Category Archives: Pets


Not long ago, Mondo came to live with us.

Mondo (adverb/adjective/slang): used in reference to something very striking or remarkable of its kind; very large or great in amount or number.

Mondo is a crested gecko.

Crested Gecko Facts:

  • Originally from southern New Caledonia but now ubiquitous in pet stores and among hobbyists as they are easy to breed and care for, and have a life span of about 15 years.
  • Tree dwellers with a semi-prehensile tail, which combined with specialized toes, allow the gecko to climb almost any solid surface (including glass).
  • Crested geckos can detach their tails when threatened. Unlike other geckos, crested gecko tails do not grow back once detached.
  • Crested geckos are eyelid-less. They use their tongues to clean and moisten their eyes.
  • Thought extinct until “rediscovered”, alive and well, in 1994.
  • Great jumpers; excellent poses.


A former classroom pet, Mondo was re-homed once before coming to live with us in our office. That makes: us, a dog, two fish, a tarantula, and now a crested gecko.

Have we become “those people”? We are assuredly just a bird or turtle or gerbil away from official menagerie status (faded southern belles need not apply).

So many animals, mondo creatures. Pets galore!

Q: What’s it like living with a crested gecko?

A: It’s like every other day, except now there’s a gecko.

Which is to say, improved somewhat. A measurable improvement on the everyday.

Mondo good.


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Filed under Animals, Names, Pets

Dog Days

Louis recently had 14 teeth taken out in a procedure that quickly became a marathon operation, complete with dramatic skips and beats in which he, in his fright and confusion and special doggy frustration, tried to fight his way out; in which his breathing became abnormal (though it stabilized at just the right critical point for the work to continue); in which his teeth, while seemingly normal from the outside (and thus, primed primarily for a cleaning) were actually abhorrently rotten on the inside (hence the transformation of his dental work from standard to complex to troublesome), and in which the resultant financial cost went from the low $$ to the high $$$.

Yet, it was nothing, this being his 4th major procedure (2 back surgeries for herniated discs; 1 for a snapped ligament) in his 14 long years of doggy life. He’s since recovered, as he has 3 times before. He acts as if nothing had happened, though there is less and less of him for anything to happen to as time goes by.

Dog Days

The absurdity of this dog. The absurdity of it all – all of it, our life together.

In a 1972 letter to Jane Vonnegut, Kurt Vonnegut mediates on the nature of death, having perused the copy of Markings, Dag Hammarskjöld’s memoir, that Jane has sent him:

“I open it at random, and I find a lot about dying meaningfully, and about sacrifice and pain and mysterious destinies…Are you really tuned in to this sort of stuff? Should I be? Well – I’ll try, but it’s not my style. I, for one, am glad I didn’t die in Africa, although that opportunity was mine. I still believe that a dog is going to kill me, and it scares me – and it pisses me off” (2012: 192).

There are fates worse than death, just as there are a million ways to die. Vonnegut’s is the closest that comes to mind as being, if not right, if not justified, if not even true in its most tangible sense, than fair.

Harsh, but fair. More than fair.

This dog is going to kill me.




Vonnegut, Kurt. (2011). Letters, ed. Dan Wakefield. Delacorte Press: New York.




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Filed under Animals, Books, Death, Dogs, Health, Pets, Philosophy, Relationships

Fish Story

1. Storm Waters

The pond was located not too far from my cousin’s house, just behind the park, close (but not too close) to the highway.

“We’re going fishing,” she said, bucket and net in hand. She was a year older than me and, therefore, wiser by ages. I was in charge of the fish food: a full canister of blue and yellow and pink flakes that we had procured from her parents’ vast inventory.

Hers was a family of fish breeders. Her parents, my aunt and uncle, breed and raised fish and showed them competitively, sold the rest. Not a profession, just a hobby. But one they took very, very, ever-so seriously.

The storm pond water was murky and littered with patches of thick-grown, brown flecked green scum that rode the motion of the overflow as the pond lapped at our flip-flops.

“Ready?” She filled the bucket with some of the water, careful not to collect too much of the scum. Then she opened the canister, popping the foil seal just so (releasing its freshness), and held the net at the ready. “Now!”

