Each morning, after I brush my teeth and make myself presentable and wake my husband and rouse the boys and muddle through hair- and teeth- brushing time, I make my way to the kitchen to mix a batch of pancakes.
Before I start, there are two things I can count on: that the Columbus Dispatch is on our front doorstep, and that our betta fish is awake in his tiny, green-lidded aquarium.
I peer sleepily through the tank and sprinkle breakfast across the water’s surface. “Hi, Racer,” I say. “Good morning, buddy.” He darts around a bit, and I watch while he eats. We spend our next few minutes keeping each other company.
But not today. Not any more. It’s sad to admit, but It’s true: I said goodbye to our routine when I accidentally washed my slippery friend down the drain.
Poor Racer. I’m bereft. This was not supposed to happen.
It’s Saturday morning and a good one, too. The boys doodle cheerfully at the kitchen table while I clean Racer’s tank and listen to them play. I love mornings like this. Not a thing can go wrong in a cozy little scene like this one.
So I tip the tank slowly, spilling the old water in a trickle before sliding it back beneath the lukewarm tap. When I look away to see what the boys are up to, my little blue buddy escapes his overflowing bowl.
“Ohhhhhhh.” I say lowly. “Oh, no. No, no, no.” I pull myself together enough to dive for him, but he is already on his way down the drain.
Both boys look up. Their eyes dart from the tank to the sink then to me.
“It’s nothing, guys,” I say lightly. “I just remembered I need to do something.”
I wait for them to return to their drawings before I stuff my hand down the drain. I feel only the dull, jagged blade of the garbage disposal and the damp, aching throb of rising guilt.
I hear GB on the staircase, so I meet him at the bottom step. “I just washed Racer down the drain,” I whisper sadly. “Is there anything we can do?”
I watch his shoulders sink as he marches down to the basement. He returns with a crescent wrench in his hands and a face drawn down in grim resolve.
I watch him dismantle the plumbing, but Racer is not in the catch. Instead, he’s taking the sewer line bypass to that Great Pond in the Sky.
I take a deep breath because I know what must come next: a swift confession to Racer’s rightful owners, who are now watching Saturday morning cartoons. They take the news badly for a moment, then insist on a speedy replacement. When I agree (with a lump in my throat), they go back to watching a song about hot dogs.
I pitch the rocks and scour the insides of the tank before hiding Racer’s home in the basement. “You killed that fish!” I tell myself heavily. “You killed that fish.”
I guess that’s how it goes, this cycle of life. This is what destiny serves. You swim around your plastic plants and watch the passers by until some giant hand pours you down the sink. You know the giant hand is sorry; that it loved you and it’s sad you’re gone. But that doesn’t change the fact you’re swimming blindly, hoping all pipes really do lead to the ocean.
I still look for Racer in the morning. I’ve found nothing to fill his old spot. The Chia Pets my boys got for Christmas don’t do much, so pancake mixing is now a sullen event.
So maybe I’ll make a trip this weekend to the pet store…surprise the boys, perhaps, but mostly, cheer myself. We’ll get a gecko, maybe, or a pair of toads that want little to do with the water.
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