Thursday, July 12, 2007

A Dusty White Ceramic Castle

For the few years when I lived with other living things, I had two fish named Jean Paul and Simone. They were clownfish, the only kind my then-husband and I could afford. We longed for the beautiful expensive salt water dudes, but alas, we had a budget -- no more than five dollars on any fish and an old crappy tank that we'd pulled out of the dumpster behind our apartment, not the salt water paradise that one might have desired. Given these constraints, the clownfish were it unless we wanted to get some feeder fish, the kind that you give to bigger fish for a little snack. That was even a little depressing for me, so I gained an affection for the little guys with their festive black stripes. And what better names for happy fish than Jean Paul and Simone? I do love a good existential misery contained in a tank!

The thing we wanted most for our tank was a castle so the fishies could swim through it, like a magical kingdom. But none of the fish stores carried them. Complaining about this lack of castles one day at my parents' house, my dad went out to the garage and brought out a dusty white ceramic castle, just like I'd been imagining. We set it up in the tank and Jean Paul took to living there for long periods of time, so much so that we sometimes thought he'd died. It was better than his other activity -- attacking Simone over and over again, until she looked shredded. I couldn't believe it: they were supposed to be friends! Jean Paul was a big meanie pants. He couldn't be trusted. Simone died; she bled to death from his repeated abuse. I should have remembered that the real Jean Paul and Simone never lived together for good reasons, probably also involving blood. Jean Paul swam around after Simone's death, stayed in the top turret of his castle. The little bastard did not appear to be in mourning, not at all. Then he leapt out of the opening of the tank (the lid didn't fit anymore -- things in the garbage rarely live up the grace and perfection of our original conception!) and died. I got home one afternoon and saw his lifeless body on the couch. Maybe he really was sorry for what he did. Or bored. The castle, while beautiful, was kind of a one trick pony.

Michelle's Spell of the Day

"To catch a husband is an art; to hold him is a job." Simone de Beauvoir

Cocktail Hour

Drinking short story collection: Family Dancing David Leavitt

Benedictions and Maledictions

Happy Thursday!


Phil Spector said...

Tell me about castles!

Helen Gurley Brown said...

As weird as it may sound, I view my husband as a possession--a great one!

Cheri said...

Fish have a strange tendency to do things like that. My birthday goldfish when I was 8 had a similar relationship- Finlena (I was not apt with intelligence in naming pets) leaped to her death in the sudsy water of the sink. Fin, on the other hand, flourished and out grew the little tank, and later found a new home at my aunts. He lived for another EIGHT YEARS and was bigger than my hand.

Charles Gramlich said...

the only pet fish I've ever had were those little goldfish you win at the fairs.

Anonymous said...

Sweet Michelle! So great to hear from you, dear! I've missed you and your genius writing. :-) Love your hair in this photograph! -Jill Ps. Maybe we could chat about writing sometime. I'd love to hear your heart about the subject.

Anonymous said...


The above anonymous is not me.

the walking man said...

Possibly you had named the fish wrong and it was Simone who stayed in the castle attacking John Paul and she didn't like the idea of a husband being selected for her and would have rather been taken back to the fish store to find her own mate.

The jumping out of the tank may have been the last act of rebellion as a feminist.

After all Simone would have been the one to argue for her right to the castle rather than Jean Pauls

vsk witness said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
vsk witness said...

I deleted my last comment because of spelling errors and the dim realization that I need not be sloppy here . . . I had a maroon clown that lived nearly alone in a 240 gallon tank that served as the headboard for my wife and I. I brought home a lovely companion who was shredded in a matter of hours by the first. I caught "her" out and placed her in a net in the tank and she recovered only to have the same exact thing happen when I released her into the tank. Pissed, I caught the bully "male" and made him live in the net while she recovered. When she had I released him and voila! they became a pair and laid eggs. Thing of it is, clown fish are hermaphrodites. The dominant fish was a female and in the wild she'd have a batch of suitors of which only the chosen would actually be a male. Should she die "he" would become a she and the next in line would become a male. Your killer was a female.

You write beautifully.

the walking man said...

i know you probably have been through this before but your tagged because I like torturing you.

Go to my blog for the rules

Besides I don't have that many people bookmarked but I still like torturing you.



realbigwings said...

What dramatic fish stories. I have a house guardian named Fireheart who is a fuschia beta. Very fierce. Yet gentle. He mostly hangs out, resting his body on the thin white underwater roots of the lily growing in his vase. He's never attacked anyone or leapt out and for those small favors I'm thankful.

Susan Miller said...

Can you imagine what being both male and female would do to your little fish brain? I mean...the mood swings. Aggression in the whole kill, kill, kill Simone then the nesting of wanting to make the castle just right only to end up feeling like nobody is going to come over. Of course, nobody is coming killed them!

It was obviously suicide.

I am the Sherlock Holmes of fish mysteries.