We didn't go for the tropicals, the ones with the sharp fins and the striped bodies in three or four colors. Or the fish in Finding Nemo's tank. Or even the goldfish.
Those fish, we were told, required care. Salted water. Fancy food. Perfect temperatures. They were sensitive. They were not for the fish challenged.
We needed a beta, we were told.
Betas were easy, we were told. They could survive in all conditions. Sure, you could only have one in a tank, which was a bummer, but our tank was more of a trailer than a home anyway. It wasn't made for a school. It was made to be on top of my son's dresser so he could gaze lovingly into it and see the wonder of life.
And so we got a beta. And, yeah, he was pretty easy. Jayden named him Nemo, which, I thought, was pretty appropriate. Nemo was red. He was kind of pretty actually and pretty easy-going too (probably, truth be told, the most mellow in our family).
After about a year, he was looking a little gray. Well, the sad truth is, the life of a fish, while exciting, vivacious and thrilling, is not long. Fish believe it's better to burn out than fade away, and Nemo, sadly, faded away for good.
Jayden was sad. Then he asked if he could get another fish. Well, sure, we said. After all, by this time, we were fish experts. We kept a beta alive for a year! We were great fish parents!
Now we were cocky as all get out.
So we got another beta.
And he died in a month.
Oops. OK. Well that didn't go quite as well. But, you know, we went to a corporate pet store, and surely those places have some bad fish, sort of like the occasional pack of Chicken McNuggets that make you sick. It happens.
So we got another fish.
This one was beautiful. He was pearl white, with a rainbow tail that seemed to change color every time it caught the light.
I found him floating in the water, his skin like ash, his tail green as pea soup, after two days.
OK, well, I felt bad about that one. So we cleaned the tank and scrubbed the rocks like volunteers at an oil spill and I changed the filter pad, and we got a new fish for the shiny, almost-new-like tank, and we put the fish in there after the water was conditioned, and he died two hours after we put him in the tank.
We had been exchanging the fish at the pet store - there's a two-week guarantee, apparently - but at this point Kate did not take the corpse back or else they might think we were dipping the poor creatures in Clorox or watching them flop around on the sink while we laughed like Jack Nicholson poking his head through a splintered door.
We waited a week or so, then went to the other corporate pet store. Our faces weren't on the wall yet at that place, and we bought another beta (half price, score!).
And it died in three weeks.
So we went back to the other store again, and they looked at my wife funny but gave her and Jayden another fish, and Brewster V (or is it VI, let me count, gimmie a second, OK, yeah, Brewster V) was home. I kept suggesting to Jayden that perhaps Brewster wasn't that great a name. Nemo worked pretty well. But he kept naming it Brewster. I think he's a little stubborn. I'm not sure where he gets that.
ANYWAY, the fish lasted a couple months, but sure enough, he was looking gray and then he died.
When my wife asked the fish guy at the pet store what was going on - maybe something we should have asked a few fishes ago - he asked how much I was feeding them.
As it turns out, I maybe, might, possibly have been overfeeding them a tad.
It turns out that fish are like most Americans. They can overeat.
Now I felt bad. Really bad. Sure, I doubt I killed all of them, but I no doubt killed some. And so I thought we were done with fish for a bit. I cleaned out the tank, dumped the rocks and let things chill.
Then my wife came home on Sunday with frogs.
That's right. Frogs. And shrimp.
The frogs, I thought, were a good idea. A change of pace. Surely we could not kill frogs as much as fish. Plus Kate bought shrimp, and shrimp were a great idea because they would eat the extra food on the bottom. Just, you know, in case I overfed them.
So I went in today, just to check on them. The frogs seemed fine. The shrimp seemed fine.
When I got home today, Kate had a plastic bag.
One frog was fine.
But it was time for another exchange.
We're on our third frog in two days now, and you have to wonder if, at some point, we're like the little girl in Finding Nemo. The one all the other fish were scared of. Maybe I'll wander in the pet store in a week or two. It is Halloween, after all, and everyone, even fish and frogs, deserve a good scare.