My Week 91: Aquacide, Ken Needs Help

Friday: I make an unwitting confession

I love fish. Not so much to eat—if given a choice, I’d much rather have steak—but as far as living organisms go, I’ve got a tremendous fondness for the wee, finned ones. We have 2 ponds on our property, both stocked with goldfish, and until recently, we had a pond at our cottage, also inhabited by over a dozen swimmers of all colour variations. And then, of course, there’s Mishima, who lives in a tank on the kitchen island. He’s a narcissistic diva, but over the last 4 years, we’ve come to an understanding. He doesn’t trash me on his Twitter feed (@tweetsoffish), and I feed him. It’s a deal that benefits him more than me, to be honest, because while he can be rather cutting, he is still just a fish, and his opinion of me is just about as compelling as Donald Trump congratulating Scotland on Brexit. Scotland responded exactly the way I do with Mishima, which is to roll my eyes and call him a “mangled apricot hellbeast” But Mishima doesn’t realize just how lucky he is, considering my actual track record of keeping fish alive. Over the years, Ken and I (although it was almost always Ken’s fault except for my last example) have had several unfortunate “incidents” with our fish.

5 years ago, we had 6 beautiful goldfish in the pond nearest our house. We’d had them for over three years, and they were all healthy and about 4 good inches long. In order to help them survive the winter, we always put a trough heater in the water to keep it above freezing—none of our ponds have EVER (do you hear that, Ken), EVER been deep enough for the fish to actually dig in and hibernate, or whatever it is that fish do. So that October, in went the trough heater. Unfortunately, we had both forgotten that earlier in the year, one of our spruce trees had been struck by lightning. The charge had traveled through the ground, into the house, and out the other side, wreaking electrical havoc to a lot of our wiring. Ken had repaired it all—EXCEPT for the outside outlet that the trough heater was plugged into. Bear in mind that the subsequent events were NOT his fault. This time. Two day later, he looked out an upstairs window, and then ran downstairs in a panic. Apparently, the trough heater had shorted out, overheated, and evaporated ALL the water in the pond. There was nothing left. Just some sludge, and 6 tiny carcasses. I actually cried at the thought of their suffering, even though they would have forgotten about it at 3 second intervals. We had a solemn memorial for Goldie 1, Goldie 2, Spot, Blackie, Whitey, and Goldie 3 (yes, I know those are pathetically unoriginal names, but they were f*cking ACCURATE).

The next year, I drained and scrubbed the ponds out until they sparkled. Then we got new fish, and divided them between the back pond and the smaller one in front of it. Things were going well, the little fellas swimming around merrily, until I bought a pond plant for the front pond. Ken took it upon himself to “plant” it by plunging it into the water. The soil dispersed and the water became super-murky and dirty. 4 days later, when the sediment finally settled, the fish had all suffocated. It was too sad—I hadn’t even had time to name them yet, and one of them had stripes so I was looking forward to adding “Stripey” to my repertoire. The same thing happened the next year, when we put a new pond in the back by Ken’s workshop. Some people just never learn, I guess, and this time 2 out of the 6 fish we had just bought perished in the dirt storm. We ultimately ended up with only three fish in that pond, the circumstances of which you can read about in My Week 34: Ken is Sometimes Right, in which he was not.

As for the cottage, we went through 2 rounds of fish. The first year we put in a pond, Ken was convinced that it was deep enough that they would all survive the winter. They did not. The next year we bought new fish, over a dozen, and they did really well until this past winter. It was supermild for the first couple of months, and Ken was convinced that the fish would be fine. Finally, in November, he deemed it cold enough to put the heater in. This spring, we went up and took out the heater. There were no fish. At which point, Ken suddenly remembered that while he had put the heater in the pond, he had forgotten to actually plug it in.

