Thursday, June 18, 2009

Love and Heroism in a Fish Tank

I am guilty of bigotry and social discrimination, even of racism, I suppose, where the Animal Kingdom is concerned. I always have chosen the most beautiful, most graceful creatures as pets, especially when they are aquatic in nature.

My favourite 'garden variety' fish are Orandas and Ryukin, those gorgeous 'goldfish' with incredibly long tails and fins who remind me of graceful traditional Japanese dancers in flowing kimonos. Whenever I have obeyed the call of my desires to restock an aquarium or fish bowl, it usually is with an Oranda or Ryuken.

Last summer, I bought an Oranda but was persuaded to introduce one of the varieties of fish I dislike most into the tank with her. It was one of those black 'pop-eyed' fish that resemble a 'fancy' goldfish in all but colour and eyes. It is not the colour that I dislike, as black always has been a favourite of mine. It is the eyes, that are over-large and almost appear to be on stalks, making me think of the Psammead of E. Nesbit, that I find very unappealing, even disturbing.

In mitagation of my bigotry, I hasten to add that my house in Animal Crossing contains both varieties of goldfish, each in its own fluted fishbowl. I caught them myself and they are rare enough to cause a little frisson of excitement each time one appears on the end of the fishing rod.

Beauty may be in the eyes (and ears) of the beholder but in my view, the undesirability of this pop-eyed fish was compounded by the name by which he was christened: Murdoch.

Murdoch, to me, conjures thoughts of a contemporary tycoon chiefly known for his greedy and ruthless nature, a lack of honour and an unsavoury political agenda. Murdoch may not have been a favourite name ever, but Rupert once was, as that name represented a dashing prince with a sweet devotion to his dog. Rupert of the Rhine as well as Rupert the bear now have been overshadowed by a despicable modern Rupert who straddled the known world like a malignant Colossus.

Be that as it may, the pop-eyed goldfish may have redeemed the name forever by his incredible behaviour. This, rather than a diatribe upon the ugliness of pop-eyed fish and the negative connotations of the name Murdoch actually is the topic of this post.

The names I give to pets tend to be classical, resonating with heroics and the stuff of legends. I probably would have given Murdoch a name like Odysseus or Thor... My beautiful Oranda became Cybele. Cybele never had the fortitude or sturdiness of Murdoch but they lived together in apparent contentment in the tank for almost a year.

This morning, I noticed that Cybele was exhibiting the behaviour of a fish who is ailing. Her movements were weak and her balance uncertain. She did not come to the surface for her food. Murdoch, as hearty as ever, exhibited his usual appetite to the point where I feared he would overeat, as I had given a portion for two fish, not one.

It was then that I witnessed something extraordinary. Murdoch went underwater, beneath Cybele, then began to push her towards the surface and the food. He did this again and again, almost like a sheepdog herding sheep or geese towards a gate. There was no doubt about his motivations. He wanted her to eat!

Murdoch now has become my hero of the day. By his actions, he has become utterly beautiful and noble to me. I never will view a pop-eyed goldfish in the same light again.

Note: I tried to take a photograph of Murdoch performing his amazing action, but it was almost impossible. The water actually is quite clean but looks extremely murky in the photographs. If any one actually reads this post, I hope he or she will say a little prayer for Cybele.

No comments: