The End-ish... of the fish (by Jody Casella)

I'm not a huge fan of fish (as pets. I enjoy eating fish, but I digress). So I wasn't thrilled when my daughter asked for a fish for her birthday. Bluh, I told her. Fish are boring. You have to remember to feed them and clean out their bowl. Also, they die, in my experience, fairly quickly.

Exhibit A: the fish I had when I was a kid that swam around its bowl for a few weeks, boringly, until one night it jumped over the rim toward freedom. I found it the next morning curled stiffly on the shag carpet. So long, Fish, I hardly knew you.

Exhibit B: the two goldfish that my husband and I bought for our son when he was five years old that he promptly named Goldie and Fishie and that promptly died within hours of each other. Apparently you're not supposed to put two goldfish in a small bowl together. Lesson learned.

These exhibits did not dissuade our daughter.

Flash forward to our gift of a fish, a pretty blue betta that my daughter named Michael Buble (no idea why), and another gift of a fish, a goldfish from a friend, that she christened Michael Buble the Second (again, no clue on the names here.)

Then she went to camp for a week.

Flash forward several days when my husband and I suddenly remembered there were two Michael Bubles swimming around in their respective bowls in our daughter's bedroom.

Make that one Michael Buble. (Side note: goldfish are really not a very hardy brand.)

The original Michael Buble was doing okay though, all things considered. He went on to live several more months and our daughter grew very attached to him, even shedding a few tears when we flushed his dead body down the toilet.

Which inevitably led to the purchase of fish number three, Michael Buble the Third, who swam around his bowl boringly in our daughter's bedroom for a good year and a half until she went off to college.

And then we moved Michael Buble into the kitchen --so we wouldn't forget to feed him-- where he lived another year and a half, and okay, I'll admit it, I grew kinda attached to him too.

All those mornings I'd shuffle blearily downstairs, flip on the light and make my coffee, and there was Michael Buble flitting around in his bowl, puckering his mouth at me and waving his fluttery tail. Some days we'd share a moment when I'd drop a food pellet into his bowl, a flick of my finger on the water's surface and a little return flick of his blue fin.

Last week Michael seemed to be slowing down. Resting behind his plastic plant. Ignoring his food pellets.

At dinner one night my husband and I watched him do a wild thrashy dance then settle himself sideways across the stony bottom of his bowl.

Well, he's dead, my husband said. He jiggled the bowl, and Michael rallied, flicking his fins defiantly.

When we went to bed, his small blue body was more belly-up-ish than sideways-ish. Jiggling the bowl didn't seem to change the situation.

In the morning I shuffled into the kitchen yawning, forgetting for a minute what had happened the night before. I switched on the light, and the fish flickered to life. As I made my coffee he swam around his bowl, fluttering his tail and puckering his mouth at me like the old days.

Then he settled himself back down against the stones.

I know it's just a little thing, one small fish leaving this world, but for whatever it is worth, Michael Buble the Third, I am glad I knew you.


  1. Thanks...Proof that good writers can make any event interesting.

    1. Thank you, Berek. Your comment pretty much made my day :)

  2. Agreed! Great post, Jody! A fine tribute to the Michaels Buble.

  3. When my dog Winnie died (I was 23 and Winnie was 17 when she passed), my neighbor gave me a betta fish. My brother and I named him Norman (after the line in LEGENDS OF THE FALL--"Norman's not funny.") We'd had fish briefly when we were younger, and never thought we'd ever get attached to a fish since they didn't have the same kind of personality as a dog (hence the "not funny" reference). We had Norman longer than we've had any other fish--about nine months or so. I was also surprisingly sad to see him go...

  4. Fish have been the only pets we've had in my family. I never cared for them much. The tank was always in need of cleaning, they don't cuddle you or even care much about you.

    Right after my mom died and I'd spent 2 weeks in Connecticut, I returned home to find one of our fish (African Ciclids) bloated -- I mean so swollen, he looked like he might explode. My husband thought it was fatal but for some reason, I couldn't let this just happen. I went to three different stores, came home with medicine to put in the tank water and a separate quarantine tank for him. We had to feed him different food, administer these drops into his water several times a day and in about a week, he was back down to his normal size. My husband was amazed... "You HATE these fish! Why didn't you just let nature take its course?"

    I still don't quite know why. I think it's because nobody -- not even a boring fish -- should have to die a painful death.

  5. It's very easy to get attached to pets; I had a dog throughout my childhood, and I was broken-hearted when she died of old age, because I loved her more than almost everything else.


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