In an attempt to rear pets, one moggie had died on our –me and my family’s- watch, and we had successfully managed to raise one for close to four years but had ended up giving her up for adoption; maybe we weren’t cut out to be pet owners…you know, these are some of those little messed up thoughts that creep up in someone’s head when they’re feeling down, and they end up depressed.
Ever since we moved, I’ve always regretted giving our Kitty up, until one evening… Two years ago, as I was heading home from work I bumped into a guy who was walking a white poodle. As I took each step towards them I couldn’t help wondering if we had done the right thing by giving Kitty up; here was a guy, walking towards me gleefully, with his dog’s leash in hand in a supposedly pet free zone. Maybe we should have defied the rules too; maybe we should have brought Kitty along.
Looking at the pooch from far, it seemed so adorable, so harmless, but that was until I came close to it; it looked vicious…it seemed ready to sink its white, strong teeth, which met in a scissor bite into anyone; thank heavens the guy walking it had it in a leash. As they drew closer, I realized I wasn’t brave enough to walk on that same sidewalk; the poodle was cute for real, but its teeth told an entirely different story. Therefore I crossed the road to the opposite sidewalk.
Apparently, I had been so mesmerized by this adorable canine that I hadn’t seen something lying on the road, I almost stepped on it; it was the carcass of a cat sprawled on the tarmac. Some speeding driver had seemingly run him down and evidently sped off. Such cruelty… I find it sad, that there’s a 20km/hr. speed limit on the major gates leading to the estate, but some drivers take it for granted.
That horrendous sight and other similar ones made me realize that this wouldn’t have been a safe place for Kitty and her kind. The only solution would have been to keep her on a leash, but then that would have made her life impossible… I stopped wishing we had brought her with us. If I had a choice I would have wanted her to be with us, but I realized that she was safer in her new home.
For two years after moving we stayed without any pets. None of us even considered it.
Providence had something else in store for us. One Saturday afternoon, the sky was a vast blue sheet, and the sun was shining radiantly; my sisters and I were doing karaoke, unwinding after a long busy week, when the doorbell rang. We weren’t expecting any visitors, so we got curious.
My baby sister went to get the door; it was a tall, dark, cute guy; the epitome of prince charming. In his hands he was carrying a clear plastic bag filled with water, with a couple of goldfish swimming in it.
“I’m looking for Liz, is this where she lives?” He enquired after the brief pleasantries with my sister.
“No, I’m sorry you’ve got the wrong house,” she replied, but she wasn’t sure if there was a neighbour going by that name, so she called me. I didn’t either; I did a quick mental scan of the neighbours I knew and I didn’t seem to recognize anyone by that name. I wasn’t of much help, so I left.
Allegedly, he was delivering the fish to a client. He worked in a pet shop. Jokingly, he offered to leave them to us.
“We don’t have a fishbowl”, my sister refused politely. After a while prince charming left. We dismissed his offer as a bluff.
A week later, on a Tuesday, my sisters and I had just come from school late in the afternoon. We found the door ajar; my mom was on off that day, but we didn’t know why the door was wide open, so we walked in cautiously.
To our astonishment, ‘prince charming’ was sitted, talking with mom.
“Oh, it’s you?” My baby sis greeted him; none of us could hide the disbelief. The surprised looks on our faces gave us away.
“Yeah, I came to bring you the aquarium.” He smiled.
“So you know him?” Mom interjected. We nodded.
“He told me you know him but I wasn’t sure he was telling the truth”, she explained. “I was about to send him packing”.
He hardly knew us, but the delighted expression he wore showed he was relieved to see us. “I literally had to beg your mom to let me in”.
A complete stranger was there in our living room setting up an aquarium. He was gifting it to us… just like that? I wasn’t sure I knew what was happening; it had all happened so fast. I had listened in on his conversation with my sis the first time he showed up on our doorstep and all I remembered were a few pleasantries, bluffs if you rather. So he wasn’t bluffing…
I’m a skeptic by nature; I wondered what his ulterior motive was. By the time he transferred the orange goldfish from the plastic bag into the beautiful aquarium, we had asked him so many questions; I bet by the time he left he was feeling like he’d just left a police precinct after that intense interrogation. I would be surprised if he didn’t feel that…
Maybe he was a good actor, but he appeared genuine all through. He visited regularly to check up on our new pets. At the time we didn’t know much about fish, so we called him everytime we were stuck. We called to know how often we should feed the fish, when the aquarium light burnt out we called him to fix it, he offered to wash the aquarium for us until we were confident we could do it without his help.
The first time we tried washing it we messed a little bit because before then we didn’t know why the air pump had to be placed on a raised surface. We learnt it firsthand; when we unplugged the pump from the electricity supply, water was sucked into it, because when we opened the aquarium lid we had placed the pump on a low stool. We called him to bring us a new one.
During the interrogation he had told us where he worked; mom had an acquaintance in that pet store, she called him to enquire about this ‘unexpected’ friend we’d made. He confirmed that they were in deed workmates, only that prince charming worked in a different branch. That helped diminish the suspicion we regarded him with.
Thanks to him, we had two new pets. We didn’t give them names at first, but after my big sis started playing ‘Aquarium’ on Tagged, we named the male one Chibbols and his female partner, Finley; after my sister’s “pets”.
Chibbols seemed to be growing faster than Finley. We thought it was just something natural; maybe that is how they were meant to grow. After one and a half years, chibbols looked pretty big, but Finley hadn’t changed much. Her growth had stagnated. After close observation we noticed she wasn’t eating much, she barely seemed to notice the food. One day we just found her at the bottom of the tank, dead. I didn’t feel sad as much as my baby sister did; she had grown attached to them as she is the one who fed them, cleaned their tank, and changed the water while I was working.
She looked so affected by Finley’s death; my mom couldn’t take it. She went and bought another female fish to replace Finley. We didn’t want to get so attached to them-their short lifespan had unimpressed us- so we deliberately passed on naming her. Six months later, at two years, Chibbols also died. We had started noticing slits on his fins; we later learnt that was a symptom of a sick fish. On the night he died, I realized he was swimming upside down; I’d seen Finley do that before she died, so I told the others about it.
My sister panicked; my mom called prince charming’s workmate, he was our new ‘supplier’ (time had revealed prince charming’s true self- he wasn’t genuine after all). He (the supplier) talked with my sister and unintentionally dampened her spirits when he told her chibbols was dying; and nothing could be done. When we went to bed that night we knew that was the last night time we’d be seeing him alive. So we took one last look before turning the lights off. The next morning, it was a Sunday and we were going to church. He was dead. I was overcome by grief. I hadn’t realized I had become attached to him unconsciously…
Finley’s replacement, who we call ‘fishy’, is two years old now. I must admit I love her. I know when she’s hungry; she swims up to the top, opening her mouth impatiently, and when she’s full she will just flip her tail and swim to the furthest corner or bottom of the aquarium without a care. I hadn’t planned on getting attached to her, and even as I write this I know it must sound crazy, but I love her. Years ago, had someone told me I could love a fish I’d think they’d gone loco.