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Bubbles

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It was the tone of his voice, I think, that struck the chord in me, that shifted my cheery mood downward. So many mood shifts begin with a tone.

I was reading in the living room, and I heard him say nonchalantly, “I think your fish is dead.”

I shot him a glance. A fierce one. “What? It’s either dead or it’s not. Is it dead or not?”

“I don’t know,” he shrugged.

I dropped Anne Lamott right on the floor (Sorry, Anne) and put my head in my hands. I needed a moment, lest I react negatively for his seeming lack of concern.

My vibrant red betta, affectionately named Bubbles by my friend/coworker (Alison) and I, was a fairly new addition to our lives. He went to work with me and entertained anyone who came into my office by darting around the tank, swimming backwards, jumping up out of the water for food pellets, and occasionally burying his head in the marbles. Many times a student would sit down in the chair opposite my desk and was suddenly face-to-face with Bubbles. Instant mood enhancer. Sometimes a student or coworker would become so entranced watching Bubbles that he/she would forget the purpose of the visit to my office. Bubbles had that effect on people, you see. On that particular weekend, I had brought Bubbles home to give him a bath (clean his tank). The transport was a bit stressful, and my front seat ended up soaked where Bubbles sloshed around. Anyway, back to this particular day…

I glanced back up to see Raymond jiggling the tank a little, pulling out the filter. “I think the filter is clogged. It needs cleaned.” He then picked up Bubbles with his fingers and plopped him in a glass of water. A kitchen glass.

“Yeah, I think he’s dead.” He brought the glass over to me and there was a dead Bubbles, white eyes and some milky growth type thing on the left side of his body. Not how I wanted to remember him.

“See?” Raymond said, putting the glass right in front of my face.

“Yes.” I nodded.

“I’m sorry.”

“Are you?”

“Yes, but you can get another one.”

“No other fish will replace Bubbles. I don’t want to have to tell Alison.”

“She will understand.”

I put my head back in my hands. Maybe if I had cleaned the tank earlier he wouldn’t have died. Maybe it was the trauma from the car ride home. Maybe I didn’t feed him enough. Maybe I fed him too much. Maybe he was tired of entertaining people.

“I will go get you another one tonight.”

“I don’t want another one.”

“UHHH!!!” seven-year-old Kevin yelled from his room. “Will you PLEASE stop talking about the dead fish?! It’s really freaking me out!!”

I smirked at my walking hyperbole child number 2.

Raymond flushed the fish down the toilet, I cleaned the tank, and texted Alison. I wanted to tell her in person, but waiting until Tuesday would be too long.

“I have some bad news about Bubbles…”

It took a few weeks, but since that day, I have replaced Bubbles. Chuckles, AKA Chuck is blue, not as hypnotic as Bubbles, but he will be OK for now.

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