We tossed handfuls of the fish flakes onto the water’s surface, rich fragrant snowflakes among the assorted waste of the storm waters.


It didn’t take long. One by one and then in groups and then in droves came the fish. Fish of all shapes and colours – anything, really, that you could imagine from your local pet store. Murky water turned a riot of gold, white, red, black mixed with blue, yellow, pink. Tails swished, fins broke the filmy surface, bodies churned the murk it into a frothy mess from which bulging, unblinking eyes glared at us like spotlights. Open mouths; so many open, toothless mouths.

Poor, abandoned creatures. Tossed away (discarded, dumped, flushed) by people who I imagine had once been enamoured by their charms, by the prettiness of their delightful hues, clever contours and cute underwater antics, which were now all rendered grotesque. Life in the storm waters had caused the fish to change, to grow to monstrous sizes and into unseemly proportions. Into ungainly, ugly masses; living breathing tumours. Absolute freaks among freaks.

“When we have enough, we can go home,” my cousin said matter-of-factly. With practiced strokes she began netting the fish, the weight of them bending the pole into a most unnatural angle.

I never asked her how much was enough. It would not have been the proper question to ask, at that time. It was a lot.

And I never asked what the fish were for, what she intended to do with them.


2. Over Turned Bucket

Here, catfish aren’t exactly good eating, and I remember my dad holding a particular distain for the uncouth creatures – all eyes and slick mottled skin and barbs you could not convince him weren’t somehow dangerous. But luck is a fickle thing: we caught so many fish that day, and all of them catfish. Perhaps he felt that he needed to salvage the day somehow, redeem ourselves as best we could. In perhaps the only way we could.

The garage was the only place my dad was allowed to clean and prepare the fish we caught. Mom, ever fearsome, made sure of that, and it’s hard to blame her. The stink of fresh water fish, no matter how freshly caught, no matter how much my dad insisted he’d get it all, had a way of lingering long past due.

The preparing of the fish was always a solemn affair. Dad talked little as he worked, and we either watched him or we didn’t. Talk little, work fast, that’s all that mattered. Be there with him or no, dad would do the work regardless.

I crept into the garage, careful not to make unnecessary noise. Dad was at the worktable, effortlessly sliding a big knife lengthwise through the body of a particularly girthy catfish. Its head was missing, its fins and tail soon to follow.

“Don’t get too close to the knife,” he said, not bothering to take his eyes off the fish. “Move.”

I did as told, accidentally knocking over the metal bucket I missed seeing on my way in. It hit the concrete floor with a soft bang, overturning its burden so that it was undeniable. There was no looking away from them.

The heads. That’s where dad put them. The squirming, gasping, wide-eyed heads. The twitched, they spasmed, they stared right through me as they whispered unheard words with wet fish lips. Curses, for all I know. Wicked incantations, gulping greedily at the air, seeking purchase.

One, two, three…five, seven, eight. All the fish we had caught that day, though even now I could swear to you that there were so many more than that, fish be dammed.

(Later I’d learn that it was an automatic nervous/muscular response, the fact of the heads moving after decapitation).

But tell that to the child who for all I know is still there, counting heads, unable to do much else. Unable to be of much use to anyone.


3. The Osprey

Years later. New house, new backyard patio. A birthday BBQ featuring my dad’s famous pork chops, chicken and quail. A most sumptuous repast.

My cousin wasn’t there. We are, for all intents and purposes, estranged.

So I wasn’t thinking of her as I let my head fall back on the cushion of my chair and gazed at the impossibly blue sky.

It had been years since I’ve gone fishing with my dad. But I wasn’t thinking about that either.

I wasn’t expecting to see the bird or much, really, of anything.

Osprey are fishers. People at the dog park near the river sometimes freak out, seeing an osprey hovering above them and, more to the point, their small dogs. There is a part of me that wants to tell them not to worry, to reassure them that everything is, in fact, OK: this particular bird of prey will do no harm to them or, more to the point, their dogs. But then I wonder how much good it will do: people also do so love drama and the dog park, indeed, is a rather sleepy one.

