The Incident

I was a spoiled child. I can admit it. I don’t think I was a rotten child–I was very appreciative. But I was certainly spoiled.

For example in fifth or sixth grade we were to write and present a report on an animal. I chose parakeets and somehow talked my parents into buying me one so that I could really wow my class with my presentation. In the end the class was underwhelmed.

That bird lived for nine years.

My mother is a saint.

I loved Sunkist for a good long while, but once I turned 19 or so, I was a little over it. Around then I started to beg my mom to let me buy a puppy to keep at her house where I was still living. My parents were in the process of moving to another state for a year and my grandpa was about to head to his winter home, so I would be the only one there to care for said puppy. My dad was already at the new home and had been for a month or more. My mom, grandpa, and I were eating dinner while having the puppy discussion. Here’s how it went:

Me: “Mom, I will take care of a puppy. I will take it to obedience classes, blah, blah, blah.”

Mom: “Bethany, you don’t even take care of your bird. I’m not going to let you have a puppy here, yada, yada, yada.”

Me: “I do so take care of my bird! Pout, pout, pout.” (I was really making a case for my maturity with the jr. high self that suddenly re-emerged)

Grandpa, stabbing a piece of meat with his fork and shoveling it in his mouth, casually interjected: “That bird has been dead for days.”

Stunned silence.

My mom and I jumped up to investigate and, sure enough, Sunkist was dead. And so was my “I’ll take such good care of a dog!” argument.

I have grown in this area slightly. Sure my husband and I had a new dog every year for a good stretch of years before we stopped trying to be dog people. Then the right one found us and we have been happily caring for Mo for years. We are also the sometimes happy, sometimes miserable caretakers of Dory The Naughty Police Dog.

A couple years ago, Little Miss was having trouble following instructions and we set up a reward chart.  A fish seemed like a reasonable goal. How hard could a fish be, after all? And if it was a pain, fish live for–what? A month at most? Pfffft. Easy Peasy. After a month of stars and smiley face stickers, she earned her fish. While in the car on the way home, I read that the fish was guaranteed to live for two weeks. I giggled at that.

Two years later and that stinkin’ fish is still swimming. It’s not that I mind the fish…except I’m the one that changes the water and feeds him, etc, etc, etc. Last year while changing the water, I slipped and almost dropped the fish in the garbage disposal.

A couple months ago, I actually dropped him in the garbage disposal.

I panicked, knowing my daughter was going to be crushed. I stood over the sink and flapped my hands and fretted. Should I turn on the disposal to just end it quickly? Was it even still alive? When it came down to it, I couldn’t flip the switch so I called for my husband. He tried to retrieve it and when he couldn’t, we turned to explain to our oldest what was happening. For some reason, I looked closer in the disposal and saw a flash of red scaly skin…moving. I turned on the faucet (so that he could breath–which I imagine was not all that helpful), took deep shuddering breaths and rooted around in the disposal, trying to catch it. Let me tell you, trying to capture a teeny, squirmy, slimy, slippery fish without ramming it against disposal blades with a kitchen full of wailing girls is no small feet.


I triumphantly pulled him out and plunked him down in fresh water and felt icky all day.

The fish was traumatized as well. Obviously. He swam sideways for a few days. My sister repeatedly reminds me of how much I hate that fish and that I “had my chance”. But the look on Little Miss’ face gave me a surge of compassion for that obnoxious chore of a pet and I just couldn’t be the one to purposely kill him.

Two months later, that slimy guy is still swimming. And I’m starting to wonder if this “two weeks guaranteed” fish is going to outlive me. If he doesn’t, I hope it doesn’t take me too long to notice if he stops swimming. For now, I’ve purchased a fish net to make water bowl transitions easier and less disposal prone.

In the meantime, he glares at me a lot.

He is so ungrateful.


B. D. Riehl is the author of The Earth is Full, available here, and The Heavens Are Telling, available for pre-order here.


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