Now before you think that this post is simply a vehicle to bash Ken and his fish-hating ways, or subtly imply that he is a fish murderer, the truth is that his actions were all unpremeditated and without malice. When it comes to aquacide, unfortunately, it’s me who should be vilified. I did what I did with the best of intentions, but no secret can stay hidden forever. Especially when you can’t remember who knows about it. On Friday, K and I were out together; she’d offered to take me out to buy her some clothes. It was a short-lived trip, since I’m still having post-surgery issues with standing and walking, but on the way back, we had this conversation:

Me: I like this song, but I don’t get the lyrics. Why does he say, “I can’t feel my face when I’m with you”? That’s not very romantic. Like “You make me numb to sensation.” Weird.
K: It’s not actually about a girl. It’s about taking drugs. It’s metaphorical.
Me: Really? That’s even weirder.
K: You can take it either way, I guess. It could be about a woman, it could be about drugs.
Me: Oh, like that 9 Inch Nails song “The Perfect Drug”. It sounds like it’s about a woman but Trent Reznor said it’s about drinking a lot of absinthe.
K: What’s absinthe?
Me: It’s a really potent alcohol with wormwood in it. Wormwood is a kind of drug, so if you drink a lot of absinthe, you have crazy hallucinations. It’s what I killed your fish with.
K: I—Whuh?! YOU KILLED MY FISH???!!!!

Apparently, I had forgotten that I’d never told K that I killed her beta fish when she was 5 years old. But before you think I’m a heartless killer, let me explain. “Jarry” (K named him that because he came in a jar. You can tell she’s inherited my ability to choose imaginative names for things) was a red beta that had lived in K’s room for 2 years. Then he suddenly developed something called “Beta Bloat Disease” which is really gross. The fish gets all bloated and it can’t swim—it just bobs on the surface of the water gasping for air. So one day, when K was out with Ken, I researched the best way to euthanize a fish. Turns out that pouring really strong alcohol into the tank is the quickest and most painless, so that’s what I did. With absinthe. And why did I have absinthe? No, I’m not some kind of Victorian deviant; my brother brought it back from Hungary just so we could see what it was like. I don’t recommend it, because there’s hardly any wormwood in most brands anymore and while it made us a little tipsy, it also tasted pretty yucky, so it wasn’t worth it. Anyway, K was pretty appalled by my unwitting admission:

K: I can’t believe you killed my fish! Why didn’t you discuss it with me first?!
Me: You were five. What was I supposed to say? “Hey, your fish is dying so I’m just going to help him on his way by poisoning him with this blue sh*t”?
K: You could have said it in a way that a child could understand, like “Your fish is sick, so I’m going to give him medicine to make him go to sleep”.
Me: I didn’t want to upset you.
K: And then Dad killed my Sea Monkeys by not feeding them when I was away. You’re quite the pair.
Me: You know they weren’t actually monkeys, right?  They were worms or larvae or something.
K: Still.

She eventually forgave me for my aquacide, which I swear I did with the best of intentions. But somehow, Mishima must have gotten wind of the entire thing, because last night when I opened a bottle of wine, he started screaming, “Put the bottle down and back away from the tank! BACK AWAY FROM THE TANK!!” And I’m pretty sure I just guaranteed that he will never subtweet me again.


Saturday: Ken needs my help

Ken is a pretty self-sufficient guy. He’s really good at taking care of me, but he hardly ever needs my help. I can only remember two actual times before yesterday that he asked me to help him, aside from steadying things he’s trying to cut or hammer, holding one end of a measuring tape, or proofreading something for him. I mean the serious kind of help, like emergency help. Once, he was really sick, and asked me to make him pudding. The other time he set himself on fire and needed my help to put him out. I knew he was really in trouble because he started screaming “Help me!” and rolling around on the floor. Turns out that he was leaning against the stove while he was boiling potatoes, his shirt touched the element, and up he went. Thank god he has this weird habit of always wearing two shirts—it was the only thing that saved him from being badly burned. When I got him put out, he just lay there panting, then said, “Thanks.” When he got up, I saw the scorch marks on the wooden floor where he was rolling and realized that it could have been so much worse.

Then on Saturday, I thought we had another emergency situation. He decided to finally trim the door of the shed by the driveway. For years, I’d been asking him to do it, because the door would only open partway then get stuck. He kept saying , “Yeah, yeah” until yesterday when he wanted to put our lifejackets away.

