We embarked on an adventure this weekend, my children and I. This wasn’t a traveling adventure, oh no—we’ve had our share of those, as well, and I can tell you that ANY travel with them counts as an adventure, even if it’s just a trip to Wal-Mart. No, this was a much more dangerous and crazy adventure, at least for my children. This weekend, we bought fish.
I’m not talking about the edible kind, although I suppose if you were hungry enough…I’m talking about the kind you put in a tank and stare at. That is to say, when they aren’t staring at you, as they seem to like to do. I wonder sometimes what goes through their heads.
I suppose I should back up and explain that these fish are the first pets we’ve had since 2010. The landlord won’t allow any others, and it’s just as well, because my work schedule won’t allow me to give a dog the level of care it needs.
I am from West Virginia originally; in fact, the property on which I now live is the same property on which I grew up; but from 2003 to 2010, my now-ex-wife and I (and of course later, the kids) lived in central Virginia, just north of Richmond. During those years, we had two cats and two dogs, and they were great; but the children, being very young, don’t really remember them at all. (One dog died very old in 2003, not too long after we moved there; the two cats and the second dog survived until 2010, when we suspect that a neighbor may have poisoned them while they were outside. Cruel world we live in; I’m still angry over it.) At any rate, my children are getting their first exposure to animal care by way of an animal that will die if you look at it cross-eyed. Genius!
There are four fish in the tank. My knowledge about them is extensive; I can tell you with ninety-five percent certainty that they are NOT goldfish. Their distinctively not-gold coloration is the giveaway, for all of you less knowledgeable types. Variety, you say? Umm…pink? Black and white? This knowledge is too esoteric for you, please stop asking me these questions. Let’s move on to naming! My daughter and son picked out the two pink fish (yes, my son wanted a pink fish, is that a problem?) and named them Chi-Chi (Emma’s fish) and Nemo (Ethan’s, and don’t say you didn’t see THAT coming!). The black and white spotted fish (spoiler alert: the key word here is “spotted”) was picked out by my nephew, Pete, and named Spotty. The big (well, bigger) yellow guy is Boomer, and he’s the special-needs member of the group.
Boomer, Boomer…what do we do with you? Boomer also goes by the less-flattering name of Retard. Now, WAIT! I know what people will say before they say it. Some readers will object to that word because it’s offensive, unjust, unkind, it pigeonholes people—whatever. I know the arguments. May I take a moment, and remind everyone that we are talking about a FISH? This is not a human. I would never use that term on a person. It’s insulting, and it perpetuates the terrible habit of thinking of people as a label, based on a single characteristic. Mental retardation is a real problem, and deserves to be taken seriously. But Boomer, aka Retard, is a fish…so I think we’ll be okay here.
Boomer, you see, doesn’t swim. He bobs. In place. He’s not injured or deformed, and his fins all work—he flails them around enough to see that—but he seems to have forgotten what to do with them. When he’s feeling especially ambitious, he will bolt across the tank…to his second-favorite bobbing spot, where he will proceed to while away the hours playing buoy. But that pales in comparison to his favorite hobby: beating his head on the side of the tank. He has it down to an art form; he knows just when to stop to keep from denting his cranium. He would be the kid in the Far Side comic, pushing on the pull door.
And now, confession time: Boomer is my fish. Yes, I picked him out, and adopted him, and named him (and nicknamed him, too). But it was an appropriate choice, because sometimes I don’t have it all together myself. This post, for example: It’s gone through about five topic changes in the hour that I’ve been working on it. I may be somewhat intelligent, but I can be as unfocused as anyone! So, maybe Boomer and I will get along well.
That is, until the next great hurdle: Teaching Ethan to feed the fish. They may not be long for this world after all.