My ‘writing cave’ is a corner of my family room on the lower level of my house.
I have a lap top, but rarely move it from my tiny computer desk; much to the confusion of my family. “It’s a beautiful day. Why don’t you sit outside?” or “Mom, wouldn’t you be more comfortable sitting in a chair that actually had some padding?” or “Are you hiding from us?” are common and, I readily admit, reasonable questions. This little corner is where I started my first book and I’m most comfortable creatively in the space. Is it because people know when I’m here, they shouldn’t bug me? Is it because I can have the big screen TV on Food Network for hours at a time? Is it because I can easily hop up and down to switch the never ending laundry? I think NOT! Fred is who makes this area special and he deserves recognition.
Sitting directly to my left is a thirty five gallon, fresh water aquarium. Fred is a freakishly big, bright orange parrot fish. Currently, there are three other fish in the tank with him, but they don’t really count because they are living on borrowed time – Fred eventually, always, eats his tank mates.
Fred was the first inhabitant when I set up the tank almost four years ago. I swear to God, he gave me the ‘please take me home’ fish face when I saw him in the store. The sales guy told me that parrot fish are known for their outgoing personalities. Personality, in a fish? The sales guy received my ‘yeah, right’ face.
I clean the tank every other weekend. Fred nibbles at my fingers throughout the process. He then spends days picking up the little ground covering rocks and moving them to where he wants them to be – I never do it quite right. When we make eye contact with each other, he spits them against the glass with attitude. If I get off of my cleaning schedule, he will dig up the plants in a show of rebellion. God forbid I’m sitting down here typing and it’s past his dinner time. I can feel him sending me the stink eye. He’ll swim to the closest corner and just float there until I do his bidding.
The best (and creepiest) thing about Fred is how he plays with one of my dogs. Maggie responds to visual stimuli more than any other dog we’ve had. She will focus in on anything shiny, or the smallest bug, or Fred. She sits in front of the tank. Fred watches her from inside his castle. It’s a stand-off. Fred usually makes the first move; darting up to bump against the front glass. Maggie counters with a quick muzzle jab of her own. This goes on until we separate them.
Fred is as much a member of my family as any of our other animal babies. I watch him going about his fish business when I’m stuck on something in a manuscript and he makes me smile. I tap my fingers on the glass and he always comes right up to see what he can do to help. I can say, without embarrassment, I love that fish!