Highlander in a Bowl: A Fish for the Ages

In the tank

Literally the only photo I have of still-living aquatic wildlife.

The longest-lived pet I ever had was a goldfish named Ducky. Other animals came and went through my young life: cats adopted before my birth, dogs with bum legs, rabid and ultimately too-crafty hamsters that had to be returned to the store in double-locked and duct-taped carrying cases to prevent escape or high-octane villainy. Ducky was a constant stalwart through my childhood, a calm, stupid, beautiful presence, never judgmental, never changing, and always there for me. She had a red streak down her back and a placid, gaping goldfish mouth.

My goldfish lived for over nine years.

Her arrival in my childhood bedroom is too far back in my memories to unearth. I remember little of her early days, little of her previous tankmate, little of what things I must have said to her as a boy. My connection to her was primal and innocent, a child and a small life entrusted to him. I controlled her access to sustenance, found out how to change her water with my parents, learned quickly not to slam my fists or fingers against the tank to get her attention. She was a little bright comet, gliding through a distant orbit in my room, and always there. Continue reading

The Lonely Tale of Fleabag, The Island Stray

Private Beach

The water is calm and dark, but the sands show the remains of the rainy season. Deep wells form and drift, brine collecting in sudden pools, and rocks and shells litter all the way back to the sturdy palm trees. There are mountains out in the water, on distant islands, ones just as quiet as this one. The wind carries black, heavy clouds, and it feels like a monsoon could open up upon us at any time. It is bright here, but it’s fragile–a storm just biding its time.

There is salt in the air from the sea, and we walk the enormous distance of the low tide to get to the water. Koh Mook is usually a busy island, but the monsoons leave it quiet, desolate. Emptied out. No one stops us from entering this private beach, which becomes our private beach simply by default. The sands and surf before us are endless, and it feels a little bit like we are alone in the universe, or at least in this small part of it. It’s the end of the world, or just after it.

There is little noise but for the slow, easy swell of the tide, and the skittering of paws from behind us. We are not so alone: a scrappy stray approaches us cautiously. He has a mutt’s colouring, the enormous paws of impending maturity, but the wary eyes of youth. This is his turf, maybe, this great, untouched swath of dark-brown earth and deep, black water. He knows every rock and cave, he knows the nearby forest. He trots towards us, this little local lord, and not long after his brother, or his loyal viceroy, sidles up, too.

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