Friday, February 09, 2007


In Which It Sucks to Be Me...

Abby slipped under the drain cap and out of sight.

I made a strange, high-pitched "Awk!" of surprise and bent my head ostrich-style into the basin of the sink. Just under the drain cap, I could see the barest flicker of fin. Abby was a wide fish when it came to fins, and it was these appendages that had momentarily saved her from a face-plant into the U-bend. Momentarily. I had only seconds to act.

At times like this, I'm amazed at how the mind works. Well, my mind. It really is an incredible machine, you know, capable of calculating any number of variables in mere fractions of a second. Of course, in my case, this nigh-superhuman ability only manifests itself at moments such as these, never when I really need it. That I have been in seven car accidents in my life should stand in mute testimony to this fact.

...and I reached in and tried to grab her with my thumb and forefinger but only succeeded in shoving her down the drain.

Stupid fat fingers!

...and I grabbed the tweezers from the vanity drawer, reached in under the drain cap, grabbed Abby's tailfin and pulled. And was rewarded with a wildly flapping, severed tailfin for my efforts.

Too sharp!

...and I grasped the drain cap, twisted and pulled up. And got a bird's-eye view of Abby sinking down the pipe into oblivion.

Fuck! Think!!

...and I ran some water down the sink, forcing Abby into the sink trap. Ran downstairs for my plumbing wrenches and a shitload of junk towels, ran back up and cranked open the U-bend. Only to find Abby dead from asphyxiation. Or from being grossed out by the great clot of congealed toothpaste and whiskers she'd landed in face-first. Hard to tell.

No good! Think of something!!

I'd be lying if I said there wasn't some small part of me that was willing to throw up his hands and say "Oh well." Except that I had rashly told Thomas I'd flush his fish if he didn't come up to help, and he'd never believe this was an accident. Nor, come to that, would anyone else in my family. They all know I come from a line of pet killers.

Remember yesterday how I said I'd once had turtles and it was a disaster? I'm not kidding. They were tiny black turtles--no idea what kind--and my brother and I named them Stanley and Arthur. I'm not sure why we fastened upon these names--we would later use them on the cats we briefly owned too--but that's what we called them. We kept them in an aquarium furnished with a little bit of water, some rocks for them to crawl on, some greenery. It was a very nice set-up. For a turtle.

But almost immediately, they began to stink up the place something fierce. It was as though you had taken some shells from the beach and left them in your car for a hot hour or two. That kind of fishy, putrefying, manky smell. And, like Thomas after us, my brother and I weren't about to clean the tank. So my long-suffering mother had to remove the turtles--I believe it got to be on a weekly basis--to swamp out the tank. And no matter what kind of temporary container she kept the turtles in, they often managed to escape and so we spent a long time tracking them down, usually finding them under a piece of furniture, a slow-moving dust-bunny. That would stink up the place in another six days.

I don't know how long this went on--couldn't have been more than a few months. But one day, when my brother and I came home from school, both Stanley and Arthur were dead. Belly up in the water of their little tank. My brother bawled--he was a big crier when we were kids--and then we buried them out in the garden, where they could join the circle of life and come back as cucumbers or red peppers. And that was it.

Except...what we didn't know...what we didn't find out for 20 years until a fateful Thanksgiving when Mom had too much wine...was that Stanley and Arthur had not conveniently died of natural causes on the same day, as we had naively supposed. They had in fact been murdered.

My mother, who was in the middle of cleaning the tank for the umpty-ump time, just snapped. She'd had enough of her house smelling like the back alley of a fish-mongers. And yet she couldn't live with her children's inevitable hue and cry when she told them she'd flushed them, or simply hurled them into the brook behind our house (which would have been a kinder fate for Stanley and Arthur, let me say here).

No, my mom fired up the stove, got a pot of boiling water going and dropped those poor bastards in.


In her defense--as if!--my mom claimed that she dropped them in head first, as she would a lobster, so they'd die instantly and not suffer. Then she fished the turtles right out before they could blanch in the boiling water and--Jesus, is this calculating or what?--deposited them back in their tank so it would appear to her gullible children as though they had expired of natural causes, peacefully.

My God, isn't it a miracle that I survived childhood?

Where was I?

Oh yeah...

No good! Think of something!!

And then I saw the straw. The flexible straw I had used in my attempt to modify the siphon hose when I was cleaning out Abby's tank.

...and I flexed the straw, put one end in my mouth and stuck the other under the drain cap. And inhaled. Abby was sucked back from the brink of doom. I scooped her up and deposited her in the bowl.

Except, of course, that that's not how it happened at all. Oh, I got the straw in there, all right. And when I made contact with Abby and drew in, it created a vacuum seal and Abby's fin rose slightly. Except that I had to take a breath. The seal broke and now Abby's fin was no longer visible.

In a panic, I lifted the drain cap and saw Abby sliding slowly down the pipe. I jammed the straw all the way down and sucked like the wind. There was only air, then a minute "voooomp" echoing through the pipe. Contact! I pulled out of the sink, Abby quivering wildly to the end of the straw, one tailfin half in the tube, me red-faced, eyes wide, cheeks puckered like...well, like a fish. If Thomas had walked in then, who knew what he'd make of that scene?

