The Betta

There are a few things in life that I try to avoid and going into Pet Shops are one of them (running in front of a truck being another example). I have a ‘I want it’ kind of personality. I look at all the creatures stuck in their pens and cages and I can’t help myself, I want them all. My first bad pet shop move was when I bought my parrot some 17 years ago. If I had had any common sense when I was ten I would’ve realized that I was setting myself up for a life time commitment but, at that time the only thing I could think of was.

“I want it.”

In recent years I’ve managed to keep these urges to a minimum (after my mother threatened to leave if I brought one more animal home) and of late my obsession for lack of a better way of saying it have been confined to fish. With my new job, all the animals in my life got an upgrade. My parrot got a bigger cage and a ton of new toys, my old geriatric sausage dog got some decent type dog food guaranteed to keep her fit and lean for years to come and I bought a big aquarium for my gold fish (as well as two more fancy gold fish who got pinged on the “I want it,” radar). After I acquired a pleco last week, I told myself that I now have enough creatures in my small garden flat but that resolution was not to be.

Last week I stepped into a pet shop to buy some catfish food for my pleco when I saw a row of jars against the corner. Intrigued, I went over and saw that they were samurai fighting fish (bettas). I found this ironic because an author whose blog I follow recently posted about her own betta fish. I never really thought of them until that moment. I looked around the jars and got the distinct and foreboding feeling of:

“I want it.”

Being a good girl, I left but the nagging feeling of wanting one remained. I resolved to stay away from pet shops for a while but unfortunately that was not to be. Today, for work, I had to go and get some prices of certain products – coincidentally at this very same pet shop that I had been the week before. Unable to resist, I went back to the betta jars and studied them, amazed at all the colours. There were black ones, blue ones, red ones and a strange grey one. I looked at each of the jars, amazed at how beautiful and calm the fish seemed. Then, quite suddenly, as I looked at the last one, it gave me a very direct look and flaired. Its little body changed from pale white (with dusted red tips) to a brilliant red colour. I put it down and stepped away and, sure enough, the fish calmed down. I told myself to step away and managed to get as far as the door when I turned back.

Again I picked up the jar, again the betta flaired all the while looking directly at me.

I couldn’t stop myself so, when the store attendant came closer and asked me if she could help me, I found myself almost uttering the words.

“I want it.”

But, I didn’t take it immediately. I drove back to work in a hurry, only to find myself turning back (as a torrential downpour of rain started) about a block from work. I drove back to the store like a maniac, grabbed the attendant who had helped me before and told her (most probably looking like a soaked, red headed mad woman).

“I really want it.”

So, I brought it home, first hiding it in my office so that my boss couldn’t see that I had wasted valuable company time acquiring a beautiful, slightly aggravated fish. Now, it’s settled in my old fish tank (with new accessories naturally) and I’m vigorously reading up on what I need to know about these fish (as I’ve only ever had gold fish). I have a habit of naming my fish after characters in the books that I’m currently reading. Rightfully, this fish is now called al’Lan Mandagoran after a character from Robert Jordan but, in my mind, I find myself calling it Harrison – after the author who spoke about them first and planted the seed of want in my heart.