Funeral for a fish

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.” 


With apologies to Mr. Bill

A very old memory re-surfaced recently. I can’t say exactly when it came into my mind or what activity triggered it. I only remember that one day, it was a part of my psyche and I knew I had known it for a long time.

In this memory, I am in kindergarten. And, my friend, Tina, also a kindergartener and our kindergarten bus driver, Mr. Bill, are part of it, too.

I remember that I was going to go to Tina’s house after school to play and then, have a sleepover. The plan was that I would get off of the bus with her at her house. How I loved going to Tina’s. Her mom would be home and have a well rounded lunch ready for us, and ask us to show her our school work and proudly display our stuff on the refrigerator. It was totally unlike my house, since my mom worked shifts as a nurse at the hospital and I had to scrounge around all by myself after school to find something to eat.

Now, I can’t explain why we were the last two kids on the bus. Normally, there would have been a handful of other kindergarteners still on the bus in route to their own houses, after Tina and I departed. Maybe, on this particular day, we were busy chatting and missed her stop. Maybe, later when we realized it, we told Mr. Bill, and he said he would bring us back after he finished the route.

So, we are the only two kids on the bus, and when it nears Tina’s house, it speeds up, rather than slows to a stop. And, Mr. Bill passes her house in a flash. And, Tina and I yell for him to stop, but he ignores us and continues on down the road. We realize he is kidnapping us and we are scared. I get out of our seat and make my way to the front of the bus, and I begin to give Mr. Bill a piece of my mind. I tell him that if he doesn’t turn around and take us back to Tina’s that our parents would be very mad and that he would get arrested. I plead with him the whole way down the hill to the end of the road. I was scared out of my wits on the inside, but did not want Tina and Mr. Bill to know that.

And, then, when he could have made that final turn that would take us far away, forever, he instead, turned around and drove back up the hill and dropped us off at Tina’s house, unharmed. As Tina and I walk up her driveway, I tell her to never tell of this incident. Mr. Bill would be very mad at us, if we told, and, who knows what would happen then, so we must keep this as our secret.

And, we never spoke of it again.

After I became aware of this memory, I tried to remember more about it. Somewhere back there in the deep recesses of my mind, there must be more. Why were Tina and I the last two children on the bus? When the bus did not stop at Tina’s house, why didn’t her mom hop in her car and follow? What was I wearing that day? Did Tina ever tell her mom? Did her mom call my mom and did Mr. Bill get fired? Or, arrested? Has Tina, ever, in all these years, remembered this incident?

So, I decided I would ask Tina about it. I waited through all of the holidays – after all, this would have been a somewhat traumatic experience for two little girls, and if she has erased it from her memory, I didn’t want to upset her at Christmastime. And, I continued to think about it.

Finally, on Sunday morning, (yes, just the other day) I woke up early and wrote out this memory and sent a direct message detailing everything I could remember to Tina on Facebook. After about 15 minutes, I deleted it, thinking that if she had successfully suppressed this terrible memory all these years, I could not traumatize her. I mean, how do I know if she might have had an unexplainable fear of all men named Bill her whole life and never knew why?

So, I called her mother. I hadn’t talked to Tina’s mom in at least 10 years, probably longer! She was so very cool, just like I remember! And, after a few minutes of catching up, I relayed my story. She had no recollection of it. But, as she pointed out, Tina, may have, indeed, kept the whole terrible incident from her. And, she suggested I talk to Tina about it.

The next step was to contact Tina. I can’t remember, for sure, but I don’t think I’ve seen or spoken to Tina since my mother died in 2002. Yes, we had connected recently on Facebook, but since she hardly uses it, I don’t count the vague hello we said a few months back when we connected as a legitimate contact.

Turns out, Tina has absolutely no recollection of my memory, either. And, Tina’s memory is long. She would have remembered.

And, so, I’ve come to realize this never happened. It was only a dream.

Honestly, I’m relieved. But, it still feels weird, though.


A look back and a look forward

The look back: Highlights of 2012

The biggest thing that controlled my life in 2012 was that I was unemployed.

In the beginning of the year, I was hopeful to launch a new business – website design and social media management for small businesses. I spent part of my free time learning the ins and outs of self-employment, researching marketing techniques, pricing, and creating a business website.

Also, early in the year, when the weather was still chilly, I spent weeks in the workshop learning how to paint gourds. Over time, I got better at choosing the paints and inks that worked best and honed my drawing skills.

I also began baking bread – peasant loaves, white loaves, baguettes, yeast rolls and biscuits. (I had never been a baker and was [still am] pleasantly surprised at the outcomes.)

As winter began to fade, I began a major house spring cleaning, literally from ceiling to floor in every room. And, I prepped the vegetable garden, hand tilling the bed, planting and caring for the young summer vegetables. And, I started clearing brush that is overtaking the property, a major undertaking. One that will never be done.

I made a trellis out of branches to support a rose bush.

In May, my sisters came to my house for our yearly sister vacation. Our visit was more low-key than normal, mainly because my budget was so incredibly tight, but we did manage to go to the beach and go to Firefly Distillery and we went to see a movie together. One with Johnny Depp.

And, then I tended the garden. I spent more time there than in other years, since I had more free time, and productivity was the best ever, and I spent quite a bit of time in the kitchen preserving the harvest for winter consumption.

And, in between, I continued to work on my business and paint gourds and clear brush and bake bread and I learned to make concrete casts out of leaves for yard art.

And, we began work on my plant shack.  And, I planted a winter vegetable crop.

And, my sister and her husband came for a vacation in October and we took the boat to Folly Beach to fish and scavenge for sand dollars. We golfed with them and ate oysters. And, then they went home.

And, after that, I continued to work on my business and tend the garden and paint gourds and make concrete leaves and bake bread.

The winter crops are coming in now and I am preserving the excess of the harvest.

My old car continues to hang in there, even though the transmission has been giving me a headache for a couple of years now. And, our tractor, a major tool at our house, has died and is non-repairable and there is no money in the budget for a replacement.

Looking back I can see that most people would find my year fairly non-descript. But, I have to say, all in all, it was good!

The look forward: A plan for 2013

If I had my druthers, I’d prefer to continue to pursue my dream of self-employment. But, since I do not have customers waiting in line for my services, that is not possible right now. My number one priority for the new year is to find a job.

Outside of that, I have made a few personal goals to have a happy year ahead.

  • Finish the plant shack. It’s been on hold for a few months because we ran out of money. But, that’s temporary (I hope) And, when it does get finished, I will have my own place to work on all my crafty things and gardening pursuits.
  • Grow more vegetables. I like growing things. Vegetables are fun to grow because they taste better and are fresher than anything store bought, I can grow organic, and I can preserve for future use and save money.
  • Paint more gourds. I’ve never considered myself an artist, but, I learned last year that the more I practice, the better I get.
  • Make more concrete leaves. Mixing concrete is like the adult version of making mud pies.
  • Bake more bread. A loaf of plain, bland, store-bought bread costs over $3.00 a loaf these days. My bread, on the other hand, tastes awesome and guests think I am super talented!
  • Clear more brush. The work is great aerobic exercise and the other end result is a prettier homestead.
  • Begin a daily journal. Because I want to.
  • Doodle every day. Doodling is great exercise for a more creative brain.
  • Write more. The more I do it, the better I get at it.
  • Learn new stuff. I want to make home-made wind chimes and other yard art. I’d like to start doing yoga. I want to learn how to use the table saw and drill press and jig saw and, then, make stuff.  I want to re-study classic literature, take an on-line course, study the stars, learn how to make pasta, make hand-crafted soap.

All in all, it looks good!