The osprey that came into view above my head as I sat in my chair on my parents’ patio during my dad’s birthday BBQ flew low, struggling to keep hold of its massive catch.

The fish held in its talons was easily bigger than the bird by half. But then, maybe I’m exaggerating, for dramatic effect. This much is true: the poor thing gleamed gold-orange, gold-orange-gold, huge scales protruding off its belly, which was so engorged it seemed likely to explode in the heat of the sun as the fish twitched and spasmed, struggling to free itself.

Of course, we laughed: some ridiculous person in my parents’ ridiculous neighbourhood had lost their ridiculous fish from their ridiculous (that is to say, exquisitely landscaped) backyard pool.

But now I find myself thinking of my cousin and of the storm waters and wondering what, exactly, the osprey had caught, and where, and also what my dad would have done if the bird had dropped the fish in the middle of his BBQ.






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Filed under Animals, Death, Downtime, Family, Friends, Pets, Places

Loose Facts

The Facts are These:

1. William Lyon Mackenzie King (not to be confused with William Lyon Mackenzie), Canada’s 10th Prime Minister, had three dogs named Pat. Not at the same time: he had one dog (named Pat), the dog (Pat) died, and then he got another dog and named it Pat. He did this three times: Pat I, Pat II, Pat III.


Three Kings.

Rumour had it that Mackenzie King had at least one of the Pats stuffed and mounted after its death, but this is untrue. The rumour, however, is so close to what appears to be the truth that it is often repeated as if true. A difference that makes no difference.

Three Irish Terriers. Three dogs named Pat. No taxidermy involved whatsoever. Séances to commune with the dead, however, were involved, including Mackenzie King’s desire to speak with Pat (the dead one) as well as the likes of his long-dead mother and Wilfrid Laurier, Canada’s 7th Prime Minister.


2. Barbara Streisand revealed last week that she had her Coton de Tulear, Samantha, cloned. She named her new, clone(d) dogs Miss Scarlet and Miss Violet (they wear red and purple ribbons, respectively, so that you can tell them apart). Streisand also has another dog, another Coton de Tulear, named Miss Fanny.

Miss Fanny is a distant cousin of the first dog, Samantha.

The more things change.

Three Coton de Tulears. One dog (Samantha), two clones of dog (Miss Scarlet, Miss Violet), another a cousin or some such relation (Miss Fanny).

Actually, four dogs were cloned from the first, Samantha. The runt of the litter died, the other clones – not Miss Scarlet and Miss Violet – were given away (five dogs, according to Streisand, would have been too much to handle and Miss Fanny was there to stay). Cloning costs a lot, it certainly does, but Streisand certainly has it.


3. Lisa Simpson’s first cat, Snowball, was hit by a car (a Chrysler driven by the mayor’s druken brother, Clovis). She named her second cat Snowball II. When Snowball II was hit by a car (in this case, Dr. Hibbert’s SUV) and killed, Lisa adopted a new cat, Snowball III, who promptly drowned in a fish tank, and led her to get another cat, Coltrane, who jumped out a window and died. Springfield’s Crazy Cat Lady (Dr. Eleanor Abernathy) eventually threw a cat at Lisa, who decided to keep it. She also decided to name it Snowball II to save money on a new collar and cat dish.


Five cats, four named Snowball.

Now. We know that Snowball II (the first one, a black cat) did not look like Snowball I (a white cat, although he sometimes appears as if grey), and that Snowball III did not look like Snowball I or either of the Snowballs II – was, in fact, an entirely different (looking) cat (brown/orange with medium rather than short hair). We also know that Snowball II (the second one) looks identical to Snowball II (the first one).

Coltrane should have been Snowball IV (at least, he could have been), but wasn’t.

Snowball II (the second one) is and is not Snowball IV, which is and is not Snowball II (the first one).

Lisa once tried to resurrect Snowball I via the dark arts. It didn’t work: instead, she and her brother, Bart, ended up unleashing a veritable army of undead upon Springfield, including the likes of Zombie George Washington, Zombie Einstein and Zombie Shakespeare. Too bad. It should have worked.

Try, and try again.


