Save your hate mail haters: a reader in Greenwood, Mississippi is on top of things.
I am not an animal person. As a child all of my pets had short life spans, I can’t think of a single pet that survived for over a year. As an adult and a mother I’ve never been one to get the “warm and fuzzies” over animals of any kind, and I haven’t felt the need to take on the responsibility of feeding and picking up after another living being. It’s all I can do to take care of the three children and husband that God, with his wonderful sense of humor, has seen fit to trust me with.
So I was beyond surprised when my oldest daughter, Aubrey, came home with “Kate”, a goldfish she won at school last week. She was thrilled, and I tried to put on my happy face as we loaded up and headed to the store to get a fish bowl and food.
But I was apprehensive, there have been many lives lost in the O’Bryant’s quest to becoming pet owners: Blitzen the Power’s family beta fish, for which Emma was convicted of involuntary fish slaughter (go to www.moultrienews.com/family for Blitzen’s full obituary) and the cat we inherited when our next door neighbors moved. Jevan-Samantha-Jennifer-Alexis-Hayley-Snead, who disappeared without a trace shortly after my husband taught Aubrey to shoot a BB gun and following the unexplained disappearance of a baby bird that had been rescued by some well-meaning, but totally unrealistic, member of my family.
In the wake of all the animals that have lost their lives before Kate, I tried to mentally prepare my children for her inevitable death, before we had even purchased her first meal. I explained to the girls that fish didn’t usually live very long and they didn’t need to be sad when she died, because truth be told Kate was going to be lucky to make it through the night.
Kate did survive that first night and when the girls walked into the kitchen the next morning they began dancing and chanting, “She’s alive! She’s alive!”
I got a little cocky. I was a real pet owner now. I had officially been in charge of a non-human life form for over 24 hours and it had lived. When my middle daughter, Emma, expressed a desire for a fish to call her own, I didn’t hesitate. I splurged the 32 cents and dumped another fish in the bowl.
For exactly three days my daughters spent every waking second staring wide-eyed into the fish bowl. It seemed they understood that there was no promise of tomorrow and they wanted to enjoy every second possible with their fishy friends– carpe diem or something like that. (Pun intended, of course.)
Until the expected happened, on Sunday morning before I had even gotten out of the bed, I received the news: ding dong the fish were dead. Kate and her adopted sister, Bea Jeni, had passed, gone on to that great fishbowl in the sky to join the throngs of O’Bryant pets who are gathered there, disgruntled I’m sure.
I was relieved that this particular bout of pet-itis was over, until my husband told me he was going to run to the store before church to pick up a couple of more fish. It’s a fishous cycle and it had to be stopped.
I warned my kids as they loaded into the car to pick their next victims, er, fish, “This is the last time! Do you hear me? No fish deserves to live like this! We’re not just going to keep replacing them!” I yelled as they drove away.
I went through the motions of getting everyone ready for church as my husband, Zeb, returned from his errand and acclimated the fish to its new home. Zeb read off of his store ticket, “Did you know you can get a new fish within 90 days if you keep your receipt?”
I rolled my eyes. Just what this family needs, I thought, an unlimited supply of fish.
We were about to walk out the door when I glanced at the fish bowl and saw it. There was no mistaking it. One of our new fish was already floating belly up in the bowl. In case you’ve lost count, that’s three fishy deaths in less than three hours.
Emma grabbed the net, scooped up her fish and marched to the toilet as Zeb chimed in, “At least I kept my receipt.”
***SERIOUSLY, Don’t send me hate mail over this. I will delete it without reading. I’m not raising serial killers over here we just don’t have good luck with pets. ALSO you might refer to THIS COLUMN where I explain my whole point of doing what I do. If you still don’t get it, I can’t help you.