Thursday, March 18, 2010

Miracle on West Edwards Street

“DO NOT GO INTO THE LIGHT!” I yelled hysterically.

My husband poked his head around the door and said, “Excuse me?”

I pointed down at the tank on the counter. Inside was Gabe Junior, the tiny goldfish our son, Gabe Senior, had won at last summer’s county fair.

I sniffed and wiped a tear from my eye. “He’s not doing so well,” I said sadly.

My husband stepped forward and looked down. “Nope, it’s usually not a good sign when fish float sideways like that.”

He shrugged and added, “When’s the last time you changed the filter?”

“You’re...uh…supposed to do that?” I asked, realizing that maybe – just maybe – I had killed the fish. I’m soooo going to hell.

I leaned down with nose to the glass and looked at the little guy floating there, his tiny gills barely moving. In….Out….In….Out….

His big black eye stared up at me, unblinking. I stared back. Not wanting to break the contact, knowing he was reaching out in his own fishy way for love, for a connection, for some small sign of peace as he struggled to keep his earthly body with us.

My eyes began to water, but I kept staring, not wanting to let him down in his time of need.

My husband tapped me on the shoulder and said softly, “Fish don’t have eyelids, you know. They can’t blink.”

Oh, Jesus. I stood up and yelled, “FOR THE LOVE OF GOD, WE NEED A NEW FILTER!!”

My husband, finally understanding the seriousness of the situation, yelled, “I’m on it!” and tore down the stairs and into the garage, off to the store.

I knew it was only a matter of time. I called forth the rest of the family to say their goodbyes.

“Gabe,” I told my son as he stood before the tank, “Gabe Baldwin the Fish is really sick. We should say a prayer.”

He nodded, bowed his little blonde head and said in his preschooler’s voice, “Dear Lord, I’m sorry about Fishy. Can I get a new one?”

“What?!” I said, shocked at his lack of empathy. “He’s not even dead yet and you want another one??!”

Then I brought in Chaser, Wonder Mutt and lover of fish. I leaned down and said, “Chaser, I know you’ve always thought of him as lunch, but he’s sick. So make your peace.”

She cocked her golden head to the side, ears raised and looked at me with gorgeous brown eyes that said, “The kid has pancakes downstairs. What are the chances I can get my paws on one of those?”

Sigh. I patted her on the head and dismissed her as well. The slam of a door informed me my husband had returned.

He barreled up the stairs, bag in hand and said, “I blew through three stop signs, cut off two SUV’s and almost ran over a squirrel. Did I make it in time?”

Oh, how sweet. That’s why I married this guy.

I nodded yes and took the bag. Inside was a new filter, which we quickly installed.

With the tank back in working order, Gabe Baldwin the Fish burrowed into the bottom. The red-gold of his scales looked elegant against the backdrop of royal blue gravel. His head peeked around the bottom of the No Fishing sign placed there in happier times.

“I feel so helpless,” I said and gestured toward the tank. My husband put his arm around my shoulder and said, “You want me to put him out of his misery? You know, like, flush him?”

“ARE YOU FRIGGIN’ KIDDING ME?!” I yelled. I took a deep breath and continued, “No. I am NOT ready to EUTHANIZE the fish. Go away.”

“We’ll have to do it eventually,” my husband countered.

“When his time comes, he will NOT be flushed,” I insisted. “He’ll go the way of the Vikings. Flaming funeral barge that I’ll set adrift in the city lake.”

“Uh, I think you’d need a permit for that,” my husband said.

Then a miracle occurred eight hours later. Gabe Baldwin the Fish returned to the land of the swimming. He flipped, scooted and floated his way around the tank. I looked at my husband and accused, “You were gonna flush him.”

He shrugged his shoulders and muttered, “Sorry. My bad.” He paused then added, “This is great and all, but who’s gonna tell the kid he doesn’t get a new fish now?”

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