To Conclude:

An Irish Terrier, a Coton de Tulear and a shorthair Cat walk into a bar.

“Give us the usual,” they say.

“You don’t have to tell me,” says the bartender. “You’ve been around here before. But are you sure just the usual this time?”

The Irish Terrier looks away, the Coton de Tulear cocks its head, the Cat narrows its eyes but does not blink.

“Make it a double,” it says.








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Filed under Animals, Celebrity, Change, Dogs, People, Pets, Philosophy

Open Secrets Vol. 1

– The answer is very probably “Yes.”

– Things you can’t undo: the past, sneeze, fry a chicken. Repeat, then, if necessary.

– High school was so very long ago.

– They are still making Hellraiser movies. They’ve never not stopped making Hellraiser movies.

Screen Shot 2018-02-26 at 11.16.03 AM

Hellraiser (1987), Hellbound: Hellraiser II (1988), Hellraiser III: Hell on Earth (1992), Hellraiser: Bloodline (1996), Hellariser: Inferno (2000), Hellraider: Hellseeker (2002), Hellraiser: Deader (2005), Hellraiser: Hellworld (2005), Hellraiser: Revelations (2011). Not pictured: Hellraiser: Origins (2013), Hellraiser: Judgment (2018)

– “Mandatory” but not (always) absolute.

– Hard hats expire.

– So much in the naming (i.e. “The Amazing Spider Man”, “Old Faithful,” “Typhoid Mary”) it’s almost unfair.

– The answer is most assuredly “No.”

– The dog didn’t do it.

– Ringo Starr will outlast them all. And us.

– “Soon” is a hard promise.

– Dying is (pretty much) for everybody else.

– The last one? I ate it.








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Filed under Interruptions, Movies, People, Pets

Book B-I-N-G-O (Part 1)

My interest in doing anything diminished by something like 98% whenever I’m specifically asked or told to do it.

Perhaps I am a contrarian, but I doubt it.

This tendency, this character trait, this human flaw, whatever you want to call it, thankfully does not interfere with my work life, which makes me a Good Employee. For all intents and purposes.

Maybe not a contrarian then, but simply a pragmatist.

Whatever it takes.

Look. I tried to get along with my office mates (I try to get along with everyone!) but it isn’t always easy or convenient (or wise) to do so. Offices especially can be strange environments – few resources (promotions, photocopying privileges, pens & paper) makes for some intense competition and, in my case, produced some rather toxic rivalries. Everyone seemed to know this, but that isn’t the same as saying it was acknowledged, openly or otherwise.

Or is it just me?

(It’s not just me.)


There are things people did to ease the tension: some brought in cookies and candy, others organized office potlucks, a few nominated themselves (or were nominated) as to go-to people to for those wishing to celebrate their birthdays at the office (after work hours, and we all had to chip in for the cake).

There were few birthdays at the office.

For a while we were allowed, encouraged even, to bring dogs in to work (“Pet dogs,” reminded our boss, Tucson,* pale, immaculate finger wagging in the air, adding his usual linguistic garnish as a way to stay at the head of the decision, though it may have been a directive rather than description, it was hard to tell with him).

But the dogs quickly became bored, then destructive, then somewhat belligerent (they could sense it too, the tension, and were getting spoiled from the cupcakes people fed them under their desks).

A NO DOGS policy was instituted.

For a while after that, there was nothing, save the baked goods and the potlucks and birthdays as rare as black, winged unicorns (or promotions).

Then came BOOK BINGO.


Phoenix came up with the idea, and it seemed a good one. It seemed inventive and sound and, most of all, harmless. We were, after all, a group of smart, educated people, who often professed our love of books in the narrow, sagging hallways of the ramshackle building that housed our cubicles, on the tacky carpeting that ran beneath our shared workspaces like an oil slick; in the upstairs kitchenette with the broken microwave. Some of us were even in book clubs.

Book clubs, even!


The categories listed on the BOOK BINGO sheets that Phoenix printed out for us seemed interesting and (dare I say it?), fun:








“Where’s the harm?” I said.

And Phoenix smiled.


