I’ve been watching the tank for a good 20 minutes.
And Cuddy hasn’t moved.
Cuddy, AKA The Pleco, AKA The Itty Bitty Fitty, AKA Sixth in Line for the Presidency (Leon Panetta? HA! Let us not speak of Leon Panetta), lay atop one of two available rocks, motionless.
I peer into the three available sides of the fish tank – the back having been obscured by the double-album cover currently serving as backdrop, Zeppelin’s Houses of the Holy – looking for signs of life. No movement. Not a fin, not a gill.
And suddenly it all fits: the algae build-up, the listless movements of the goldfish, the eerie feeling I had the other day after eating my weight in Shepherd’s Pie…
My eyes go wide as my mouth opens in a disbelieving “O”.
Cuddy is dead.
I frown. Less than two years old.
That fish cost me four bucks!
Lady G’Agua stares at me from behind the glass, iridescent ornamental fins rippling in indignation. Impertinent fish! Does she hold me responsible for Cuddy’s death?
From my place on the couch, I lean back. So many arrangements to be made. Cuddy was, as so many fish are, a Unitarian, although non-practicing. And there should be music, of course, and a memorial with proper lamentation…
I run to the fridge. Surely Cuddy would want me to pour a 40 for him? There are no 40-ounce malt liquors in the fridge, although I do find a Fox Barrel Pear Cider and the last four of six-pack of 12-ounce Miller Lites.
I pour three Miller Lites into the kitchen sink.
I twist the front of my shirt in agony and lift my face to the kitchen ceiling. “Cuddy! Ah, Cuddy, we hardly knew ye!”
I return to the living room, where Liza Bean Bitey (of the Minneapolis Biteys) sits atop the fish tank.
“You smell of confusion and cheap beer,” she purrs.
“It’s Cuddy,” I say, returning to my seat on the couch and twisting the top off a beer. “He’s dead.”
“Mmm,” she says.
“Well look at him!” I say. I turn, point to the tank.
The fish is gone.
Liza Bean chuckles, stands and stretches, one back leg jutting straight out behind her, then the other. “Those Fox Barrels still in the fridge?”
I sigh. “Help yourself,” I say.