339 – Armand


So, this began with Lena deciding she wanted a fish tank for her office. She wanted a “planted tank” which would be primarily plants and a few fish. Actually this is my fault. Lena likes green, likes to be able to see living, growing things during the day. Fortunately, right outside her widow is a tall, slim dogwood, that squirrels and blue jays love to sit in and fuss at one another and run up and down and generally have a good time. By “outside her window,” I mean of course, “previously outside her window before I stupidly told the neighbor he could cut it down, thus depriving my wonderful wife of the only greenery and wildlife she had access to.”

Obviously, I was having a bad brain day.

We began scouring all the local pet stores looking for places that sold aquatic plants. (You kind of have to be careful. Many non-aquatic plants will last a month or so under water before dying, and some unscrupulous dealers will sell these as real aquatics.) The chain stores all had some, but our favorite spot, a huge family-owned fish and aquarium shop had closed. We were bummed.

However, we persevered, and broadened our search. We found a great little place in Neptune Beach that had a bunch of saltwater aquarium stuff, and plenty of knowledge. Here I hit a snag. Up until now we had only been looking for Lena. But now I was starting to think that these things looked pretty cool, and for me, that’s Bad News.

I had a fish tank in my office once before, when I was working as an illustrator at this little publishing company. We made children’s books. Anyway, I thought a tankful of neons wold be something interesting to look at while resting my eyes from the monitor, so I popped out and got some. They were great. Colorful, active, fun, everything was doing well for about two weeks…

Then everything died.

Friday, going gangbusters, Monday, dead floating fish, cloudy stinky water, the works. I tested the water and the PH was off the scale. Yuck. I thought I had been keeping a good eye on that, but the evidence spoke otherwise. So I disassembled everything, cleaned thoroughly, treated some new water, and bought more fish. I watched them like a hawk all week long, tested the water every day, made an adjustment or two, everything was fine. Next Monday morning,Return of the Floating Dead.

Okay, that was just weird. So I started asking around. Had anyone been in the offices over the weekend? Did anyone notice when all my new office mates suddenly went belly-up? The boss said he had been in the past couple of weekends, but he hadn’t been back in my office. I asked if anyone else had been there. He told me that he had brought his three kids with him while he worked.


While my boss admitted that the kids had free range of our suite while he worked, he “knew for a fact” that there was no way those kids had been in my office. (I should point out that our offices are at opposite ends of a series of hallways and not visible from each other, and that my office was the only one with live animals, toys, stuff to draw with, and a giant squirrel costume in it. Certainly nothing that would attract a child.)

I bought no more fish, and the next time the boss’ kids visited the office, (they were a fairly regular occurrence) I asked them about it. All three of them said that they had thrown handfuls of fish food in every time they came in, and that their daddy had told them it was alright. The kids were very worried about where the fish were now since the tank was empty and dry.

I told them that the fish had gone to live on a farm with my uncle who had lots of room for them to run and play, which they happily accepted — especially after I drew them a Spiderman, a Batman, and a Wonder Woman that they could take home and color. They were good kids, if a little too permissively parented.

Later that afternoon someone pounded three Idaho Russets into the tailpipe of my boss’ Lexus. I “know for a fact” it couldn’t have been me. It took a towing to the dealership to figure out the reason his car wouldn’t stay started, and I never asked how much that cost.

So anyway, Lena got her planted aquarium, and I found a fishbowl and populated it with denizens from the creek up the road, which I later transplanted into an aquarium of their own. Lena’s pride and joy is a green puffer fish she calls “Jimmy,” who is a psychopathic murder machine, and I have a couple of crayfish that love frozen peas.

I’m hoping to break my run of bad experiences with office fish now that I’m working at home. After all, I’m here on the weekends now too and no one is going to bring their kids over to visit without me being home anyway.

But if someone does, and they walk off leaving their kid in front of my aquarium with the shaker of fish food, I hope they stop to ask themselves just one question.

Does my car like potatoes?

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