In the end, five of us (it was a small office, despite everything), signed on for what was already being hailed (by Phoenix, ever the ringmaster, ever the MC) as The Great BOOK BINGO Challenge of 2015 (pronounced “twenty-fifteen”).

Because not only had we agreed to play, we would play big: no rows or columns of B or I, or the like or that ilk. Not even impressive diagonals would do. The winner would be declared the first to complete the entire BOOK BINGO sheet (all twenty-five squares, minus the star in the middle that marked the free space). The good space.

The prize would be bragging rights (or cake if we all wanted to chip in for it).


Bragging rights I wanted.

Bragging rights I understood. Bragging rights were how you got around a place like the place where I worked, how you carved out a space for yourself and kept it that way.

I got books out from the library. I took gathered books that I had purchased from second-hand stores and garage sales and had always meant to read, sometime IN THE FUTURE, when the time was right. I made piles and lists. Books towered on my nightstand. They littered the floor, crept onto the bed and invaded my dreams.

I consulted BOOK BINGO sheet, and took a closer look at the categories carefully picked out by Phoenix:







And it hit me.

Each category – it asked a lot. Each would give the people I saw every day – and really only because I was paid to be there (seeing them was, in a way, incidental to being there) – a little something of myself.

It hit me hard.


(Was this a bad thing? Was it bad? It didn’t seem good. Not like it mattered at that point. I was in, do you understand? I was making progress, even.)


I remember thinking: I am a Good Employee. I can do this. This is good.

Besides, I reasoned, maybe I was being silly. Perhaps I was overreacting in order to compensate for the state of things. Seeing ulterior motives and indulging in paranoid fantasies where there was only collegiate goodwill and a genuine, concentrated desire to connect. I was seeing entitlements where there were only efforts to create a more open, friendly, happy place to work.


But then there was never enough pens & paper.


There was never enough to go around, if certain people needed it.


And I was not certain people.




* Not real name. All names, and possibly genders, have been changed to obscure the identities of the very real people that lurk just behind those identities.

* This required a special category???








Filed under Books, Change, Dogs, Employment, Jobs, People, Pets, Places, Politics, Relationships, THE FUTURE

Pet Shop Boy

There is a time and place for everything.

At the pet store, for example.

Feeding Ivan, our pet tarantula, means having to go to the pet store – a place that reminds me of a kind of low-grade zoo/high-end furniture store – every two weeks or so to buy 6 individual live crickets.

Her favourite.

It is not a lot. It’s something like $0.90 dropped into the bucket of a ba-zillion dollar industry.

I know what to do and say at the pet store to get my paltry 6 crickets as quickly as possible so I can get out of there as quickly as possible, and get on with my life:
1. Go directly to the register.

2. Repeat the line:

Do you sell individual live crickets? I only need six, but I’ll pay for the dozen.”
Pet stores almost always only sell live crickets by the dozen. The clerks are usually quite helpful and sometimes won’t even charge for the full dozen.

But the clerk at this particular store seemed to have fallen off the back of something…

  • A truck
  • An after school special
  • The last immediate century

…And right in front of my existence.

He refused to look up, his hands fumbling under the counter at something that I will imagine as not the crotch of his pants. He sighed heavily at the question and answered, all the while fumbling like it was the best thing since sliced bread and there was no tomorrow and like his life depended on it.

“Yeah,” he said, jutting a jiggling elbow to the back of the store, “just go to the back and ask the brown guy.”

Go to the back and ask the brown guy.

He said it like he said it all the time, everyday. He said that like it was the everyday, said like it wouldn’t leave me standing there, forgetting totally my mission to get out of the pet store as fast as I could and on with the rest of my life.

I stood there, not knowing how to react, something like a ba-zillion responses flashing in my mind. I stood there for so long he stopped fumbling.

We made eye contact.

And something clicked.


For both of us.

MIIIIIIKE! Go ask Mike!”

Go ask Mike.

Who got me the crickets, all six, but charged me for the dozen.

When I returned to the register to pay, the clerk had disappeared – two bubbly teens working in his place now – had disappeared like some racist mirage. A false blip on an otherwise limitless horizon where people can congratulate themselves for voting Obama.

The Black President.

But as I left, crickets in hand, I saw him again.

