"I just don't have the heart to do it."

My sister-in-law's eyes started to tear up. "I love him. I really do. I know it sounds crazy, but I do. I mean, whenever I walk into the room his eyes would turn straight to me and follow me around wherever I went." She paused for a bite of her pizza. "Do you want a beer? Wine? We have wine in a box."

"Just some soda. If you have it."

She went off into the kitchen and opened the fridge. "We have a little root beer left."

"That's fine."

She carried out the two liter and poured enough to barely wet my mouth into a glass.

His super-sonic hearing that removed from a carbonated beverage my nephew came running into the dinning room. "Is there any pop?"

"Here, you can have mine."

I handed him my glass and watched him gulp it down. These are the sacrifices you make for the ones you love. He set the glass down and wiped his mouth. "Is there any more?"

"No, that was it," his mother informed him.

"Oh." He wandered back off to the TV room where his Gameboy was waiting for him to return.

"Can you just wait until after he goes to bed? That way I won't have to say anything until he notices."

"Sure no problem."


As my nephew brushed his teeth, Donna came out from his room with a box full of fish supplies. "Ok, here is a net and I will get you a bag of water to put him in."

Now, I never had fish as a kid. And you would think that snaring them in the little green net and lifting them into a bag of water would be

It isn't.

They start flailing about the second they leave the water. Even as their body is only partially out of the water, they start splashing about.

It is a noise of terror and pain. You can just tell that they are panicking.

They know something is about to happen.

Trying to avoid the other fish, I managed to grab Popeye while he was at the top of the tank. We spent the night watching him swim to the bottom of the tank, flip himself over and then float to the top upside down. There was almost something peaceful about watching his little fish body float like that.

Until we all broke out into laughter because fish are not meant to swim upside down.

Donna had been doing some research, trying to determine the root of Popeye’s problem. She diagnosed him with swim bladder. A condition that could only be resolved by removing him from the tank and popping his stomach with a pin to let the air out.

"I wouldn't even know where to poke him with the pin!"

"Maybe you can take him to the vet? Let the vet do it? I am sure they would for you."

"He was a $5 fish, Kara. I am not taking him to the vet."

In her research, Donna had also found out how to put a fish to sleep.

"What, do you just flush him?"

"No, because they would still be alive."

"So what do you do?"

"You put them in the freezer."

The task of putting Popeye to sleep fell on my shoulders. Donna didn’t have the heart to end his pain. Besides swimming upside down his left eye clouded over. A co-worker told Donna that their fish’s eye had clouded up, proceeded to fall out, and the fish continued to live a happy life another year. However, the idea of having a one-eyed fish swimming around a tank was rather unsettling. And he was growing white spots on his fins again.

With Donna and Peter both out of the room, I was left to my work. Standing in their living room with a gallon sized baggie full of water in one hand, and Popeye’s life in the other. Careful not to spill the baggie all over the carpet, I tried to get Popeye out of the net and into the bag.

The stupid fish kept getting all tangled up in the net.

After a few moments of struggle, I carried him into the kitchen.

I set Popeye on the counter and opened the freezer. I then realized that I needed something to put the baggie in, otherwise the water wouldn’t be deep enough for him to swim in. Right inside the freezer was the plastic ice bucket. The baggie was just the right size.

I put him in the freezer and shut door right as Donna came in the kitchen.

"Did you do it?"

"Yeah. He’s inside."

Donna proceeded to open the door and take him back out to say good bye. I left her alone in the kitchen with the fish, wondering why she could take him out of the freezer and then put him back in, but couldn’t just take him out of the tank in the first place.


A few days later I asked Peter about Popeye, half imaging that Donna forgot to take him out of the freezer, and that there was now a fish cube waiting for the next person who reached in for some ice. "Oh, yeah." He stopped to think, as if had years of memories and dead fish in his mind to swim through before finding the right information. "I just woke up one morning and he was gone.

Donna asked me to never tell him what really happened.

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