Today is my brother’s birthday. In honor of this day I am publishing a story I wrote several years ago.
I loved my red betta. His name was Red. I kept him in an aquarium on my desk and we were good friends.
Red was a birthday gift from my brother. Dennis brought him home from the store in a plastic cup. A goldfish bowl,smooth rocks, glass rocks, fake greenery, fish food and de-chlorinator were plopped on the counter along with my then unnamed fish with a “Happy birthday, baby sister.”
“Great Dennis,” I said. “What am I going to do with a fish?” (I didn’t exactly say it that way, but I cleaned up my language for this post.)
He said, “I found a little fish net out by the neighbor’s trash can and thought it would be useful if there was a fish to scoop in it from time to time. Let’s sterilize it and then you can use it for your new fish.”
That’s how my brother thought – find a discarded piece of trash and buy a fish.
I had never owned a fish in my entire life, so Dennis helped me arrange the tank. He taught me how to feed and care for it.
A week later, he came home with his own betta and two new larger tanks. He told me that he didn’t want my fish to get jealous in his small goldfish bowl and had to buy my fish a new tank to match the one that he bought for his fish.
My fish was beautiful and RED. And, so I named him Red. Dennis’ fish was a rainbow sort of color and he never did name him. He called him Gringo and Guiseppe and Titan and whatever other name came to mind. His fish seemed to really like him, though, and would swim to the side of the tank to greet Dennis whenever he walked into the room.
I was jealous, because Red just seemed mean-spirited. He would flare out his gills and puff his face at me everytime I got near his tank.
We eventually moved out here to the country, but my brother and his fish stayed on the beach. Eventually, his fish died. My fish and I started becoming friends.
Red would come to the edge of his tank and watch me work on my computer. He would come to the top of the tank and wait for me to drop food in for him. If strangers stopped to gawk at him, he would flare his gills and puff his face. How funny, I thought, he never does that to me. He brought me many hours of joy.
When my brother died way too young and very unexpectedly from a heart condition, I was even more glad that I had Red. I had a very special gift from my brother. This brother had flown into my life after years of mutual neglect. And, he and I had a great time becoming friends and camarades.
Red was my living connection to my brother. He bore this awesome responsibility very beautifully, but died the other night night.
I woke up the next morning and checked his tank to make sure he was still dead. Maybe he just had a terrible sleep and would be swimming about, happy as a fish. I knew it would be unlikely, but was a little hopeful that the impossible could happen.
It hadn’t and so, we found a tiny spot in the yard to bury him.
“Take care of Red for me, big brother.”