In front of me, again, sitting in the food court.

Eating kettle chips.

As real as anything.

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Filed under Animals, People, Pets, Race

Duck Calling


Duck Ducklings

The questions were unexpected and extraordinary.

“Are you raising ducklings?”

“How are you going to keep a duck in the city??”

“Will that be good for the ducks, especially with the dog being there???”

No mention of the fact that the duckling – at turns named Donald and Daisy and Howard and Daffy; at turns referred to as “it” or “they” – has two heads, or upon closer inspection (but not that close, isn’t the wooden stand a dead giveaway?) are clearly not alive.

All of the sudden, a two-headed duckling living in the city, being raised in my apartment and with my dog around, was as plain as the beaks on their faces. The real issue, the one more vital than the simple, evident fact of their existence, was my terrible and selfish decision to take the duckling home with me.

It was touching, in a way, and also remarkable; this concern for something so small and innocent. People do have a way of getting past the obvious.

I cleared the air (Everyone! These are fake real ducklings. Please stop asking how I am going to raise a duck in the city!), and laughed and laughed.

Soon after, I put the duckling under glass to keep the dust off of them.

And now I sometimes catch myself looking at it, terrified they cannot breathe.

Ducks Under Glass

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Filed under Animals, Hobbies, Pets

That Old Hometown Spirit

There are really only two places to go in the old Hometown: The One Mall and The Mall at the Other End of Town.

Twins of the tri-cities, tethered by a limp and listless parkway, each place either place the place to be for wont of being anywhere.


I have always found malls uniformly depressing, not unlike the way carnivals and reunions are distracting in a sad kind of way. But there’s something about the mall that makes it just a little bit more worse. Something in the air of the place of having tenuous purpose, of filling time and space and your compulsion, therefore, to be there.

So much of my time in Hometown was spent at the Mall.

It’s the place to be.

The day The One Mall opened a Cinnabon was an event. The day The Mall at the Other End of Town got an Old Navy was a goddamn riot.

(Word is, when the Apple Store held its grand opening in The Mall at the Other End of Town, a lady waiting in line exploded.)

(Hand to god.)


Why not be someplace else, you ask? Why not be in, say, the Downtown?

Let me tell you about the Downtown.

One time, when my sister and I were opening my parents’ housewares store in the Downtown, I stepped right into what was otherwise a very neat pile of human vomit on our WELCOME mat.

It was full of undigested hotdogs.


Who goes to the mall?

The dumpy couple with the mouse-haired, bored faced girl. Old people (Old People. Love. The mall.). The big lady in the red-and-yellow stripped tubetop with the really tall boyfriend who is really in love with his haircut. Acquaintances. Jerks from work. Unsupervised children. Deadly roaming gangs of teenage girls for whom the mall is one of the only places they can roam freely.

My family has always been absolutely gob-smacked by the Mall. Immigrants, boat people, strangers in a land made strange by scope and scale as much as by culture and custom, the Mall was the epitome of something for them. It was evolutionary – natural selection for the survival of the fittest!

You think that would have made Things better.


I am a grown-up now, and the Mall haunts me still. I avoid malls as much as possible, will go out of my way to walk or drive or run whole city blocks just to get around them, just in order to deny the presence of their existence and maintain, maintain, maintain.

But when I’m back in the old Hometown, the Mall becomes somehow totally unavoidable. I end up there despite myself, not knowing fully how I got there and a little mystified as to why, exactly, I’m there.

So like a kid again.


The Hometown Malls have changed considerably from the malls they used to be – renovations and such. Decorative pillars and mouldings removed, open spaces created, book stores closed down, parking lots opened up. Chain restaurants. A WalMart. A Winners. No more pet shops.

There are, nevertheless, remnants; reminders of Times Gone Bye.

Familiar faces that resurface from the undertow of memory and which, given the briefest moments of mutual recognition, force into being encounters both dreadful and absurd.

“Heeey! Hello! How have you been?”

“Heeey! Hello! I’m good. Good and you?”

Over and over, again and again, each time absolutely being the time we absolutely couldn’t have less to say to each other.  Perhaps this is not the best way to live, although I’m not sure if it’s better than nothing.


