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Thursday, September 10, 2009

Are Fish Really Pets?


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!

Tessie
http://www.tessiebradford.com

12 comments:

  1. It's not often I can say I actually learned something about myself while reading a blog. But in this case, I did! Apparently I have a penchant for pop eyed, grumpy, spitting cannibals. Who knew? Yes, I could definitely love Fred. Maggie probably feels that, if she could get him out of the water, she'd show him a thing or two. I have my doubts. Rock on Fred!

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  2. Pamela-The funniest thing is that I swore I would never have fish in my house. My Dad had multiple huge tanks when I was growing up and every Sunday morning there were hoses stretched through the house and we had to help clean the tanks before we could go about our much more important teenage business. My Dad's name was Fred!!!

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  3. Oh my - it's true then, we become our parents!!
    I kept fish for a while but they kept dying. The constant ceremonial burials attended by two teary eyed children got a bit much. I had no idea why they croaked within weeks of purchase. Eventually the youngest squealed - her older sister used to take them out of the fish tank to pet them! She really wanted a dog, but was allergic!

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  4. Tessie you're a wonderful writer. You made me fall in love with Fred! I retract my comment from last week-perhaps there is room in the Shape-Shifter market for Bradford's new hero -Fred the Parrot fish-Shiifter! lol
    XXOO Kat

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  5. OMG you guys are sooo funny!!!

    Mother if you didnt know before but I suggested the name Fred because he reminded me of grandpa!

    You should put a pciture up of him on your web site. People would love to see him!!! Maybe we could get dad to record Fred with the camera being his weird fishy self.

    Sarah

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  6. Fred is a very impressive guy! Perhaps he can morph into a merman for a story!

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  7. Kat and Julia- you have me seriously considering using Fred as inspiration for a hero!

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  8. Sarah-That would be hysterical to have a Fred video on my website!!

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  9. Pamela-I'm afraid if we took Fred out of the tank to pet him, he'd like it!

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  10. Fresh Water Fred would make a very "colorful" hero. All the Gils will love him. lol
    XXOO Kat

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  11. We had a 10-inch Texas cichlid for a couple of years. He loved to have you reach into the tank and stroke his dorsal. I think it made him horny. He would swim to the surface when I came into the room and would stare out the glass as I moved around the room, keeping his eye on me. Does this mean I appeal to big, blue, many-toothed fish? Hmmm...you know, that is an excellent idea for a shifter story..."Tex and Fran...a love story only a fish could appreciate."

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  12. Fish are definitely pets...and sounds like Fred has you well-trained! HA!
    Fran has a good idea...a fish shifter story only you can tell...thanks to your observation of Fred!

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