Mr. Fish is resting on his side in his leaf hammock. His long, blue tail drapes over the edge, waving ever so slightly in the water, as his gills open and close.
A week earlier, a young, pear-shaped salesman overheard me laugh as we passed the fish section and asked, “A leaf hammock? Does a fish need a hammock?”
The nosy salesman sidled up next to us and exclaimed, “I assure you, it’s an absolute must have for any betta tank.”
He looked around for other blue vests and finding none, he lowered his voice and whispered, “My boss has two betta fish and they each have their own hammock. They love the hammocks. Wait here, I’ll get you what you need.”
And he was off in a flash, sashaying down the aquarium supply aisle before we could even confirm that we wanted a fish.
Meanwhile, the baby gazed ahead at the tanks of bright fish, swimming in small, disorganized schools under weird florescent lighting. He looked up at the harsh lights overhead and down the aisle behind us. He kicked his feet, unused to wearing socks and socks, and started to squirm.
In a few minutes, the salesman returned with a handful of merchandise, dropping each item into the cart as he named it off in a roll call of aquatic gear.
“Here is the leaf hammock, medicine, in case your fish gets sick, water conditioner, special betta food and this…”
He saved the best for last. Between his delicate fingers, he held up a green, fuzzy ball encased in clear, hard plastic.
“It’s faux,” he explained, “but no one will ever know.”
He noticed my questioning look as he went on to explain, “It’s a moss ball, you know, to help with the bacteria.”
“Shouldn’t I just get a live one?” I questioned like a silly layperson.
“Oh no,” the salesman/resident fish expert assured me. “The live ones are already filled with bacteria; this one will give you a fresh start. You know, to help with the bacteria.”
In retrospect, we should have left and come back when we had time to be thoughtful, intentional and to read the information on the back of the packaging.
Instead, I said, “Sounds great, thanks so much. This is just what we needed.”
We picked a sad looking fish in a cup with barely enough room to turn and checked out, ending our impulse-buying-mission-of-mercy and headed home to introduce Mr. Fish to Ms. Kitty with high hopes of friendship