“Heeey! Hello! How have you been?”

“Heeey! Hello! I’m good. Good and you?”

We had been friends in middle school, but she had to tell me her name because I did not remember what it even could have been. She knew who I was, though, and so of course despite everything I was mostly flattered. I did remember, once I remembered who she was, going to a party at her house at the end of 8th grade. Her mom bought us wine coolers from the supermarket. We drank them all in the basement then started a fire in the backyard. Her mom bought out marshmallows and asked if we needed more wine coolers.

In fact, we remembered the party together, she and me, and I took the end of our remembering as the cue to begin extricating myself from herself, taking that first tentative step backward and turning my back to her ever-so-slightly to let her know that I, too, knew it was over.

She hinted for a ride before I could take that very necessary second step backward – “Yeah…I’ve got a long bus ride home from here…” – and looked at me expectedly. I stupidly admitted I had a car.

On the way to her place, another question.

“Can we stop for KFC? I promised. It’s on the way. If you don’t mind.”

The only car in a parking lot sandwiched between two larger though equally barren parking lots, I waited for her while she waited for her order. It was well past 8:00PM, Saturday night.  I debated turning the engine on, so I could fiddle with the radio.

She got back into the passenger seat, bucket and bags in hand. The smell of fried chicken invaded the car. We drove on, she giving me directions as I squinted at street signs.

“Did you say a left here or the next street ov…”

“I’m pregnant.”



“Con-grat-u-lations. You’ll be a mother!”

“My boyfriend doesn’t know. I don’t know if he’s ready. I’m not sure if he’ll want it. Should I tell him?”



“Tonight? Ready tonight? You want to tell him tonight?”

“I don’t know!”

I don’t know!”

And in the silence that filled the car, she gathered her bags, holding them close to her chest.  The bucket remained where it was, wedged firmly in the three protective walls formed by her inner thighs and crotch. I mumbled questions about street names and she murmured their whereabouts. When I finally dropped her off in front of her apartment – a tiny triplex at the end of a tiny street I never would have guessed was there – we exchanged vague promises of keeping in touch as she moved to close the door behind her.  Apologies were in the air all around us.

I watched her until she unlocked the door and went inside. I pulled out of the driveway and started for home, grateful that she had never looked back.

“Well, that was messed up,” said my sister, Angela, who was sitting in the backseat the whole time.


Filed under People, Pets, Relationships, THE PAST


If you have pet fish, you probably will need to know how to kill a pet fish.  Taking that long car ride to the vet like you would for gallant Fido or faithful Muffy strikes as a bit out of touch with the situation, not to mention coming immediately to mind as being an absolute logistical nightmare.

As I have learned, there are many ways to kill a pet fish.  They vary in level of difficulty, depending mostly on the materials at hand and the type of fish involved (big, small, tropical, freshwater, pretty, ugly, duration and intensity of relationship, etc).

As to the right way to do this from here on in it gets tricky.  There are standards.


1) Clove Oil

I’ve discovered that it’s easy, actually, to get attached to fish, even if it’s not quite so easy to convey to many others such affection. Affection is not necessary to the act of killing your pet fish, of course, but it is a factor. It counts for something.

Along with Lou, there have been a series of fish that I have kept as pets over the past seven years or so.  All bettas, a popular species of small, flamboyantly pretty freshwater fish more popularly known as the “Siamese Fighting Fish”.  All males.  Caligula, Bruce Willis, Pip and the recently late Jethro.  All but dear Jethro died of what I’m basically calling “natural causes” (READ: I came home and found them dead or they died too quickly or suddenly for me to worry about how to carry out proper actions).

No fuss, no muss!  Life goes on!

Jethro, however.  Jethro gradually stopped eating, eventually sank to the bottom of the tank and ultimately stayed there, twitching every now and then.  It was hard to watch, even from the comfort and distance of being outside the tank and especially if you had a bit love for the fish.

After the lustre in his eyes faded away I knew, alas, that it was only a matter of time.

Farewell, sweet Prince!

