Monday, August 2, 2010

Fish Out of Water

What follows is the best Seconda story ever, the one that most exemplifies her – the good, and the bad. However, if you work for PETA, I’d advise you to skip this post.

Last Saturday afternoon, David went out to do some grocery shopping and our good friend Lou dropped by. I was talking to Lou and trying to keep Primo from hitting him over the head with pillows so I didn’t notice for a few minutes that Seconda was nowhere to be seen, or heard, There was a Sec silence which I know from experience means trouble. So I peeked into her bedroom and saw her little feet sticking out from under the tent which cover her bed.

This should have sounded the alarm in my head.

Sec is quiet + Sec is hiding in her bed = something is being destroyed.

And, in fact, the alarm did sound. But she was giggling and moving around so I could tell she was all right. I figured it was my furniture or belongings that were probably suffering and while this level of suspicion usually prompts me to intervene, on this particular Saturday I was friggin’ tired. I’d spent a morning at the beach saving her from being swept to sea. The kid doesn’t give me any downtime in between intervention-worthy incidents and I needed some. Plus, I had a guest over and I felt like being a decent host.

So I said to myself, “She’s getting older. Just because she is quiet does not mean that she’s making mischief. Aren’t I EVER going to be able to trust her?”

And the answer, of course, is “No.” Or at least, not for a very long time.

I went back in the bedroom a few minutes later, when I couldn’t quiet the nagging feeling within me. As soon as I walked in, I knew something had happened with the fish. The fishtank where Mr. Black and Mr. White -- hey, the kids named them -- have been living and thriving for the past 8 months or so, is located on top of a dresser and next to the dresser is a toy chest which usually has a big pile of books on it. When I went into her room I saw the pile of books on the floor and Sec standing on the chest.

“Honey?” I started, anxiously, “What are you doing?”

She turned to me with a shit-eating grin on her face. And I mean, from ear-to-ear. The grin was so blatantly guilty it was as if the words “I DID SOMETHING BAD” had been written on her gleaming teeth in permanent marker.

“I saved the fish!” she exclaimed, clapping her hands. Then she turned her attention to the tank, and I did too, dreading what I’d find.

There was Mr. Black, our dear pet, belly up at the top of the water. Dead as a doornail.

My first thought was. “Maybe he’s not dead, but almost dead, Maybe I can save him!” What do you do in these situations? I mean, you can’t do CPR on a goldfish. You can’t call the vet. The fish was belly-up. The fish was a goner.

“What HAPPENED?” I cried, trying to remain calm

This sent Sec running away, to hide in her bed tent. I followed after her, taking deep breaths.

“Did you touch Mr. Black?” I asked.

She smiled and shook her head “No.”

“Honey,” I ventured, sweetly, “Mommy’s not going to be mad, OK? Just tell me the truth. Did you take the fish

out of the tank?”

She grinned and nodded “Yes.”

“And then what did you do with him?”

“I put him in my bed!” she exclaimed with delight, “I wanted to snuggle him!”

“In your BED?”

She nodded, unable to repress her glee: “Mommy, when I put him down, he went flop, flop, flop!!”

And she began to demonstrate with her body how the fish had thrashed about wildly, this way and that. She didn’t know the poor thing was meeting his Maker, she thought he was finally PLAYING with her. She probably felt like she hit the jackpot, like FINALLY, after all these months of being a total snooze-fest, this fish is the life of the party. “This is more like it,” she probably thought, “All he needed was to get out of the water.”

I’m not going to lie: I was dismayed. Downtrodden. My daughter just takes such a joy in destroying things – knocking over block towers, scribbling on her brother’s painstakingly-penned drawings, smashing lipstick on the floor, throwing jewelry in the air conditioner -- I just felt sad that now we had fishicide to add to the list.

Of course, she didn’t really MEAN to kill him. Seconda adores animals, beyond anything I can possible relate to. David, Primo and I are highly apathetic to pets, but it is really her abiding passion. She stops every single dog on the street and chases butterflies and cuddles friends’ cats. She even cozied up to these two big gray rats that Primo’s friend kept as pets (“Oh my cute little ratty!”). She wants a pet she can play with, I understand that.

But the fact remains that she scooped our goldfish out of the water with her bare hands placed him on her pillow for a while and then, when she heard me coming, grabbed him and tossed him back in the water, where he was currently floating.

I gave her a talk about how fish can’t live outside the water, how she had hurt Mr. Black and how she had to prepare herself for the fact that this was probably a booboo he couldn’t recover from.

“I think we’d better check on him.” I said,

We walked over and there, in the tank, was Mr. Black REVIVED from death. He was swimming around! Not with a lot of vigor, admittedly. He looked dazed and horrified, like he’d seen something no fish should ever have to see – two blue eyes getting bigger and bigger, closer and closer and then one chubby hand with green nail polish looming over the water. But he was swimming.

It was a fish miracle.

We went back to the living room, where Lou was now having a pillow fight with Primo and tried to forget the incident. But we are definitely buying a top for the fish tank. And if I could locate on, I’d get Mr. Black a fish therapist.