Monday, May 20, 2013
Ike and Tina: A 20-Gallon Love Story
This is Ike and Tina.
I'm pretty sure they're inbred.
They came from the same tank of baby zebra-striped angelfish. Then they grew up, paired up, and started spawning like crazed cichlids in heat. (I had to take the third angelfish back to the store because they were beating on him so relentlessly.)
They raised one batch of fry, which was an epic adventure for me and my roommate. Since then, they still spawned constantly, but they've been careful to eat all the eggs. I guess one round of parenting was enough for them.
They survived the Great Tank Leak of '08, lived in a bathtub for two days afterward (and somehow didn't die from the soap scum, which is a minor miracle in itself), and then did a three-week tour of duty in a plastic goldfish bowl while I glued and re-glued the seams of their swanky glass penthouse.
Anyway, last month, Tina started swimming in weird loops. Usually that's a sign of a swim bladder problem, so I consulted the experts and tried what I could: shelled peas, epsom salts, antibiotics, you name it. Nothing worked. I figure she's got a tumor of some kind pressing on her swim bladder, or else (more likely) she's full of eggs she can't lay.
This weekend, she started crashing out on the bottom of the tank - still getting up to eat (oh my God, does she eat), but then falling back to the bottom, totally knackered. At this point, she's been sick for a month, and she's only getting worse. So I figure it's time.
As I write this, Tina is drifting off to sleep in a vodka cocktail (tank water, clove oil, and a splash of Smirnoff. Tears optional.) And although I'm even more sad than I thought I would be, the thought I keep coming back to is this:
We love our cats and dogs (and horses and ferrets and chinchillas) because they're great little buddies. We play together. We have lovey times. We're friends in the truest sense of the word.
That's not really true with fish. To them, I am merely the Great Shadowy Force that causes food to appear in the Holy Purple Floaty Ring. But Ike and Tina didn't need a human person in order to live big, amazing lives. Growing up, parenthood, a bona-fide love-triangle, danger and hardship and adventure on the bathtub seas... and here at the very end of it, Ike poking Tina relentlessly to try to get her to swim again.
In a way, it is immensely comforting to know that there are dramas and epic stories unfolding all around us, ones that don't need our attention, much less our intervention, to play out in grand form. And sometimes I think all we really to do is learn how to notice them.
--We still have to name them...
--You wanna name all of 'em, right now? All right. We'll name this half Marlin Jr., and then this half Coral Jr. Okay, we're done.