Something’s Fishy

I’m sitting here in the kitchen, staring at the twenty-nine gallon fish tank that’s across the room. It’s perched upon a shelving unit that measures four feet wide, four feet high, and two feet deep. It’s covered with a tablecloth. The entire set up is hideously ugly and doesn’t belong in my kitchen. But I have nowhere else to put it.


In this aquarium are only three fish. One is a Jack Dempsey (named for the aggressive nature that mimics the style of a famous 1920’s professional boxer’s); the other is a Kissing Gourami (a popular pinkish fish); and the third is a Zebrafish (appropriately named for its black and white stripes). Once, there were more fish in there, but they died. I’ve been “fish sitting” the remaining water creatures for the past four years.


About four-and-a-half years ago, my son – a sophomore in college at the time – called with some “exciting” news. He and his roommate decided to get a pet. They really wanted a puppy, but knew that wasn’t a good idea. So, they went to PetSmart and bought fish. What? I screamed inside. Fish are not pets! He then proceeded to go on and on enthusiastically describing the tank, the filters, the food, the gravel, the live plants, and the varieties of fish. To my credit, I didn’t say a word. I chalked it all up to the stupidity and immaturity of “independent” college kids. A few months later, however, I couldn’t keep quiet when he arrived home for winter break – tank, fish, supplies, and all. “Why did you bring all of this stuff home?” I half-shouted. “Because they couldn’t stay in the frat house alone for a month, Mom. Besides, don’t worry; I’ll take them back with me in January,” he said with that grin.

I knew this would happen.

The fish never left my home. The excuses were plenty. First, there suddenly wasn’t room in the car. Next, there was spring break. Then, there was the summer internship. Then there was the small New York City apartment that already was cramped with three human roommates. Lastly, there’s the upcoming move to Chicago. The fish are here, but he is gone.

Will they ever leave?

I don’t know why I feel this intense animosity against harmless, lazy swimmers, but I do. I refuse to clean the tank, resent having to buy new supplies (filters, food, light strips, air tubes, etc.), and rarely even feed them. My husband is the selfless saint who shoulders all of the responsibility and doesn’t seem to mind. Clearly this is my problem.

So, why do I care? I honestly don’t know. Maybe it goes back to the water frog we were tricked into adopting from one elementary school class. Or maybe it goes back to the hamster we were manipulated into bringing home from a different class. Or maybe I’m just sick of being responsible for someone else’s stuff.

What should I do?

I’m sitting here in the kitchen, staring at the twenty-nine gallon fish tank that’s across the room. My son doesn’t live at home anymore and he left me with his fish. He would never know if I flushed them down the toilet. He’d never know if I fried them up and fed them to the dogs…the shayneh gefilte fish. He’d never know if I just starved them to death…or would he?

Should I just give them away?

His bedroom is as he left it. Sports team photos on one wall; trophies glistening on the shelves; school books on the desk; bar mitzvah poster on another wall; and pen collection on the dresser. He insists that it’s still his room – even if he doesn’t live at home anymore – and won’t let me turn it into a yoga studio. We both know that the odds of him moving back in are slim to none, but his stuff is still here.

But, wait. With his stuff still here, he has to keep coming back to check on it. And, if he keeps coming home, he isn’t really gone. Right? Maybe he actually will come back for the fish.

Hmmm…I better feed them.

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