The Ballad of Sammy Jack

About a month ago I took my older son to the pet store that I lovingly refer to as the local zoo because a) we have no zoo locally, and b) it’s pretty much the same thing. He loves to go see the fish, birds, and lizards so much that it’s a pretty easy way to guarantee he thinks I’m the best mom ever. So what better way to secure my place as BME (Best Mom Ever) than to allow him to TAKE HOME A ZOO ANIMAL?! The Betta fish were on sale that week. Prior to this, he had been asking here and there if he could maybe have a fish. Of course, all I thought of was that it was one more thing to keep alive, and banished the idea to the basement floor of my mind where things like “maybe it would be nice to get a puppy, hamster, meerkat, hedgehog, <insert cute fuzzy high maintenance animal here>” live.

So, this particular week, if I purchased a cute little designer tank for the Betta fish, then he was free. FREE. WHO CAN DENY THAT THIS OFFER DOES NOT MAKE THEM THE TEENSIEST BIT DESIRING OF A FISH? I hemmed and hawed in the fish aisle, while my three year old kept looking up at me  with the sweetest face asking “Can we get a fish mom? CAN WE??!? CAN WEEEEEEEE!?!!??!” I then spoke to the fish guy (I’m sure this is his professional title) who reassured me that all I would need is the tank, and some food. The tank came with the water conditioner, rock, and the promise of me securing the BME award for at least that day 2 hours, so I was pretty much sold at that point. I mean, FREE FISH. Meaning, this sweet little slimy finned thing would become part of our family, for zero dollars. Like, an interspecies foreign adoption, which normally cost..well, not zero dollars.

I texted my husband who said “no.” I responded that this might be an educational opportunity that he was depriving our child of, and he might never reach his full potential because he hadn’t had the opportunity to reach his greatness through becoming a fish owner at the age of three. What I actually said was “REALLY?” To which he responded “Whatever you want. I take no responsibility for this fish.” SO, we bought the fish, or rather the tank and food, for $24.50. A blue Betta, that my son named Goldie. He was a beautifully active fish, and he looked exactly like Samuel L. Jackson. Well, if Samuel L. Jackson was a fish. So although his given name was Goldie, I named him Sammy Jack, or SJ for short.

Sammy Jack did swimmingly for a month. (See what I did there? I’M SO WITTY.) Then, at about the one month mark, he started to become….not so active. He hung out at the top of the tank, and I thought…hmmm, SJ looks like he could use some assistance. So I googled various things and called various places (because I am an incredibly devoted fish mama crazy, and found that he was probably suffering from a fungal disease that many fish get from a variety of things. It turns out, fish are kind of finicky when not in the wild. WHO’DA THUNK (my husband). So, Sammy Jack needed antibiotics, a new water conditioner, rocks, aquarium salt, and to have his water changed every day. I located these supplies, took the advice of the internets, and walked out of the local zoo/pet store confident that my purchase of $47.29 would save Sammy.

I did all the things, used all the products, and Sammy Jack was doing much better.  Every day he was given antibiotics, a water change when needed, new water conditioner, and fed the exact amount prescribed two times a day. He was back to his active self, and every time I fed him he would come to the top of the tank to blow me a few love bubbles and express his undying affection for the woman who had gone to great lengths to save his little life. Things were good. Until they were not. One morning, about a week later, I noticed that Sammy was swimming sideways and upside down. I’m no fish expert, but even I know that’s not a good sign. My child, who by this point had lost interest in the fish a long time before (two hours after returning home with his new fish brother), was inconsolable that the fish was going to be with Jesus. We prayed for Sammy Jack and said our goodbyes.

Then came time for the burial. Now, my little boy was already on edge that he had lost this fish that he didn’t really care about, and I was not about to make it worse. I decided to dispose of the fish on my own. I got SJ out of the tank and …ok don’t judge me for this, but I could not flush him down the toilet without the kids seeing- so I threw him in the trash. That pains me to say, because I really loved that fish, even if no one else did. So once the dirty deed was done, I had to clean the little half gallon tank- again- without scarring my son further.

In the process of this, there may or may not have been a large amount of aquarium rock that fell into the sink. I may or may not have forgotten all about it, because out of sight, in the garbage disposal, out of mind.

The next day my husband went to run the garbage disposal and it sounded like a large utensil had gone down the sink. OF COURSE, I blamed him for not checking the drain first for a toddler fork, BECAUSE WHAT ELSE WOULD CAUSE THAT NOISE? Then the garbage disposal seized, and quit- much like my dear Sammy Jack. My husband stuck his hand down the disposal and all I could see was his look of confusion, disbelief, and then..slight rage. He yelled “ROCKS??!?!” And it was at this point it all came flooding back. Me, throwing the fish away, me, rinsing the tank, me…watching rocks go down the drain.

So. We needed a new garbage disposal, which totaled $189.00. Because of our free fish, who in actuality was…not free.

OH the humble pie I have eaten over this fish. OH HOW THE MIGHTY FISH MAMA HAS FALLEN.

If you are a wife, who is always right, and insists on convincing your husband of things- let my story be a lesson to you.

LEAVE THE FISH AT THE STORE. Maybe get the meerkat instead.


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