essays

Like A Fish in Water

fish pondI went to the pet store today and bought some “feeder fish” for my outdoor pond. They are small goldfish that you feed to bigger fish. They keep hundreds of these fish crowded in small tanks.  They are perfect for outdoor ponds. They are hardy and only cost ten cents a piece so any losses due to natural predators are easier to take. Note that I said easier not easy because, surprisingly, you get attached to these fish. You watch them grow from small fish into bigger fish. You begin to recognize differences in behavior patterns that you anthropomorphize into actual personalities. When you set them free into the pond most of them hang in the water as if they are overwhelmed with the enormity of it all. Usually about two percent of a batch are more adventurous and swim off right away. You wonder if these more assertive fish are the ultimate survivors, or are just the reckless ones that will end up stranded in the filter or eaten by a bird because they didn’t take cover fast enough. 

As I open the plastic bag and ease the new batch of fish into the pond. I can imagine the experience from their point of view.

“Hey, Alfred what is this place? 

“How the hell am I supposed to know gold fishRupert, I been living in the tank as long as you have.”

“Alfred, where’s the glass, what is all this waving green stuff? I think I’m having some sort of attack. What’s the opposite of claustrophobia?”

“Rupert, look, there’s Charlie way over there. Boy, I never saw him swim so fast. I guess all those laps he did in the tank really paid off.”

“Never mind Charlie, we’re by ourselves over here. What happened to all the other guys from the tank? Something is eating them! It’s going to come for us.”

"Rupert, get a hold of yourself. They’re over there. We’re the only ones that haven’t moved.  Let’s go explore.”

“Alfred, I miss the tank. I want to go home.”

“Are you crazy Rupert? Look at all this space. Try some of this green stuff it tastes really good.”

“You know I can only eat round food and I like my food crunchy, this stuff is stringy, yech.”


peace RV“Look on the bright side Rupert. Have you noticed they left Bernard behind in the tank. We won’t have to put up with his chasing us and nipping at our tails or pushing us against the glass and rubbing our scales.”

“Well, there is that.”

“And space can be a good thing. You can actually see lots of things besides fish eyes and fins. Rupert, why are you going up to the surface?!  Suicide is no answer!”

“Cool it Alfred, I just went up for a floating bug. It’s like the dried up stuff they used to throw in the tank except nice and juicy. It’s the best thing I’ve ever tasted. I’ve decided to stay.”

Susan Harrison is an attorney by training, home remodeler by accident, and a writer by choice.

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