Me: What are you going to do now?
Ken: I need to put the lifejackets away, which means I have to open the shed door, which means I have to take the door off the shed and trim it so it will open.
Me: Great thought process. I’ll watch from the balcony.

So I watched him do it, since I’m still post-surgery and couldn’t actually help him. I was sitting on the balcony half-watching and drinking a glass of wine, when suddenly I heard a slam, and Ken yelling, “Help!! I’m locked in the shed!!” Apparently, the shed was on a bit of a lean, and now that the door wasn’t stuck on the decking anymore, the weight of it caused it to swing shut. On Ken. I yelled back, “Don’t worry! I’m coming!” but the problem was, he couldn’t hear me, being locked in the shed and all, and I was upstairs on the balcony, probably the furthest point in the house from the shed. I started to slowly make my way down—I couldn’t go any faster thanks to my “hundreds of internal sutures”, and the whole way, I could hear him pounding on the walls. I started getting all panicky and teary at the thought of my beloved husband there in the dark, not knowing if he was going to be rescued any time soon, possibly starting to suffocate. I kept yelling, “I’m coming!!” but the hammering continued. When I finally got to the shed and opened the door, there he was. He turned and smiled at me.

“I was so worried,” I said. “I could hear you pounding the walls—I’m sorry I couldn’t get here faster.”

“Pounding the walls?” he said. “No, I figured you’d come eventually. I was just putting up some hooks for the lifejackets. That’s why I was hammering. I’m just about finished—just prop open the door for me for a second so I don’t get locked in again.”

It’s nice to be needed.


6 thoughts on “My Week 91: Aquacide, Ken Needs Help

  1. It still amazes me that Mishima, who shares the name of a writer who committed suicide, is still around. And I’m grateful. His tweets are hilarious.
    And I think it’s generally hard to keep fish alive, especially outdoor fish. You’re lucky none of yours have been eaten by birds. I know pond owners who’ve had to cover their ponds with unattractive screens to keep their fish from literally flying off.
    Also you made two mistakes with the absinthe. First, if it’s blue and not pale green or rosy in colour it’s bad absinthe. You’re also supposed to dilute it with water poured over a sugar cube–quite the ritual.
    The blue stuff is ideal for putting a fish out of its misery, though.
    And I’m glad Ken’s stove experience wasn’t worse. A friend of mine bought one of those fancy glass-topped stoves and the first night turned on the back burner. It didn’t come on. For some reason the burners on this model didn’t light up when turned on–the only way to know they were on was by the heat generated.
    He leaned over to see why not and when he did he put his hand on the front burner–the one that he’d actually turned on. He ended up with third degree burns.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Like his eccentric namesake, Mishima is an intellectual and has attempted a political uprising, but I hope fishicide isn’t on the agenda–I have a real affection for the little beast. I hear you about the absinthe–we were told that later, but it was still very effective at helping Jarry cross over to the other side. We tried the sugar cube thing–it didn’t help. Are you supposed to set the sugar cube on fire? Maybe THAT was our mistake!


  2. I had a blue betta for a lovely couple of years. He was absolutely gorgeous and a real character. Then one night my (now EX-)boyfriend was over and remarked, “Geez, isn’t he dead yet?” and BOOM, a week later my fish went belly-up. Behold the power of suggestion (and dating a jerk).

    Meanwhile, one of my parents’ koi has survived two separate apparent suicide attempts, being attacked by birds of prey, and getting momentarily snatched up by a raccoon, with only minimal scarring to show for any of it.

    As far as I’m concerned, fish are a logic-free zone.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Be glad you broke up with that guy–what if his jerky superpower was predicting the deaths of aquatic creatures? You’d never be able to swim with the dolphins because he’d be like, “Don’t play with that one–you don’t want to get too attached.” As for Mishima, he’s certainly more motivated by emotion than rational thought, and he blamed his only foray outside the tank on “military manoeuvres”.


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