"J.J., my fish is going to DIE," Johnny sobbed.
I ran in with my towel.
"J.J. dumped out my fish," Johnny cried.
He was holding J.J. in place so that he didn't play wackemall with Fish Face as he swam in the puddle on the hardwood floor.
Seriously, the beta was swimming sideways in a quarter inch of water. If I ran a company I would hire Fish Face. There isn't a challenge this little guy can't meet.
"Quick, get me a glass of water," I told Johnny. "And the chlorine neutralizer."
We poured it in the bowl. Then I set about trying to catch fish face as he lept all over the place. Finally landing on J.J.'s ankle.
J.J. momentarily stopped crying, obviously thinking, "Fishy swim in J.J.'s tummy?"
I caught Fish Face and threw him back in his bowl. He swam to the surface opening and closing his mouth like he does when he's hungry.
Clearly, he wanted to do some stress eating.
"Quick, get the food," I told Johnny.
He ran back with it and opened it quickly. Naturally, it went everywhere. We were having a birthday party for J.J. later that night and apparently our house wasn't dirty enough as it was.
We gave fish face a few fish bits and he swam around wide eyed for a while, occassionally glaring at me as if to ask, "You want to hire me? Could I wear a name tag that says, 'Ask me about how bad my job sucks'?"
J.J., exhausted and wet after his show down with Fish Face, laid down for a nap.
With fishy water, fish food, toys and laundry everywhere, and company coming in eight hours, I sprung into action...And searched for my cup of coffee. Finally, I found it in the microwave.
I needed some debriefing.
What hapened was Johnny had moved all his pets to the World's Best Police station in the corner of his room. This is where he keeps his badges and clues. So Fish Face's bowl was sitting on top of Frankly the Frog's aquarium--out of J.J.'s reach. But when Johnny fed Frankly, he had to move Fish Face to the floor. That's where J.J. found him and tried to drink him.
The night before, Johnny prayed, "I hope Frankly doesn't die like all my other pets."
With the exception of Fish Face, who has led a Job-like existance at our house, we took good care of our little pets. But they still died.
There were the hermit crabs. We poured water over their rocks everyday and put the lamp over them to create a nice humid atmosphere--like the directions said. We fed them flakes of food and salted their water. They occassionally got lost among Johnny's shell collection. But we always found them and returned them home. Still, they died one by one.
There were the other betas. The ones who were not dumped out or given a fin cut, but still died.
There were the turtles who ran away. Or walked away, rather, while getting fresh air in our yard. But I'm pretty sure they're living in our neighbor's overgrown yard. That wasn't very responsible on my part, come to think of it.
But the first cut was the deepest. Stingy wingy, the lady bug. We found him next to our front door. He had a broken wing and Johnny laid him on a bed made of toilet paper next to his bed. He laid a couple of pieces of grass next to him for hospital food. The next day, Stingy Wingy was dead.
"He was just a baby," Johnny wailed.
"No, no, he was very old," I said. "He had a wonderful life until the wing broke."
A discussion of life and death and heaven and earth ensued. I thought it would kill me.
But a couple hours later, Johnny was fine.
And months later, he buried his hermit crabs with matter of fact prayers. He was brave during toilet side services for the fish.
So I thought he'd made peace with the fragility of tiny pets.
But the morning of the fish fiasco, he dumped crickets into Frankly's cage and watched worriedly.
"Eat, Frankly," Johnny said.
Frankly just sat in his water.
"Is he eating the crickets?" I asked peaking my head in the door.
"No, but the crickets are eating each other," he said.
These crickets are awful. I know that we're all God's creatures, even insects. But God must have created these guys at 4:59 p.m. on a Friday when all his friends were calling him from the pub.
I'm not an entimologist, but this is what it looks like to me is happening inside their cage.
You know how sometimes you eat so much that you feel like if you take one more bite, you'll burst? Well, the crickets take that next bite. And they do burst. Then another cricket eats the food out of the last cricket's stomach and that cricket bursts. They're as dumb as they are ruthless. They jump in water even though they can't swim. They eat their injured friends. We're done with crickets. Eating their injured...that was a deal breaker right there. We're switching to earthworms.
The good news is Fish Face is fine and now lives on my dresser. And Frankly ate all his crickets the next morning.
I guess Johnny never got over the fragility of little creatures. I hope he never does.