I stopped, startled. Out of the corner or my eye, I was sure I had seen something move! But there was not supposed to be anything alive in there! Scarcely daring to breathe, I looked more closely. The room was dim, but as I bent my head in concentration I saw that I had not been mistaken. The bus tray was full of rocks and shells and other decorative objects from our aquarium, but there on top of a big brown rock lay a panting fish. He was flapping his tail in what I can only assume was an urgent SOS.
It was 1992, the last time we did a full blown disassembly of our big fish tank. We had emptied the tank and put the rocks and decorations into bus trays and set them on the washer in the laundry room more than 12 hours earlier. There was no more than an inch of residual water in the bottom of the tray. We had filled big buckets with water from the tank and carefully moved the fish to temporary quarters. Except for the lone stow-away, the little albino shark, who must have been hiding in one of the holes in a rock.
I carried the fish back to his kinfolk as quickly and carefully as I could, feeling somehow, dreadfully guilty. I put him into the container and he swam off gratefully – sideways.
We cleaned the tank, put in a new filter system, replaced the rocks and flora and all the little homey touches that fish love. Now it was time to put the fish back. I could just imagine their joy at the freedom of restored space and light! Even the little rescued fish swam joyfully across the four foot expanse – sideways. We could not help laughing. We came to the conclusion that he had suffered Brain Damage from lack of oxygen since he lived out of water for so long. Matthew decided we should call him BD.
BD lived in the tank for many years. He frolicked and ate and joined in all the fishy games, swimming all over the tank – always swimming on his side. When he wasn’t swimming on his side he lay on his side on the bottom of the aquarium.
So yesterday, in preparation for our carpet installation we took the aquarium apart, and talked about all the memories it holds. I’ve had it for almost 30 years – a gift from my brother, Stuart, even before we John and I were married. We used to have it setting on a pair of nautical looking ammunition boxes.
When we were dating, John and I often sat on my couch with the lights dim, watching the fish. My room-mate said we were courting by fishlight instead of firelight.
When Monica was a toddler she started pulling herself up to look at the fishies. John had nightmares about her pulling the aquarium over on herself, so he built a solid cabinet, which just happens to include a ledge which serves as a hand hold for little fingers. Every little one who comes to our house wants to stand and look at the fishies
As we were fishing the fish out of the tank we remembered Grandpa Tinfoil, a very large tinfoil barb we had years ago. One day David noticed that he seemed to have grown a handlebar moustache. On closer inspection we saw that “moustache” was the tail of a much smaller fish Grandpa had eaten! (We subsequently put Grandpa up for adoption at Tropical Haven.)
And so this morning, as we await the arrival of the carpet man, the empty aquarium is on the front porch. The fish have been transferred to temporary shelters – all accounted for this time. And our bathtub is full of fish tank equipment, bus trays of rocks and 5-gallon buckets of water from the tank. This is not the strangest thing our bath tub has ever held. There was the 150 pound bear in the bathtub. But that’s another story. Right now I have to go help move furniture.