A sedative at low doses, a few drops of clove oil can be used to first anesthetize your pet fish – putting it “to sleep”, as it were – and a few more drops will make sure it never wakes up again. Vodka can be added to the mixture after the initial anesthetization to ensure that the sleeping fish slips quietly and painlessly into the sweet bliss of total, unambiguous death.


2) Freezing

At a Stag ‘N Doe a few years ago, some of the prospective groom’s friends decided to use feeder fish as whimsical prizes for a game exactly no one played.  The game was a poor copy of the ping-pong-in-a-fish-bowl-win-a-fish-game sometimes seen at county fairs and your lesser amusement parks. Scenes run by carnies or occasionally, at Stag ‘N Does (“d-ohs”), by generously stupid, wondrously uninteresting 20-something-year-old brahs.

Fish Care 101 states that despite all outward appearances, fish need air to breathe.  They do not “breathe” the water but rather the air infused within it.  Ergo, fish sealed in confined spaces – such as the plastic bags placed under grimy tables at poorly-attended Stag ‘N D-ohs – can suffocate slowly, imperceptibly right under your noses and tables if air is not able to diffuse into the water.

Freezing your beloved pet fish works under the same principle but in different conditions, obviously.  Place the fish in a cup of water, place the cup in the freezer and the cold will lull the Fluffy or Goldie into slumber before shutting down all of Goldie or Fluffy’s systems entirely, forever.  There is a but, however, in that fish are cold-blooded (also per Fish Care 101), so there is doubt about whether they do in fact “fall asleep” when being frozen.

Imagine being awake the whole time.

But these dudes weren’t 101 material,[1] and it’s extremely safe to say they lacked all but the basest of imaginations.  From the outside, looking in, the fish died little by little while the brahs watched, mouths, too, agape.

I was there too, fretting over another game played by no one, feeling culpable even if still vastly superior in every other tangible way.


3) Get a Bigger Fish (‘Cause The Big Fish Eat the Little Fish!)

… in which it takes but a shuffling kind of logic to see how this one just falls apart.  Do you keep the bigger fish? Is it your new pet and/or friend?  Or have you borrowed the bigger fish from someone, with the intent to return it after the deed’s been done?  There may have to be a fee involved in exchange for services rendered.  Perhaps this is a niche market that should be explored.  I know you can rent dogs in Japan.


4) Decapitation

One summer when we were still kids, my dad took us fishing and my sisters and I caught so, so many catfish.   Medium sized, brown and beige with tapering whiskers and those big bulging, unblinking fishy eyes.

There are no mysteries of origin of the food at home; that “Chinese turkey” scene from A Christmas Story[2] remained quaint and yet unsettling until years later and after some immersion in cultural anthropology.

Turns out: people are weird with food.

Catfish are notoriously hearty, enduring fish.  They can survive without water for periods of time that are amazing.

Coupled with some form of anesthesia and a swift and steady hand accompanied by a sharp and reliable blade (a cleaver works very, very well), decapitation is another readily available method for killing, lovingly, your pet fish.  Some recommend “pithing” (physically destroying the brain with a metal rod immediately after the head is be-headed) to ensure that suffering is kept to the minimum of minimums.

On its own, a “living head” is a terrible Thing and even a split-moment after the fact can, some say, last a kind of unfathomable eternity.

And THEN did they eat cake?

Monsieur, je vous demande pardon. Je ne l’ai pas fait exprès.

Did they pith Marie Antoinette?

They used to hang people in Canada.

Other ways I just couldn’t: blending,[3] boiling,[4] bashing.[5]

No matter. It’s done. Crisis over, fishy gone. Resolve in one way or another, tested.

I don’t now feel good or bad or what, but if I had to place it I’d probably say it was the kind of unexpected experience I’d rather like to do without.

In the end, the Thing I really remember was thinking about the sight of those catfish heads in the sink, blinking and gasping as much as they could before THE END.

[1] Well. Rocks for Jocks.  Maybe.

[2] “Fa-ra-ra-ra-ra-ra-ra-cist?”  It ringers, for sure.

[3] Yes. With a blender.

[4] It’s the shock, apparently, that kills the fish and surely you too, a little.  One would hope.

[5] Using bricks, largish rocks and so on.

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