Monday, January 21, 2008

About Bubba

It has been a sad few days in my household because Bubba the Goldfish has passed away. Now, yes, Bubba was a goldfish, a species not especially prone to long life, but Bubba was special. Bubba had been with Andrew and I since before we were married, long before Pompey, Caesar, and Octavian joined us. He lived for six and a half years, and it seemed like he would live forever.

I must confess Bubba and I did not get off to a great start. I was never particularly fond of fish. I couldn't quite get their appeal. You couldn't hold them or pet them, you could only stare at them through panes of glass and water. They could be slimy, scaly, and they made the strangest faces. I could see no redeeming feature in owning and caring for a fish.

Despite this, or rather, because of this, my mother thought it would be a bit of a lark to present Andrew and I each with a goldfish of our own. A carnival near her work was selling the leftover goldfish for a mere dollar a piece, and she couldn't resist buying 2 of them. She just knew that I would loath the fish and Andrew would love them.

Yet, the goldfish she bought were not merely leftover goldfish, they were front line fish. Do you know the ping pong game at carnivals? It’s the game were you toss pings pongs at little cups, and if your ball lands in a cup, you win a prize, usually a goldfish? Well, the two fishes we got were in the cups that lined the edges of the playing field. For the entire length of the carnival, ping pong balls had been tossed at them from every angle, bumping their cups, landing in their water, a never-ending aerial attack. As a result, the two fish were more than a little shell shocked, and slightly twitchy in nature.

My mother proudly smiling with a slightly wicked grin presented Andrew and I with our fish. I took mine with a muttered, “Why, thank you, Mother,” in a tone of voice that sent her into gleeful laughter. Andrew’s reaction was actually beyond what she and I expected- he went absolutely gaga over the fish. He gave my mother a huge hug and couldn't stop babbling his thanks: “Oh, my gosh, this is so cool, these fish are so cool, thank you so much, it’s so awesome, I love fish, I love you, thank you, this is so cool, totally awesome, just unbelievable, thank you so much….” Etc, etc., etc!

Andrew’s joyous reaction sealed the fishes fate. There was no way we couldn't keep them. I had no choice but to immediately go out and buy a fish bowl and all the other accoutrement's of fish ownership- gravel, nets, fish food, fish medicine, fish toys, so many fish stuff that I could never keep track of. Adding to my annoyance at our two scaly new pets, all this fish equipment was bought with my very first paycheck from my very first full time job straight out of college. Sigh.

Now, despite the massive amounts of equipment we bought for the two fish, I seriously didn't expect the fish to last long; they were front line carnival fish, after all. Believing that they wouldn't be long for this world, when Andrew asked me what I would name my fish, I said the first name that came to mind: Bubba. Such a name to grace a fish with. Andrew, much more creative than I, named his fish Goldie. Thus christened with such thought provoking, insightful names, Bubba and Goldie began their lives together with us.

Despite my expectations, the two fish thrive under Andrew’s care. Rather than going belly up within a week, they got bigger. They thrived in their new home and under Andrew’s attentive care. By the time Andrew and I had gotten married and moved into our new apartment, the goldfish had double their size, and were proudly listed by Andrew on our rental agreement as our beloved pets. I, however, was still leery of their fishiness.

When Pompey joined our family, I wondered about the safety of our fish. Weren't cats and fish natural predators? Despite my protestations that I couldn't care less about the fish, I was secretly worried for their safety, and moved their bowl high up atop our tallest piece of furniture. I needn't have worried, however, Pompey, quite active in his youth, found his way up to the top of that tallest piece of furniture, saw the fish, and promptly jumped back down, terrified of their fishy faces. Later encounters with his goldfish roommates left Pompey curious, but never hungry. He never once tried to eat them.

Since Pompey showed no predatory instincts towards the fish, and the fact that they had survived for well over a year despite all the odds, Bubba and Goldie acquired a nickname: The Fishies Who Will Not Die. Along with their new nickname, the fish acquired a great big new home: a spacey 10 gallon tank. They also grew much, much larger.

And so life went with the two fish. When Caesar was adopted into our family, he also showed a distinct lack of interest in the fish, although he was fond of sleeping on top of the big tank. They truly were The Fishies Who Will Not Die. We moved several times and, pardon the pun, the fish traveled swimmingly. Every day, the fish contently swam around their big tank, floating in and out of their play castle, playing hide and seek among the rocks and plants. I would stare at them and wonder at their big, bulging eyes, their mouths that constantly gaped open, and silently, though I wouldn't even admit it to myself, admired their long, fan-like tails.

Years passed, until Bubba and Goldie were almost 6 years old. Goldie began to look a little tired. Her games of hide and seek weren't quite as festive as before. She seemed to sleep at the bottom of the tank a little too often. One day, she merely stopped being altogether, and we found her floating at the top of the tank, ready for a burial into the greater sea.

Bubba alone seemed just odd to me. He seemed lonely in his tank. He didn't swim around as much or play in his castle. He spent more time at the edge of his world, staring out from the water and glass out at us. I knew that Bubba needed another friend. He was a tough fish, but a lonely fish, and I just knew he would be happier with some new friends.

I begin to pester Andrew about getting some new fish. "Bubba looks lonely. He needs a friend. When are you going to get a new fish?" Andrew found the situation amusing. For years, I was completely hands off the fish, wanting nothing to do with them. This sudden 180 of mine was immensely amusing to him, and he enjoyed teasing me about it. "See, see. I knew you liked the fish! Admit it, you have a soft spot for the fish!" Yes, Andrew had a lot of fun with my about face, but eventually, he, too, decided the time was right to get Bubba some new friends.

Andrew went out fish shopping, since I knew nothing about the care and feeding and friending of fish, and selected two new goldfish, of a variety he called 'fancy.' One was a mix of white and gold, with a fan-like tail, and the other was all gold, with black specks all over. Andrew named them Spot and Pepper. Bubba immediately named them new friends.

All three fish seemed to get along swimmingly. They spent their first day together swimming around the tank, playing hide and seek, and having a fishy good time. After a long time of sadness, Bubba was happy again.

Yet, a mere two days after his new friends joined him in the tank, Spot and Pepper began to look a little ill. Their shinny scaled were dull and their bulging eyes were glazed. By the third day, both Spot and Pepper were sent to a burial into the greater sea.

Andrew immediately moved Bubba to a bowl, so that the tank could be cleaned. Bubba seemed okay, but a bit bewildered. First Goldie and now Spot and Pepper. He also seemed tired. Andrew and I watched Bubba anxiously. Would he fall to the same ills as Spot and Pepper? We gave him medicine, just to be safe, and then waited.

Bubba was a tough fish. I had complete confidence that he would survive. He had survived ping-pong missiles, multiple moves, and cat companions. Indeed, he seemed to be fighting his illness, too. He would sleep for a time at the bottom of his bowl, then wake up and swim around and around in laps, very energetic. Yes, he was tough, he was a fighter, but even the strong fall sometimes. Two days after Spot and Pepper went to sea, Bubba joined them.

Now, the tank is empty. Nothing swims between the rocks and in the castle. Caesar, so found of sleeping on the tank, stays away. Andrew looks at the tank sadly, having no fish to take care of. As for me, I don't like looking at the tank. There are no more bulging eyes, gaping mouths, or long flowing fins to admire. I never knew I could miss something like a fish. But then again, Bubba was no ordinary fish- he was my fish.