Alpha Beta Betta. Or, A Mo’ Betta Fish Story.

I’m thinking of getting the Madness a betta. Actually, I’m thinking of getting myself a betta, but I justify the impulse by projecting it onto the kids. In truth, when I tried to sell Madz on the idea she looked at me like I was drunk and shook her head.

“Why would anyone want a fish for a pet? That’s weird.” Then she went back to playing “fish school” on the iPad. She is not normal.

I had a betta before I moved North, way back in that nether-realm I call my twenties. It had been a parting gift from a kid I nannied; thanks for taking care of me – have a fish. An animal is the kind of pain-in-the-ass gift only a child can get away with giving. I named it Alpha Beta, because, obviously. Alpha was possibly the ugliest betta I’d ever seen; he was a mottled, shadowy blue and too skinny, with a sad, limp fan of a black tail tipped in red. He looked like he needed a cigarette, but his doctor had told him that if he wanted to live, he had to choose between the booze and the smokes. Alpha Beta obviously chose vodka, but he wasn’t happy about it.

You see, we had nothing in common. We didn’t even like the same booze. What was I supposed to do with a fish?

But Alpha was special. Alpha was a survivor. He survived me, first off. I haven’t had a lot of luck with small animals. As a child, I enjoyed the company of tiny, delicate animals, and lost no few to overzealousness, carelessness, and other pets. I had a sad graveyard in my backyard, with twiggy crosses for the mice and goldfish and garter snakes I wept over. Of course, that was a long time before Alpha. I had become a responsible, adultish person. I told myself that if I was responsible enough to watch small children, I should be able to keep a fish alive.

And I did. For a whole month.

Then I dropped Alpha down the garbage disposal. I was cleaning his bowl when, whoops, down he slipped. I had to reach in and fish him out of the food scraps awaiting pulverization. It was gross. He was filthy and scraped up. I put a few drops of some fishy neosporin in the bowl and backed slowly away, already planning to bury him next to Mom’s poor 0scars, Bill and Edna.

photo 2

He lived. Tough little guy, I thought. He earned my respect. I thought it might be safe to let myself love again.

That’s about when I stepped on him. I kept Alpha in a little fish bowl on top of my mom’s much larger aquarium. Alpha had jumped out of his bowl, flipped off of the aquarium, and landed on the wood floor. I don’t know how long he was there before I “found” him with my bare foot. I felt the wet thickness and jerked back, thinking it was a hairball or a cat turd. No, it was Alpha. I peeled his limp body off my foot – a large piece of tail remained stuck to my sole. Again, I rinsed him off and dropped him back in his bowl, sure this time he was a goner. He lived. He never looked at me the same again, though. I loved him more than ever, but the feeling wasn’t mutual.

photo 1

Alpha’s escape attempts became more frequent. But was it escape he was after? Suicide? A cigarette? It’s entirely possible he was in fact homicidal, and just too damned stubborn to see the impossible odds. When I pulled him out of a beagle’s mouth, dropping him for the dozenth time into his bowl, I knew he couldn’t be long for this world. No fish, especially a brave fish, gets to live forever.

His own grandiosity would get the best of him when he made his way to the stairs and discovered the impossible hell that was carpet.

Oh Alpha, there will never be another like you. Still, they had some pretty nice looking ones last time I stocked up on kitty litter. I’ve seen betta vs beagle, I’d be interested to see how one could hold up against a curious toddler.

Betta fishing with Jo

6 thoughts on “Alpha Beta Betta. Or, A Mo’ Betta Fish Story.

  1. “But Alpha was special. Alpha was a survivor. He survived me, first off. ”

    I fear the carnage that was my children’s pets will earn me a place in the docket at Pet Nuremberg. You never know about these things. Societies rapidly change their mores and one day while I am shuffling the halls of an old folks home, the inquest will show up – with my children pointing the accusatory finger.

  2. When M.I.L.K. was little she would rescue mice from my pet snake. She would steal them and then play dumb during questioning as if the mouse had escaped somehow. Later we found a white mouse refugee center in drawer in her room.

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