SUNY Jefferson

How to Replace a 4-Year-Old’s “Sick” (Dead) Fish Without Him Noticing

Sierra Cullum
How to Replace a 4-Year-Old’s “Sick” (Dead) Fish Without Him Noticing

               First of all, do not rehash the death conversation you had with the poor kid last month after the family dog died. You did the responsible adult thing once already, alright? He still hasn’t gotten over it, but yeah, you did good—he knows that life sucks. Pat yourself on the back. Now grow a conscience. This is the moment to embrace that your life is now a horribly cliché sitcom episode wherein you replace that dead fish like an art thief installing the fake but entirely deceptive replica of the Mona Lisa. The truth will not set anyone free, least of all your beloved but clearly dead fish you named Moneypit (because of course, you’d accidentally chose the betta that’s thirty freaking dollars as opposed to the standard five).
               Mourn for your dead friend on your own time; this is no longer about you. So you lie, and lie well. Become your lie. Accept that the crime you are about to commit will define the rest of your life. Don’t write a “fiction” writing piece about your sin because your literary peers and mentors will judge you, and someday, that four-year-old boy will learn how to read, and he’ll find your mother’s copy of your masterpiece, and he’ll never look at you the same way again. I digress.
               Now, you look at that slightly concerned child right in the eyes, and you point to the limp body at the top of the tank, and you say he’s fine. Tell him straight up that you’re taking Moneypit to the doctor to get medicine. Tell him the fish has that cold that’s been going around daycare. Suggest for the thousandth time that he should cover his mouth when he coughs. This is not selfish of you; this is parenting. The fish’s recovery time will take a few days at most. Remove the fish carefully and quietly to another discreet location until the kid goes to bed that night, then flush the fish. Important: Do Not Forget To Flush The Fish Or Moneypit Will Start To Smell! Say some words at the private ceremony. Take a moment of silence. He lived a good life. Amen.
               Your next task will be to clean that fish tank and clean it well. Empty the water. Sift the gravel. Boil the tank décor. You are starting fresh, and you need more than ever to keep your future Moneypit 2.0 happy and healthy as he lives his lengthy double life. Set up the fish tank at least a day before going to the pet store.
Involve the child in the cleaning process. Tell him, “We are surprising Moneypit with a clean room for when he feels better and returns home to us.” Make the kid clean his own room. This is not selfish of you; this is parenting.
               Go to the pet store when the kid is at school. Moneypit was a blue fish. Look at all available fish. Pick out a particularly gorgeous black fish. Tell yourself the kid will not notice that Moneypit has changed color. Reprimand yourself for being so selfish. Laugh at the pun you unintentionally made. Understand and accept in this moment that you are, in essence, a horrible human being. Choose a blue fish. Do not accidentally pick one that is thirty dollars. This time, because you are a college student and live on coffee and bread for sustenance, budget yourself to a twenty-five dollar blue fish. Feel thrifty.
               Replace Moneypit before the kid gets home. Do not tell the kid that Moneypit is back. In secret, give Moneypit 2.0 a new name to ease your conscience. Moneypitt with two Ts: that way he can still be an individual independent from the expectations of living up to his predecessor. Later, when the kid rushes into your room saying that Moneypitt has finally returned, don’t make a big deal out of it. Act pleasantly unsurprised. Feed the fish. Feed the kid. Everything is normal. Nobody died. Keep telling yourself this silently in your head. Say it before you go to bed at night. Though the guilt and shame of this immoral act will mercilessly plague you for the rest of your life, you must remember that you did the wrong thing, but for the right reasons… Probably. This is your life now.