April 10, 2015

A Fish Tale, Twice Told

Flo
Missy
This April, while Spring hovers shyly on the brink of bursting into glorious, and much anticipated, bloom, Joe and I have taken advantage of this quiet time to do some reorganizing out in the workshop. 

We've moved furniture around,  emptied cabinets and drawers and tossed out an Everest of accumulated detritus. 

Out, I say! Out with the dried up paints, the useless scraps of paper, the old notebooks filled with scribblings for projects either long completed or abandoned as hopeless. 

Someday soon, we'll haul 40+/- pounds of scrap copper off to a nearby metal salvage company. "Cash for trash," I call that.

You're wondering where this is all leading and how on earth it relates to the "Fish Tale" promised in the post's title?

Ok, I'll get to the point. In the process of rediscovering some long laid-by things, we happened upon three of my drawings from the days when we kept tropical fish. Looking at them after all this time, we got to reminiscing about our very first "fin babies" and the blog post I wrote about them several years ago.

Taking a break from the task at hand (repurposing a groaning overloaded bookcase), I decided a reprise that post.

This is the story, slightly abridged, of Flo and Missy, two little fish who, early on in our fishkeeping careers, forged a special friendship that both amazed us and touched our hearts.

Some of you may know that my hubby “Prospero Joe” and I were once the devoted servants of several varieties of freshwater tropical fish. Our first tank, a 20-gallon beauty, arrived in 2006, complete with eight young inhabitants - all of whom answered to the name of Finnigan.
The Finnigans
Among the Finnigans were a lovely silver angel fish and a strange specimen called a paradise gourami.  

Early on the gourami, whom we named Missy, fell ill, shivering and trembling near the bottom of the tank and falling victim to bullying by six feisty little tetras. 

Feisty Tetra
Despite our best efforts, nothing we tried helped at all. Missy would soon die. 

Then, seemingly out of nowhere and diving straight toward Missy, came the little angel. We expected her to join the tetras in the attack. But no. As we watched in astonishment, the angel took on the role of protector, constantly hovering about an inch above Missy and defending her from further assault. 

Whenever Missy struggled to the surface for the frequent gulp of air necessary to her species, the angel accompanied her; when Missy sank exhausted to the gravel, the angel drifted down to resume her vigil. For many days this silent ritual continued, Missy fighting bravely for her life, the angel guarding. We named the angel Flo, for Florence Nightingale.

I should mention here that the angel fish is a cichlid, not normally a sociable creature with any species but its own. The gourami is an anabantid, closely related to the infamous Siamese fighting fish (the betta) and known as a solitary and often aggressive tankmate. 

As far as Joe and I could tell, these two small creatures never met eye to eye, never touched so much as a fin, never communicated in any way their human observers could comprehend. 

And yet ... and yet ...

While the thwarted tetras took to minding their own business in other corners of the tank, Missy began to gain strength. Her shivering slowly abated, and she began to swim more freely, with Flo always keeping close by. 

Then one fine spring morning, Missy won her long and arduous battle. She sailed through the water, ate voraciously and declared herself recovered. And Flo, her mission accomplished, turned her thoughts to ... whatever angels turn their thoughts to.  

Both Missy and Flo are gone now, but their true story is one Joe and I will never forget. 

And it’s a story I want to share again with all of you. 

Because I’ve come to believe that at certain times in our lives we are all Missy – ill, frightened, struggling for breath. And at other times we are all Flo – protecting, defending, standing watch through the long dark night, wherever as there is a need for whatever it is we are called upon to do.

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