It is not often that I find the time or the resources to take a holiday; however, last week, I found myself in just such a position. An opportunity arose for me to go camping with two friends at a large state park, and I happily took it. Camping is a relatively cheap way to have fun, once the initial expense of camping gear has been taken into account. Since the economy took a nosedive a year or two ago, camping has become an appealing way for many people to get out of the house and do something "special" for a few days. As I prepared to set off for some outdoorsy fun, I realized that I needed someone to watch my two fish for me while I was away. My children would not be able to do it, as they were away helping build a second internet to lay eighteen inches to the left of the existing internet. This second internet will be free of porn and Facebook quizzes. I'm terribly proud of their involvement. Since they are minors, my husband had accompanied them on their trip (the segment of second internet my children were helping to construct is located in rural Manitoba, Canada). What, then, to do with my two precious fish, Madonna and Madonna II? Here is where I made my biggest blunder: I decided to ask my "friend," Erasersaurus.
Since he has no job, I thought that he would make a perfect candidate for pet sitter: plenty of free time to feed my fish and administer their daily steroid shots (I'm trying to create a breed of super strong fish which can be trained to save drowning swimmers), and just desperate enough to accept the eight dollars I was offering in payment. Erasersaurus practically jumped at the offer - or hopped with a quiet tapping noise, since he is a disembodied dinosaur head on a wooden stick - and agreed to the job immediately. As I packed my rucksack, a growing sense of unease came over me: Erasersaurus was known for flaky behavior, would Madonna (or "Madge" as the British tabloids call her) and Madonna II be okay? Would Erasersaurus drop the ball on this task and endanger my precious muscular fish? I decided that I was simply having an anxiety attack (after all, I do take medication to avoid those episodes), and put all of my worries out of my mind. What a terrible mistake that turned out to be.
Erasersaurus showed up two hours later than planned on the Friday I was to leave for my camping trip, citing "car trouble" as his excuse. This is plainly false, since he lacks either the funds to purchase and maintain a car, or the arms or hands to steer with. With a sigh, I decided to ignore his obvious lie and instead focused on giving him specific instructions for the care of my fish:
1) Feed them 1/16th of a pinch of their special protein-rich fish oil-enhanced food every 2.5 hours;
2) Read to them the positive affirmations posted on the wall behind their bowl twice a day;
3) Carefully administer their steroid shots every morning (you will find the pre-filled syringes of fish steroids in the bathroom cabinet directly next to the box marked "syringes full of life-saving epinephrine to be administered in the event of our child's horrific allergic reaction to cotton." The box containing the fish steroids bears the same inscription because I am reusing an old epinephrine box for this purpose because I am frugal.)
4) Don't forget to smile.
This simple four-step list was all that Erasersaurus was supposed to do while caring for my fish in my home. Frankly, I don't know an easier way to make a quick eight dollars, so I felt I was doing Erasersaurus a real favor here. He nodded, seemed to listen, and when I gave him this list in written form, seemed to study it carefully. Feeling reasonably confident at his trustworthiness for this task, I set off to camp in the great campingwoods of Iowa.
The trip turned out fine. Although our camp was attacked by a group on insulting raccoons (one of them called me "fat," which I think was entirely unnecessary), we had a generally fun time and made lots of s'mores and s'maybes and s'meats. I called Erasersaurus only once during my weekend-long trip - trying to show him that I felt he was up to the task and didn't need constant monitoring - and he assured me that everything was "fine" and that Madonna and Madonna II were "happy as clams in a clambowl full of water." All was well it seemed, and on Sunday I set off for home thinking I would find things just as I had left them. Of course, I was wrong.
When I came in the door, Erasersaurus was sleeping on my couch, a bag of chips and a container of french onion dip open on the coffee table. From the looks of it, the food had been sitting there all night. Immediately I was annoyed; I did not give Erasersaurus permission to eat our food, and I had been dreaming of a relaxing post-camping chip n' dip-a-thon upon my arrival back home. Clearly, the dip was ruined, and all that was left of the chips were greasy little chipshards (or sherds, if you are an archaeologist) in the bottom of the bag. He awoke with a start when I slammed the door. "Oh, you're back already," he mumbled. "Yes of course I am," I replied, annoyed; "it's four o' clock on Sunday." I glanced meaningfully at the chip/dip remains on the table and gave a little shake of my head to passive-aggressively convey my disappointment. Erasersaurus just stared back, mouth agape and pointy plastic teeth covered in congealed dairy product.
Walking into the kitchen where my fish lived, I was still dealing with the grief of the chip debacle when the cold grip of panic coldly gripped my throat in its cold, cold grasp. My fish bowl was empty. "Erasersaurus," I called, my voice flutey with panic, "where are Madonna and Madonna II?"
"They're in there, aren't they?" came his blase reply.
"Uh, no, they aren't," - the fish bowl was clearly devoid of any life save the microscopic kind - "where are they?" My words walked trembling out of my mouth, as I struggled to contain my growing anxiety.
"Oh, well they were there last night, so I don't know then. Maybe robbers came in. In fact, I think I'm missing my new 3G phone, come to think of it. Well, I have to jet. I'll get that eight-spot from you tomorrow." And with that, he hopped out the door.
I looked everywhere. Every container of any kind of liquid I poured out into a plastic colander, hoping that Erasersaurus had somehow simply misplaced my beloved fish. Milk, beer, Diet Pepsi, a particularly runny jar of old strawberry jelly all went down my kitchen sink drain as I desperately searched. Finally, exhausted, I gave up thirteen hours later, collapsing on the couch in defeat. It was then I realized that the dip, now sour, was still on the coffee table in front of me and was beginning to smell. Rising with a sigh, I picked up the plastic tub and began carrying it to the garbage can. Something inside my very soul - I can only imagine it was God or the Bible or Angels - told me to look into the smeared dip still in the tub; once I did, I realized the horrible truth: it was not french onion, but rather party dip, which I don't actually care for. Also, Madonna II's quirky flat eyes stared back at me from under a glob of slimy white goo. Suddenly, I knew what had happened: Erasersaurus had held a party and my fish had been invited. Not realizing that they couldn't breathe in dip, my fish jumped inside to have a little fun. It was this desire for fun that condemned their muscular little bodies to death.
I never found Madonna (Madge); I can only imagine that her remains were also somewhere in that dip. I wouldn't know, since I was hospitalized for The Shakes and The Lady Screeches shortly after my terrible discovery. Erasersaurus has never admitted throwing this party. I know that he invited my fish, and I know that they got in over their heads. For this reason (and because he got my dog pregnant), I am never asking Erasaersaurus to pet sit again.
He sickens me.