Something small and fishy came loose and I sucked it straight down my gullet. I gagged, Abby fell again. But this time, I had a cupped hand below her. I slam-dunked her into the fishbowl.

Then found a bowl of my own and began retching into it.

I don't know what I aspirated, but when I was finished bringing it back up, I was gratified--I'm using the term very loosely--to see Abby flitting around her tank, none the worse or wear. At the risk of anthropomorphizing a creature with a brain the size of a dust mite, I daresay she even looked happy.

Which is more than I can say for me.

And wouldn't you know it? As I'm carrying the tank slowly back to Thomas' room, who should come up the stairs but himself?

"Oh, why didn't you wait for me? I said I'd be right there," Thomas said.

"You can clean the bathroom," I told him.

And so all was well again. At least for another month.

Assuming Abby survives that long. Next morning, Thomas announced that his fish seemed sick.

"I think she has the chicken pox," he said.

"What do you mean?" I asked.

"Well, she has this big round "O" on her tail. I hope she doesn't get any more."

She won't, buddy. As long as I remember to close the drain from now on.

From Somewhere on the Masthead

All day, I will continue to be horrified by the story of your mother moonlighting as a turtle-cidal maniac.

But so glad to hear that Abby made it out alive, and you, too - for the most part.

Wondering if he actually did clean the bathroom, though...
Somehow... I knew syphoning would be involved. I just expected there to be a lot more of the gunk in the u-bend being syphoned as well. *shudder*

And you could clarify with Thomas -- that's not a chicken pox.

It's a HICKEY.
Oh my god! I am laughing inside so as to not wake my sleeping little baby girl, but Oh my GOD!

The straw! What a huge clue (and so clever of you) Keep us posted on how she fairs.

And I cannot believe the story about the turtles. Remind me to never get on the wrong side of your Mother.

Ha ha! Thanks for a good Friday laugh. And Sween, a hickey?! That tops it all.
I've said it before and I'll say it again...MM, your life is NEVER dull, is it?
Ha! The big round "O" on her tail!

We once hand a hamster (actually, his name was Spam so technically he was a "spamster" - my brother and I were wierd) who drowned in his water bowl. My brother bawled his eyes out while my dad and I almost peed our pants trying not to laugh out loud. I always wonder if my brother ever brought this incident up in therapy...
The... Best... Writer... On... The... Internet.
So how does goldfish taste?...Like chicken??
We had a hamster, as kids, and mom hated when we'd put it in that damn ball because Ashley (the hamster) would always escape. Well, whilst making cookies one day (near Christmas, I'd wager), Ashley got loose again. We found her..or should I say, Mom found her...when Ashley bit the crap out of her finger and wouldn't let go. Mom did what any insane person would do and flung her arm to try to release the rodent. Ashley let go with her jaws and flew across the room, hit the wall, and slid down. SHe was shaken, but alive.

However...several days later, she was dead. We figured it was internal injuries.
I'm having vicarious gagging here. Congrats on your rescue though!
she LIVES!!!

and you inhaled scales. that makes me throw up in my mouth a little bit.
Man, you're bringing back old memories of childhood for me. I'm surprised my brother isn't a fucking zoo keeper. Granted, he does work at a dog kennel.

Glad you saved a life and your child's trust. Haha!
Well, at least I know my gag reflex works. {{shudder}}

I'm going to take this opportunity - knowing that my grown-up, non-computer-savvy niece will likely never find this - to fess up to something...

I'm the reason why she could never find her wee little turtles again after I came to visit in 1974. I was nine, stupid, and I thought it would be cool to see those little guys stroll across the ornate heat vent in the floor of my sister's living room.

I missed out on the fact that the tiny turtles were small enough fall through the slots in the register. I remember running like a bat out of hell when I heard them hit *something* in there and start to... sizzle... (yeesh)

Somehow, hearing that your mom boiled your turtles has made me feel less bad about me accidentally sending Skipper and Sally to their long, long dirt nap. And I thank you for that.
Oh holy hell!

There is so much to respond to in this post!

I cannot imagine sticking a straw down the drain and sucking, no matter what dire consequences might arise otherwise.

Ew, ew, ew!

And yow...I think the best word to describe your mother is "incredible".

Gah. Still trying not to gag over the straw thing...
Let me get this straight...
you gave the fish a hickey???
I may have to go retch in your honor. I'm shuddering as I type. blech!

Honestly...I would have made many other attempts to save the little fish, but that's one I would absolutely never make. You're a saint. Or a sucker. Or both.
The things we go through with our children- and pets. Thanks for the visual. I'm sure it will be with me all day... ;)
I left my four-year-old goldfish in the care of my father when I went to college. He forgot to turn the light out and cooked the poor thing. Apparently, he freaked out when he saw the belly-up fish, and took it to the bathroom to run under cold water to try to resucitate it. Then he actually tried fishy CPR by using an eyedropper to run water into its gills.

I really was horribly upset at the death of my fish, but dad felt so bad I couldn't be mad at him!
I can honestly say, I'd never, ever, not in a million years, go that far to save a goldfish.

Was it a heroic act, Or self preservation? It's a tough call.
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