My brother has a betta fish named Stan, and we do not get along. I think it is because Stan knows about my dark and sordid fish past and he hates me for it.
Every morning I walk past Stan’s bowl and he starts to attack the glass like a crazy fish and then we stare each other down for a while.
First of all, let me say a living thing that you have to care for is the worst present an adult could possibly give to another adult. “Happy Birthday! Here’s some responsibility.”
With that being said, on my twenty-third birthday a “friend” gave me a betta fish. Great. Something I have to feed every day and a nasty fishbowl I have to clean every week. And what does it do for me? Blow bubbles, of course!
I don’t blame my friend, though. I blame Wal-Mart for having fish that are so inexpensive that they can be given as insincere birthday presents. Wal-Mart can’t pay its employees a living wage, but it can sell you fish for about the same price as a Big Mac. But I digress.
My mom had a baby when I was senior in high school, which is the single-most embarrassing thing that can happen to you. I had bad skin and bad hair and now my mom was having a baby! That meant that… well, you know what that meant! Horrible! I told her I deserved to name the baby because she had shamed me so, and I wanted to name him “Herbert.” Apparently that is not how it works. She named him “Quinn” and told me exactly what to do with the name Herbert. Again, I digress.
So I named my fish Herbert, and I will say this for betta fish: they aren’t cool pets, but they absolutely will not die. I had expected Herbert to die in the first few days, like the goldfish I had when I was a kid, but pretty soon “a few days” lapsed into “a few months.”
I got sick of Herbert, quit cleaning his bowl and only fed him sporadically. I feel bad about it now, but at the time I was quite busy with college, work and chasing women. Herbert would wipe a little window in the green gunk growing on the sides of his bowl and look out of it with forlorn fish eyes. But he wouldn’t die.
Eventually I moved, but I didn’t want to take Herbert with me. I didn’t want him sloshing around in my car during the move, and I didn’t want to give him to somebody because I knew firsthand what a sucky present a fish makes. So I flushed him.
That’s right. We said our goodbyes and then Whoosh! I’ve seen Finding Nemo, though, and I know for a fact that Herbert is now happily reunited with his father.
And now, several years later, I think Stan has a fishy feeling about what I did to Herbert, which explains the animosity. Or maybe he’s mad because I make fun of his “bubble nest,” which is something a male betta makes by blowing a bunch of nasty bubbles that look like foam on top of the water.
The idea is that a female betta will come by, mate with him and then lay her eggs in the bubble nest. Stan is looking for love, but Stan is the only fish in his bowl and it’s not working out so well for him. I think he’s frustrated, and my taunts don’t help any.
“Still no mate, eh Stan?” I ask smarmily. “I see you’re still blowing bubbles, though. Keep trying!”
If fish looks could kill…