ichthyophobia – n. (′ik·thē·ə′fo·bē·ə)
(psychology) A fear of fish, fear of eating fish, or fear of dead fish.
I know. I know. I haven’t blogged since Sunday. Please do forgive me. I’d love to tell you how my husband came home from the field and we spent a wonderful few days lounging on beds of velvet moss with bottomless glasses of lemonade while watching our kids frolic in a meadow full of dandelions. Unfortunately, that wasn’t the case. The best way I can explain my absence is to tell you I couldn’t type due to the severe carpel tunnel I got from spritzing an entire bottle of Spray-&-Wash on a grime encrusted uniform and body armor in a failed attempt to return it to something like it’s original color.
Okay, I’m just kidding about the carpel tunnel. But not about the Spray-&-Wash. Or the grime.
I don’t know what I was thinking when I set out Saturday morning to dust the house, clean the bathrooms, and vacuum the, ahem, two week’s worth of dirt off the carpets. It must have slipped my mind that I was about to welcome home not only my husband, but also his dust covered footlocker, a dirt encased duffle bag, and all the contents therein. I shouldn’t have been surprised that even his iPhone charger was streaked with mud. There’s really no way to escape it when you have to live in a tent pitched atop a dirt parking lot for two weeks.
But at least the house was clean for about five minutes.
In an attempt to return everything to it’s pre-“I don’t care, get out whatever toys you want” state before Caleb was due home, Jackson and I spent the morning putting every single toy he owns back in the closet, mopping the kitchen floor, and making the beds for the first time in two weeks. It was also obviously time to clean the fish bowl.
If you’ve followed my blog much you may have read about Chum, the Beta we brought home to help ease the ache in our hearts over loosing our beloved Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, Sammy. Chum has actually managed to achieve a very special place in our family, considering he is just a fish. And considering the fact that I am mildly ichthyophobic, I’m surprised how much I rather like the little guy. I’m not scared of fish themselves, as a rule, but I detest the thought of slimy fish bodies and the germs they carry.
Each time I change the fish water it’s like a kick in the pants to sanitize the entire kitchen. I mean, I just can’t stop myself. Any surface that may, possibly, however unlikely, been touched by fish water (ie. fish germs) must be Cloroxed. It’s just the nature of the beast when you have a fish friend residing in your food preparation area.
So there I was Saturday morning, Clorox wipes in one hand, plastic cup in the other, Swine Flu prevention mask over my face, preparing to chase down our speed demon Beta.
I manage to scoop him up in the cup without too much struggle. Today is going to be a good day, I can tell. I sit the cup on the counter and go about the business of pouring out the dirty fish water and cleaning slime off the inside of the bowl. I’m humming to myself happily when suddenly I hear a tiny SPLAT. Really it was more of a “BONSAI!!! AHHHHH!” and then KER-SPLAT!
And I looked down and gasped and there is Chum on the floor. And did you know Betas can jump? Because I sure didn’t. And how he survived the three and a half foot fall from the counter to the floor is still a mystery, but there he is. A gasping, flopping, slimy load of proof that fish don’t fly.
I spring into action quickly, considering how shocked and appalled I am. I grab an empty cup off the counter and I stick it down next to Chum’s floundering body and I said “Get in, Dude!” and in he flops. I dump him back in his plastic cup and quickly slam a plate over the opening just in case his brush with death didn’t scare the fins off of him and he decides to try it again.
And then I was jubilant. Like, seriously, high. Because I just saved a fish. And I know our daily disaster is behind me now and we are all still alive and unharmed and oh, the adrenaline! I SAVED A FISH!!
So about that time the phone rings and I answer and it’s my Dad. The first thing out of my mouth is “Hi Dad. I SAVED A FISH!” And he’s like “Do tell” so I do. And we chat for a while about Lobotomized animals that do stupid things like jump out of their bowls and the book by Dr. Seuss called Fish Outta Water and such.
I finish cleaning out the fishbowl and I remove the paper plate covering Chum’s holding cell. For one short second I look at Chum and he looks at me and I hear a tiny voice say “catch me if you can!” Then, in slow motion like one of those horror films, I see Chum catapult himself into the air, sail over the edge of the counter and KER-SPLAT!
This time I’m not so graceful about it. I don’t remember much, but I’m pretty sure my Dad got an earful of AHHHH!!!! OH MY GOSH, HE DID IT AGAIN!!!! And then I throw down the phone, fling myself on the floor and try to scoop Chum back into the cup.
This time he’s not so graceful about it, either. He dodges the cup, flopping left and right across the floor and managing to miss it every time. And I’m hunkered down, duck waddling along behind him, a cup in each hand muttering incomprehensible things like YOU STUPID SUICIDAL FISH! ARE YOU TRYING TO DIE?!
It’s at this moment that Jackson enters the kitchen and he’s all “Mommy what happ– Chum can walk!?!” And I’m like COME ON FISH! PLEASE JUMP IN THE CUP! Oh, wow, there’s a lot of dust under that chair. COME ON! I’LL FEED YOU MORE, I PROMISE!
It’s quickly becoming apparent that no amount of pleading and coaxing can convince the fish to come back to his bowl so I quickly weigh my options. I think about the best way to flush a fish. I think about the best place to hide the empty fish bowl. I think about how to buy another Beta at PetSmart without Jackson noticing. I wonder if I can find one the same color as Chum. But really, any Beta will do. For several seconds I contemplate all that.
And then lightening struck and the clouds parted. I have a moment of clarity. I realize I love this little fish, slime, scales, germs, and all. He has managed to worm his way into my heart. I know I will be devastated if I have to flush him. No fish can replace Chum. Any old Beta just won’t do.
Without further ado, I abandon my plastic cups, sweep up the fish with my BARE HANDS, and deposit him back in the fishbowl.
And that is how I overcame my ichthyophobia.