This year we purchased an aquarium because The Mrs. thought the sight of tropical fish gliding lazily to-and-fro in the bubbly tank would add a little serenity to the living room. Several months ago the she gave me a patriot crab I had admired at the pet store. I named him “Eugene.”
Eugene has since grown to enormous proportions and rules the tank with an iron claw. Regular readers of The Mrs.’s Facebook page are already familiar with his skills as an escape expert and anti-feline jihadist.
Today she brought home several new fish, including an iridescent shark for whom she had paid ten dollars in United States currency.
Yeah. I know.
But it gets better: Approximately one nanosecond after the shark was released from his plastic bag into aquatic genpop, my horrified children watched as Eugene caught the ten-dollar shark in his claws and jammed the unsuspecting new arrival’s head into his hungry mouth!
Hoss, Weezie, and PeeWee were instantly traumatized and started running around the living room, slamming themselves into walls, hurling themselves through plate glass windows, throwing themselves down flights of stairs, setting riot fires, and in general just erupting into the worst-ever-hysterical-panic-attack-top-of-their-lungs screaming-and-crying-conniption-fit I have ever seen outside of a custodial psychiatric hospital.
Eugene visibly enjoyed the chaos he had provoked. He started strutting around the tank with the shark’s flipping-and-flopping body protruding from his mouth like a stogie, and I know I saw him actually blowing out rings of shark blood like crimson cigar smoke.
In the midst of the imbroglio, The Mrs. sent our son Jamie after a pair of tongs and attempted a heroic, last-ditch rescue of the hapless shark, who was still thrashing. The wily Eugene, however, was having none of that. As the tongs neared him, he casually crawled behind the big rock in the tank and continued to munch nonchalantly on his mahi-mahi; he paused only once, asking the Mrs., “Hey babe, how ’bout ya drop the hardware? Go on, hustle yourself out to the kitchen and fetch me a lemon wedge and some pepper, whaddaya say, huh?”
My children, though still experiencing a collective nervous breakdown, had by then organized into a formal mob. Weezie, Hoss, and PeeWee were picketing the tank, singing “One Tin Soldier” between shrieking sobs, and carrying protest signs which read, “Deport all Crabs!”
All the other fish crammed themselves tightly into the corner of the tank that was farthest away from the horror and, while trying to avoid making eye contact with Eugene, they murmured amongst themselves.
A rosie barb was heard to say, “Somebody oughta do something…”
The plecostomus stopped slurping algae off the glass and began to urge the Beta into action. “C’mon, tough guy. You’re always reminding us that you’re the big ‘Siamese Fighting Fish,’ remember? Get over there and give ol’ Eugene that beatdown you’re always talkin’ about.”
“Yeah, right,” the Beta replied. “You’re the ‘sucker’ in this tank, Pleco, not me. Have you seen those pinchers? I ain’t stickin’ my neck out for no newbie.”
As for me, I can only stare slack-jawed into the aquarium. I know I must comfort the children and pretend to share their outrage, but I can’t. In fact, it takes all of my strength to conceal the pride that swells within me as I watch my ferocious pet make a meal out of a shark. (A SHARK, BABY! FASTER, CRABBY-CAT! KILL! KILL!) At last I understand the thrill of watching the titanic, life-and-death struggle between two animal combatants. I have tasted that same dark, sweet brew of intoxicating adrenaline savored by Teddy’s father as he watched Rikki-tikki-tavi, the mongoose, dispatch Nag, the black cobra. I now know the rush of emotion that the falconer feels as his winged assassin soars skyward with the neighbor’s yipping Chihuahua clutched in its talons.
For one deliciously sinister, shameful moment, I have become Michael Vick.
Bon Appétit, Eugene, my magnificent predatory monster-child. May you feast on the flesh of a thousand ten-dollar iridescent sharks.
And meanwhile, here in the dry world, I eventually had to put down the anti-crab demonstration. It was spinning out of control. Those feathered tranquilizer darts have done their work: PeeWee, Weezie, and Hoss lie dozing happily on the floor in front of the tank.
As I watch them in their Xylazine-induced slumber, it occurs to me that the Mrs. had been right: One way or another, that bubbly tank would add a little serenity to the living room.