This originally appeared at A2Z.
Last week Atticus became a pet owner. We went to Petsmart and looked at all of the various small creatures that were available. He loves all animals, but he really loves fish. Tricia’s parents have a fish pond and he spends hours feeding and talking to the fish. When he saw the numerous tanks in the store I knew we had found our pet. We bought a small bowl, a fake plant, some blue gravel and fish flakes. Then we picked out the newest member to our family. He cost twenty-four cents. What price this happiness? It was the cheapest smile I had ever purchased.
Fish, as he came to be called, came home in a plastic bag- doubled to ensure safety in the hands of a cheerful 2 year old. He was introduced to his bowl and set in a place of honor on the dresser from which Atticus could keep a watchful eye. Fish was greeted every morning with “hewwo fish”, a wave, and a smile. He was visited throughout the day with more of the same, and was bid goodnight with “nite fish” and softly blown kisses. It was a life of leisure.
Fish died today.
Atticus and I came home this evening and when I went in to check on Fish, he was no more. I quickly and quietly disposed of his lifeless body like so many parents have done before me. I gave him a burial at sea, or septic as it were, thought well of him, then washed and hid his now empty bowl.
Atticus has not noticed. He was asleep when we got home after a long day of defying and resisting naps. I made him wake up and eat dinner. We watched the Suns clinch their series. We played catch. He took me outside to show me the moon and we walked around the yard practicing the names of various nouns scattered throughout our property. We lay in the grass with the dogs, Harley and Valentine, and gave them hugs; Atticus taking it a step farther by lavishing them with ‘sugars’, hair tugs and giggles. He fell asleep on the couch while watching some mindless tv show and I carried him to bed.
The absence of Fish was avoided. In the morning I will deal with it. I can hear it already, “hewwo fish..fish..fish…where go?”, accompanied by target-less pointing and shrugging shoulders. I have no intention of explaining death just yet. Not that he would understand. I don’t even think I’m ready to give the “not coming back” bit either. What I will do is say Fish went to work, or to visit someone, maybe shopping for a new plant- whatever, and then I will go to Petsmart and buy another fish.
I won’t take my receipt and demand a replacement, despite the existence of a 2 week guarantee. I parted with twenty-four cents before and it will be worth it again. Besides, something about cashing in on the warranty seems to diminish the memory of Fish, short as it may be. He may not have done much with his down time, but when a small boy’s eyes were on him he created happiness- and that is a life well lived.