassafras” – that’s the name I’m going with since I have no clue) are so excited for this stuff? And I’m not talking excited like me running around the neighborhood like a madman following a Stanley Cup OT series-clincher by Alex Martinez (not that I’m bitter at all about the Kings not even qualifying for the post season or anything, but really? You can’t simply win just a few of those shootouts? You had to be one of those teams that wins a championship one season and fails to make the playoffs the next? What happened to all the talk of dynasty-building?). Whoa, where did that come from?
Okay, fish – especially Sassafras – get excited at feedin’ time, and I’m just happy to be the one to deliver the goodies, soybean meal and all.
Pause for a moment for a little product endorsement.
I can’t stand Starbucks. Sure, I’ll drink it, but what exactly do they do to their beans? Their coffee tastes burnt. Any who, we recently purchase a bag of simple House Blend from The Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf (yes, they get italicized because they are special to me) and I have to tell you that it makes for a truly satisfying cup of coffee. Unburnt, unpretentious and perhaps underrated: Coffee Bean – Get yourself a cup!
So the gals, The Gems and Sassafras, flip and flutter close to the surface while the wrinkly hands of a former pool man, a guy who sometimes “forgets” to wash his hands, prepares to sprinkle the aforementioned concoction of krill and agricultural products for them. It is at this critical moment that I would be remiss if I failed to mention the girls’ predecessor, Banana the Betta Fish.
Banana was a Boy Betta and he didn’t have a fancy ten gallon fish tank in which to frolic. No, he lived in a small one gallon bowl all to his lonesome, and this cantankerous beauty of a fish graced us with his angry presence for nearly three years in that tiny bowl. He cheated death a few times, but we nursed him back to health, but mostly he just lived a peaceful existence until you either put him in the presence of another fish (bowls side by side or else they would literally fight to the death) or cruelly placed a mirror next to his bowl. Banana would puff up all blue and beautiful and be ready to brawl in those moments (not just meekly sulk off onto the golf courses and summer homes like the Kings’ players), and then he would be tense for a few weeks after. But Banana, like the Kings’ playoff chances at the hands of the Calgary Flames, ultimately died one day and it made us all sad, but mostly just me, as the morning feeding ritual for Banana was my alone time with our little fighter, and I knew that I would miss him and our quality time together.
Oh who am I kidding? He just wanted me for the krill.
And that’s what the gals want from me each morning, as they perform their little dance for me. But there are times when the dance and frenzy goes a little crazy, and usually it results in one of the girls jumping and flopping out of the tank and onto the counter. Now, this happens once and it is a coincidence, a second time a happenstance, but when it starts to happen with regularity, when then I just call it…awesome!
The problem, however, is that our counter can be pretty cluttered at times with the kids’ schoolwork or just the stuff that piles up, so when say Diamond does her swan dive out of the tank, it’s not as though I just reach down, scoop her up and plop her back in the tank. No, that would be way, way too easy. What usually happens is Diamond goes missing inside a folder, cup of paperclips or behind a cutting board while I search for her. Usually the search lasts just a few seconds and I am perfectly focused and calm while I look for my beautiful fish.
Usually I am throwing things off the counter and shouting something like “It’s happened again! I can’t find her! Somebody come and help me find here before she dies!!” And then the family runs in to see this bald maniac frantically ripping apart the house looking for a fish who merely wanted corn starch.
The last time I made a rescue – and please know that all four of them have made the attempted escape in the last few months – the fish was found flopping around on page 27 of the Westways magazine that had just come in the mail. Perhaps she was reading the article about crazy teenaged drivers or maybe it was Andrew McCarthy’s travelogue from Europe or something of the sort, but the bottom line is that she was gonna die before she even got to the part where the best member of the Brat Pack talked about the beautiful countryside or friendly locals so what did it really matter? So up she goes, back into the tank. Stunned, and likely feeling a bit foolish, the rescued girl typically heads to the bottom of the tank where I believe the others ridicule her for the balance of the day and make her feel shamed.
As for me, when my heart stops racing I release the family back to whatever they were doing and I feel the collective rolling of eyes because I am obviously a crazy man when it comes to fish rescuing.
Sipping my coffee, I stare at the fish and wonder…Where would you go if I didn’t rescue you? Forgetting of course that you would die outside the tank, where would you go?
There’s this little car of Trevor’s that I picture the fish getting into – all four of them – and driving off. They’d pull out of our driveway and onto the road, crashing into some trash cans along the way because they really don’t know how to drive. They’d cruise along PCH and pull into the little aquarium store that we like. One would stay in the car while the other three go in and begin the process of stealing as much Krill Meal as they can possibly take. They would frighten some onlookers, but mostly people would stop to take selfies with them. Soon the media would discover the oddity and begin covering it, and of course the escaped fish in the tiny car would soon be trending (#drivingfishsocool). But lacking any place to really go I see them pulling back into the driveway at dusk, and after some discussion they come flopping back into the house and back into the tank.
It seems that Bieber did something again so their 15 minutes of fame was over with quite quickly.
I’m looking at them now. Each of them floating around as happy as can be (I suppose) and I know they are eyeing me, waiting to see if I am going to come near and feed them again, like maybe I forgot that I’d already fed them or something. What, do you think I’m stupid or something? I yell at them. Yeah, I’m talking to you!
Okay, wow. A sick day. Truly, I’m feeling better and I should probably just get back to work. Tomorrow. For now I will simply watch these fish because I know they are plotting something…
“Bubbles!” Yes, that is the name of the one that I’d forgotten. Blueberry, Ruby, Diamond and…Bubbles.
Sassafras? Does that have something to do with “Weekend at Bernie’s” or “Mannequin?”
Only Andrew McCarthy knows the answer to that question.