A pet sleeps with the fishes


June 14, 1993|By KEVIN COWHERD

I suppose it doesn't do any good to say that Tiger wasn't really a bad sort, although that's hardly a glowing testimonial now that he's no longer, um . . . with us. Look, it was an unfortunate accident. One minute he was swimming along merrily past the fake white seashell and miniature sunken schooner in his little tank, and the next minute he . . . wasn't.

It happened that fast. In the blink of an eye, really.

As to the circumstances surrounding Tiger's death, there's really no need to get into all that.

What purpose does it serve? All this finger-pointing, all this who-struck-John business is a waste of . . . OK, fine.

The 2-year-old killed him. Is that what you want to hear? There. I hope you're happy now. People like you make me sick, you know that?

Anyway, to recap the whole sordid incident, it was a Saturday morning, which is always a chaotic time around my house.

I was running around, looking for my car keys, when I passed through the sun room and was treated to an incredible sight.

There was the 2-year-old, standing on a chair and -- here's where it gets ugly -- pouring liquid dish detergent into the fish tank.

Well. The boy is . . . sometimes you just can't talk to him. He does crazy things. Tries to eat pennies. Whacks his sister with a 32-ounce Louisville Slugger. Opens a bag of pretzels, dumps 'em on the floor and laughs like hell.

I don't know. I look at the boy and think: Attica. Or reform school, at the very least. (Tell me, do they even call it reform school anymore?)

In any event, Tiger did not take the introduction of dish detergent into his tank gracefully.

Within seconds, he was listing heavily toward starboard. Goldfish are hardy little critters, but this was apparently the fish equivalent of taking a blast of mustard gas.

Sensing that Tiger was slipping fast, my wife emptied the tank immediately and re-filled it with fresh water. But it was too late. Tiger was, well, sleeping with the fishes.

It would be wrong to say that Tiger's sudden death touched off a massive outpouring of grief.

The 2-year-old didn't seem to care one way or the other, wandering off to see what was on TV. And the 10-year-old was so torn up that his initial reaction was: "Where's the Rice Krispies?"

But the 7-year-old took it hard. Her little eyes misted over when she heard the news and she kept staring at the empty fish tank. It's a look I've seen on the faces of 60-year-old hot-pants-wearing grandmothers staring at Elvis' bed at Graceland.

Personally, I find it difficult to see how anyone can develop a strong emotional attachment to a fish.

Basically all they do is keep to themselves. They're not very warm animals, is what I'm saying.

It's especially hard to imagine anyone getting attached to a fish in my house, where we seem to go through fish the way other people go through Kleenex.

I have buried so many dead fish in my back yard the place looks like Boot Hill. It's not that the fish aren't cared for, either. They just seem to have incredibly bad luck.

Anyway, later that morning, the 7-year-old and I went off to the pet store to find a replacement for Tiger.

If you're a fish in a pet store, the worst feeling in the world has to be being scooped up with a net, put in a water-filled plastic bag -- and seeing my daughter's face staring back at you.

Because right away you know your days are numbered. It's not a matter of how many years or months you'll live. It's a matter of how many days.

Anyway, we now have two new fish in the house. The 7-year-old named one fish Speckles. And, in a delicious bit of irony, she named the other fish . . . Bubbles.

As in soap bubbles. You wonder what Tiger, gazing down from that Big Aquarium In The Sky, thinks of that.

As I type these words, I can see his little grave, a gentle hump of earth near the pine tree in the back yard.

Unless that's Goldy's grave. Or Silvy's grave.

Or Frisky's grave. Or Rusty's grave.

Look, after a while, all these graves seem to run together.

One other bit of news: In lieu of surrounding it with concertina wire, the fish tank has been moved to a more secure area of the house.

Not that it does Tiger any good, of course.

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