Wednesday, January 26, 2005

Luke lives in a flower vase on my bookshelf. He's an oddly colored blue grey beta who i chose to love based on his irregular (think ugly) markings.

But Luke has had a hard run of it these last few months. When I moved home in November with the babies (cats), Luke remained with my roommates, one of whom repeated dumped way too much food into his house, and another who promptly renamed him Roger insisting that he responded to that name better. When I returned home at the end of December, Luke-Roger's home was filthy (although a third roommate had cleaned his bowl once already after the other dumped half Luke's food into it muddying up the water). The whole thing stunk to high heaven, and as the mother of this small fish, I had the responsibility of remedying this sour situation. Thankfully, KC agreed to help me.

As I finished washing the dishes in the sink, he agreed to dump Luke's water out in the bathtub and return the vase to me so I could clean it too. This of course requires scooping out Luke and putting him in temporary housing, usually a coffee mug or paper cup. KC returned to the kitchen with the stinky but empty vase, and I finished the last few plates clearing a sink in which to wash the dank glass. As I reached for the vase, I perused the counter for Luke. "KC, where'd you put Luke?" I asked as a wave of panic swept over me. "I left him on the ledge of the bathtub." He confidently responded. "You what?! The babies, they'll eat him! They can reach him there! Go get him!" Upon seeing the look of horror on my face, KC sprinted off the the bathroom as I hollared, "If that fish is dead, you're taking me to the pet store to buy me a new one!"

It was several minutes before KC returned. I washed out the dirty vase, trying not to gag at it's moldy, seaweed smell and shook my head at KC's naivite. Soon enough though KC returned with Luke in cup. KC's face seemed calm but shaken, and I asked what had happened. While we had been in the kitchen chatting, Radley indeed had spotted Luke sitting on the bathtub. He apparently batted at the cup until it was knocked off to the floor. KC said the cup was still sitting upright on the floor though all the water was gone. As he looked (striken with guilt) from the empty cup to the cat, he spotted Luke in between Radley's jaws. Without KC even having to say a word, Radley looked at him, also striken with guilt, and released the fish. KC grabbed the cup, filled it with water and scooped up the fish from the carpeted bathmat. Convinced the fish was surely dead, he studied it and strategized an appropriate apology. Lo and behold though, Luke did not float to the surface belly up, but rather came to his senses slowly wiggling his fins and opening his mouth, breathing heavily and slowly, but breathing nonetheless.

Now with a clean vase, KC and I studied Luke as we returned him to his home. He sat at the bottom of the vase for several hours - I suppose from shock or bruising,and then moved toward the surface of the water for several more hours after that. Was he sulking or just ill? One month later, I study Luke again. As crawled out of bed today, I said good morning to Luke who responded by wiggling his fins and flipping across his home appearing to grow larger and smaller as in a fun house mirror while he moved around the curved vase.

What a time poor Luke has had: from over-eating, to an identity crisis, to living in a slum, to being caught in the teeth of a hungry cat to experiencing post-traumatic stress syndrome to life again. Brave little Luke-Roger.

I wish we all could be so resiliant.

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