My wife and I had been toying with the idea of a fish tank for years. We would get all the way to picking out a tank, the kind of fish we wanted, I would even come up with ridiculous ideas like putting into the wall. My wife would bring me back to reality with questions like, “if it was in the wall how would you feed the fish?” Don’t bother me with physics, I’m an idea man. Okay, probably not.
But a few months ago we finally took the plunge – see what I did there. We bought a thirty gallon half- round tank. What did you say? Start with a ten-gallon tank and make sure you can maintain it correctly? I scoff at such logic. No, we were going right for the big boy! We bought a bunch of plants both plastic and real, along with several things to put at the bottom of the tank, clashing an Asian motif with a military. The professional at the store who had years of practical experience suggested waiting a week before adding any fish to the aquarium, so we, of course, gave it a whole two days.
I know what your thinking but not all the fish died…immediately. They would go in waves – yup went there again- and we would replace them as they went belly up. After a few weeks of this we sustained our aquarium without further deaths for a few days so cried victory! We had even added a frog to the mix, and they were all getting along swimmingly – sorry I can’t help it, I’m a dad, bad puns are a requirement. So the obvious next step was to buy another tank, cause you know, now we were experts.
This one was smaller, a fifteen-gallon column tank but this one I will blame on my wife. She wanted a neon tank, and since I could deny her nothing, we got it. This one, having benefited from our vast experience, did much better. Only half died. So now your thinking, okay Bill, so where’s the karma? Patience, haven’t you ever heard of a backstory? So everything was going great, then we made a critical error.
While making our semi-daily trip to the pet store, I saw it. I yelled for my son and pointed to a tank, it is was a lobster. It was bright red and epic looking. This was why I got a fish tank, it would be the star of the tank, I had to have it. I called for assistance, and they bagged that bad boy, literally.
It was like an early Christmas, bringing this minor demon home to my awaiting tank. We dropped him in, and he floated to the floor like superman drifting down from the sky. It was an impressive sight, and the euphoria lasted a good five minutes. The next thing I knew my wife was yelling “It’s got the frog!”
My response was not met with thanks or enthusiasm. After all, this was a lobster at the bottom of a twenty-eight-inch tall tank that I needed a step stool to reach, and I didn’t think it would respond well to me tapping on the tank yelling “drop it.” Luckily it was inside an Asian – or maybe Egyptian- statue, so when my wife picked it up both lobster and frog inside it decided to let go. I was still banging on the tank so we really can’t be sure what ultimately made him drop the frog. Toad, aptly named after a Mario character, lost a foot in the altercation. We transferred him to the other tank, see the other tank wasn’t such a stupid idea, and a few days later was doing his impression of flotsam.
With the frog gone we figured our worries were over. After all, he was on the bottom of the tank, and the rest were free to maneuver in all directions. Like Khan, the lobster suffered from two-dimensional thinking. However, if Khan had the ingenuity of this friggin lobster the crew of the enterprise would never have made another movie. I’m not entirely sure that would have been a bad thing, except for IV but that is a whale of another story.
He attacked several other fish including one of our biggest, an angelfish, which it used to take a little ride like Mary Poppins. I was alerted to this predicament by my daughter’s blood-curdling scream, to which my answer differed little from the from the previous incident. We decided that he needed to go, but I had just paid twenty bucks for this stupid, though very cool looking, lobster, so the solution was clear. We needed another tank.
Now that we had two count them, two working tanks a third would be no problem. This one we would populate with all aggressive fish who would be able to hold their own against the bottom-feeding beast of the deep. Off again to the pet store, or rather a different pet store to reduce the moronic looks we were getting to buy the twin brother tank to the one where we set up the neon fish. We dropped the devil spawn of a crustacean into the new tank along with several mean looking fish and watched with bated breath.
To my great relief, and shock, it worked. The tyrant had finally met its match and as each day marched on the only fish deaths could not be directly tied to big red. All was well with the little worlds under the sea, or rather tap water, that we had created. Or so we thought.
One morning I came down and started to make breakfast. My wife followed shortly after and while starting the coffee looked passed and into the dining room where sat the aggressive tank. “Oh crap, we lost another one,” she exclaimed, then followed it up with, “what fish is that?” I squinted from my position at the stove trying to figure out what the heck that fat pale fish was. My first thought was that the godfather of fish had really worked one over to the point of making it unrecognizable. I moved closer intrigued as one would be to see what Jason had done to the latest coed traipsing in the woods half naked. It took me a few seconds to put the pieces together as it were, it wasn’t a fish, it was the lobster.
During the night it had molted its shell, which I could just make out in one of the little caves at the bottom of the tank. What was left of its soft body resembled a piece of my favorite meal which is usually accompanied by a rare steak and a large bowl of melted butter. The other fish in the tank had indulged in their own feast, big red had no appendages left, and the biggest and baddest fish in the tank was still taking pot shots at it, apparently still hungry. The fantasy horror part of my brain kicked in, and I could see the one time bully now reduced to a weak, defenseless creature reminiscent of the poor unfortunate souls after Ursula had gotten through with them. I could envision the fish in the other tanks crowed to one side of their tank struggling to get a good view of the slaughter about to happen, pounding their fins against the glass while muttering “jus-tice, jus-tice, jus-TICE, JUS-TICE!.”
My deceased father’s words came to me then, the only sage advice on people management he ever gave since it was all I ever needed, “Be careful how you treat the people on the way up because it will be those same people that you’ll see on the way down.”
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