Tale of the Fish
I am wishing everybody a Boring New Year.
That is what I want. No bank crashes, no politicians caught with their pants down, no sportscasters putting on fake beards and shooting their wives in parking lots.
No fleeing for your life from a hurricane.
I definitely had enough of that.
I am now an old hand at fleeing for my life. Three times I have inched my way along I-10 with my kids, a cat, my mother-in-law, her Chihuahua and a full bladder.
And this last time, with three fish.
I got to explain.
I would rather flee with my gentleman friend Lust but he won’t leave because that would mean closing his bar, the Sloth Lounge, and that would be a sin against nature.
Back in August, when Bob Breck couldn’t decide whether Gustav was coming or not and nobody knew whether to spit or go blind, me and my sister-in-law Gloriosa decided that our families would go together in her minivan. That is her husband and two kids and me and my daughter Gladiola.
I didn’t realize it was also going to involve fish.
When she told me that she was bringing fish along, I said good, I’ll bring the Zatarain’s fish fry mix.
Then she gets all high and mighty. They ain’t to eat, she says to me. Oh, no, these are Splish, Splash and Saturday Night, and they’re valuable koi fish that live in her new koi pond.
She never explains what makes them so valuable but a few minutes later, after me and Gladiola have jammed all our earthly possessions into a suitcase and a backpack and are waiting for Gloriosa to swing by and pick us up, my mother-in-law Ms. Larda calls. She and Leech and Lurch, my brothers-in-law, are already at my older daughter Gumdrop’s in Folsom. So I ask her about these fish.
Now these ain’t no goldfish, Modine, Ms. Larda says to me. These are eating-size but they’re pretty, like goldfish. They come in all kind of gorgeous colors. Gloriosa’s fish are all black and gold. They are called Utsuri koi. That don’t mean nothing spelled backwards – it’s Japanese. They cost hundreds of dollars per fish – more than crawfish, even.
Gloriosa thinks they’re great. No housebreaking, no hairballs on the rug, no fence.
They stay where you put them. They are almost as good as pet rocks, but way more classy.
Now, you wouldn’t think a fish would have any trouble if the levees broke. But these fish are too dainty for floodwater. So she got them in a big white bucket full of special pond water, and she straps this bucket in the car with a seat belt, right in between her kids’ car seats. God forbid baby Momus dunks her pacifier in there.
Me and Gladiola crawl in the back, behind the kids and the koi.
We notice this bucket has a little motor putt-putting in there. Gloriosa says it’s to keep the water oxygenated. If the batteries run out, we got to blow air through a straw in there to keep them alive. She wonders if we can find a hotel that will accept koi. Because if she leaves them out in the car, she’s going to have boiled koi. Which I don’t think is a bad idea, but don’t tell that to her.
A couple of hours later, the koi are the last things we’re worrying about. We are just approaching Metairie in bumper-to-bumper traffic with the kids screaming and everybody needing to pee.
Gloriosa wails, “God, take me now!” so I tell her to forget finding a koi-accepting hotel, we will stop at Gumdrop’s up in Folsom, 50 miles away. Later we find out, the entire Gunch family stops in Folsom because nobody can stand their kids any longer than that.
It is already raining when we cart the kids and the fish into the house. We don’t notice Gumdrop’s cats, Rocky and Carlos, licking their little chops until they turn over the bucket and we got fish, cats and water all over the floor. We quick rescue the koi and plop them in a bucket of plain Folsom water, which we stick in the back bedroom, away from the cats.
Then we all try to sleep on air mattresses. What with one thing and another, it ain’t a restful night.
The next day, Gloriosa carries Momus into the bedroom and they curl up to take a nap, with the koi in a bucket next to the bed. Ms. Larda goes to check on them and she tells me she’s worried that Momus will wake up, toddle over to the bucket and fall in. So we tiptoe in and take the koi bucket and put it in the coat closet.
Gloriosa is still asleep when Gumdrop’s neighbor Charlie Guidry comes over with an offer we can’t refuse. He has a freezer full of catfish filets defrosting, being as the electricity is out from the storm. Gumdrop’s husband Slime has an outdoor fryer with a propane tank. We decide to have us a catfish fry.
You can see where this is going. Gloriosa wakes up and her fish are missing. She wanders outside and sees all of us plus Charlie and his wife, Myra and mother-in-law, old Ms. Dooley, sitting around the picnic table over a fish dinner.
At first no one notices her except Ms. Dooley, who snatches up her plate and runs. But when Gloriosa screeches “Splish! Splash! Noooo!” Leech and Lurch have to tackle her. I run for the bucket to show her they are alive and well.
So all’s well that ends well, except the Guidrys think we got a raving maniac in the family. And my blood pressure probably won’t go back down for another 10 years.
A Boring New Year to you.