Small Z, having achieved another night in her bed, had been promised fish for the empty fishtank that M had got on FreeCycle just after Christmas. It has been sitting there with coloured-in sea creatures stuck to its sides. It was time to move them on. M gave me a small kick to get moving on what had been my idea (the reward – not the actual TANK – which was ALL HIM).
I went to Mornington for a CT scan of my numb leg and on the way went past a place that sold fish. The woman in there told me that the water needed to be in the tank for a few days with the filter running and water conditioner (which she helpfully sold me) added. I went home and did this. Small Z really helped me and was very interested in the whole thing…
Then my mother, Small DB, Small Z and I drove back to the shop a few days later for Small Z to pick her new piscine friends. They had a whole darkened room filled with different fish tanks. I asked for the most death defyingly hardy cold water fish that could stand to live with a three-year-old. Then I showed Small Z the seven or so different kind of fish that fitted this categorisation.
Small Z picked out three white and gold fish. I picked out two snails, some weed and a bulk bag of food. It came to FIFTY DOLLARS. Fifty. I shuddered, and paid up. I couldn’t imagine how we had reached that amount. It wasn’t until we were all finally buckled back in the car that my mother helpfully commented that it seemed like those fish were worth A LOT MORE than just one night in a bed. She then said that she had noticed that the fish Small Z had chosen were the most expensive coldwater deathproof fish in the shop. They were $7.50 each.
I was aghast. I hadn’t noticed. Why hadn’t she SAID anything?
“Well I knew you wouldn’t want me to say anything….” she said, almost before I could whine the words.
Gah. So we drove. We were a third of the way home, with Small DB starting to get restless in the back (I’d forgotten to give her anything to suck on – thank goodness for detachable handbag handles) when my mother started wordlessly miming some kind of Greek tragedy. Pointing. Looking. Flourishing bag of hardy, deathproof fish.
ONE WAS FLOATING ON ITS BACK. AT THE TOP OF THE WATER.
I swore savagely and inwardly, did a U-turn that had my mother gripping the dashboard, and accelerated viciously back toward Mornington. I called the shop and told them to have that fish’s stunt double ready in a bag for my mum to jump out and grab. While trying to explain to Small Z that as the fish was feeling unwell, it needed to go home to recuperate as it had a sore tummy.
Oh, it was such a grand adventure. I was tireder than usual as I’d forgotten to tend to my iron levels for a week. My mother was composing her own epitaph because I was driving vigorously in the rain, and Small Z was bleating every three and a half minutes, “But why was the fish sick, mama? When a fish is sick…what happens?” Only Small DB, chomping sedately on my handbag strap, had her shit together.
Finally we got home. Small DB, adding to her awesomeness, had fallen asleep – so I left her in the car on the front lawn while organising the new home for the fish and lunch for Small Z. The fish seemed to take to their new home admirably. One of the snails did immediate and frighteningly fast laps of the tank – the other did not move for 24 hours.
Fish names? Spot, Stripey and Fluke.
Snail names? Speedy and Slow.
Small Z’s interest level in the fish? About 4/10.
UPDATE: the morning after I wrote this, I got up and M hissed, “We’ve got a FLOATER.” And so then there were only Stripey and Fluke left. We have since learned that the pet place in Mornington where we got the fish are not highly regarded. M went somewhere in Somerville where he was given much better information and a far cheaper replacement stunt double fish. Gah.