It’s amazing, what a parent will do for their child. I’ve heard many parents say that they would give their life – they would die – for their children. But what about murder? Would they kill for their child?
I know my personal answer to that question. You see, I took a life. For the happiness of my little girl.
It was Valentine’s Day, the day we chose to honor Julia’s incessent plea for an aquatic vertebrate of her very own to love. Dave and I believed we were being smart. We felt wise for forgoing the usual stuffed animals and candy, and introducing our daughter to the world of responsibility through fish ownership and aquarium maintenance. We congratulated ourselves during the trip to the pet store. We were awesome parents. Truly, the best ever.
We arrived at the store on a high. Who was better than us, huh? We spoke to the manager regarding our needs. No, this wasn’t going to be some Beta fish in a bowl. Nah, the tiny tank wouldn’t do. We had plans, not for one piddly fish, but for a few. We were very serious. So, the man showed us his best deal – a 20 gallon tank with it’s own stand, a filter, a heater, a light, a net, gravel, plastic plants, a super-cool rock and lots of bottles of chemicals. The price was quite reasonable, so we accepted the offer. Now, all we needed to know was how many fish can we put in that tank? One inch of fish per gallon of the tank you say? Cool. Let’s start with five fish. And we set off to pick them out.
We were three into our five fish choices when an awkward pet store associate with glasses, pimples and a squeaky voice began asking us questions about our tank. Two dreaded responses later we heard the news, “You know, you really should have your tank up and running for a week or so before you introduce any fish. Otherwise, they’re probably going to die.”
Dave and I stood there while our swollen heads deflated. We exchanged concerned glances, then gazed upon our child. She was on her knees, hands against a tank, speaking softly to “Fridgie” the pink fish she’d already chosen.
“You’re coming home with me, Fridgie. You’ll live at my house and I’m going to take care of you. ‘Cause I love you,” she cooed.
It was then that the manager approached. He put a hand on each of our shoulders and said in a hushed voice, “Listen, just pick one today. Take it home, start up your tank and put it in. Just having the fish in there, eating and, you know, pooping, will help get the tank ready for more fish. The fish, well, it probably won’t make it too long, but we guarantee our fish. If it dies, bring in the body with your receipt and we’ll replace it. Maybe she won’t even know. You’re always going to lose some fish anyway.” He gave us each a pat and said, “I’ll meet you at the register.”
Julia stood up and turned around and asked, “Can we take my fish home now?”
My heart began to race. My palms were sweaty. I found it hard to catch my breath. I knew what I had to do. I shook my head yes. She squealed and bounced. I turned to Dave and said, “There’s no way we can leave here without a fish, David. We have to do it.”
He hung his head. “I know.”
So, Fridgie was pulled from his harmonious home and stuffed in a bag to begin the journey toward his demise. Dave and I chastised ourselves on the ride home while I held Fridgie, our sacrificial fish, in my lap and Julia sang songs about him from the back seat. We weren’t awesome parents. Unless awesome parents have fish blood on their hands. We were not the best parents ever. We were fish killers.
Then, about five miles from home, the tone in the car changed. I’m not sure if it was me or Dave who first suggested that Fridgie was a particularly special fish and maybe, just maybe, he’d win against the odds. Yes. We had decided. Fridgie was a trooper. He was going to make it. Everything would be alright. Fridgie would perservere.
We arrived home and set up our tank with much fanfare and enthusiasm. We sang praises to Fridgie and agreed that he was indeed a fine fish. I disposed of our receipt for his purchase, just to show my confidence in him. There’d be no returning his limp, dead body for a cash refund; Fridgie was going to make it. We just knew it.
Four days later, Fridgie went belly up.
As I sat crying, feeling, for the first time, the full weight of my murderous choice, Julia approached. She asked, “What’s wrong, Mommy?”
“Well, honey,” I sniffed, “It’s Fridgie. He died.”
“Oh…well, that’s okay Mom. Sometimes fish die.”
I stared at her in disbelief.
“We can get another fish, Mom. You don’t need to cry. There are more at the pet store.”
So, yeah. Would I kill for my child? I guess I already did, even when I didn’t have to. I killed Fridgie. Would I do it all over again? Nope. Not at all. I’m not a total idiot. Just kind of one.