Small Talk

Air torture

March 29th, 2013

Olivia and her friend Kira have developed a rude habit of fishing. In the neighborhood. From my dad's water garden.

I didn't realize this until recently. She had asked me months ago if they could catch guppies from our own water garden to play with and look at, and I said no, because it's mean to the fish. I didn't realize they would decide it was OK to do this to my dad's fish.

So many times in parenting, little truths are revealed in indirect ways. This is how this one came about:

"Mommy, can we get a puffer fish?" she has been asking for two weeks. I've been saying no, with the standard Just Because follow up to the standard Why? question.

Finally, I decided to give her a longer explanation to put an end to this tediousness. I told her I didn't want to buy a large tank with a filter for a puffer fish, nor did I want to be obligated to buying it a high-protein diet or any of the other fussy, high-maintenance routines that go with this not-for-beginner fish. I think it's cute, but too much work.

Then, I asked, "Why do you want a puffer fish?" It's that a weird request from a little kid? Did she learn about it in school?

"'Cause they're funny looking. They look like popcorn," she said.

"Where have you seen them?" I continued.

"At Kung Kung's house," she said. "We fish for them."

She said she decided to go up there when I denied her request to fish from our water garden. "It's mean to the fish! It gets them upset to be chased after then pulled out of the water!" I explained.

Well, I know my dad's fish collection, partly because I have to feed them when he goes away. OCD that he is, he is now up to about 12 water gardens (varying pots and tubs), six tanks, 24 vases of Bettas, and six assorted bowls of livebearers. He has amassed this in only seven years since moving back to Hawaii from New Jersey. There is no puffer in this equation.

Suspicious, I continued questioning. "What do they look like?"

"Popcorn." Duh, Mom. Didn't she say that?

OK, what color? "Orange and white."

The lights go off in my head. What is orange and white and puffy and easily accessible to two kolohe kids? The freshwater fancy goldfish (ryukins, orandas) in the front yard water garden. These fish cost $5 to $30 a piece!

*freak out*

Keeping calm, I verify these are the ones in the front yard, and ask, "How are you 'fishing' for these fish?"

"With our hands!" she demonstrated, and made a cup with two hands.

"What do you do with them?" I queried.

"Nothing. We look at it and throw them back," she answered. So there's a fish gasping for air for ten seconds or so while they look at it in their small hands. Or, as Olivia guesstimated, One minute or two.

"Don't do that anymore. It upsets the fish," I ordered.

Claus was listening to this conversation with amusement and added under his breath to me, "Air torture."

Took me a beat to catch his joke - as an antonym to the well-known water torture.

Indeed, air torture. Part-Chinese air torture.

3 Responses to “Air torture”

  1. galekaminari:

    I ROFL at Air Torture and especially at (sorry Claus!) Part-Chinese Air Torture! But, consider that the kids probably had water in their hands. OTOH, their hands are pretty little, so maybe not much water! Depends on how big the fish are. Maybe not so big that the water was insufficient! The kids would not be able to look at the fish if there was insufficient water. The fish would flop around.

    I was just cleaning a tank and transferring fish from one container to another. I learned something new. When I explained to my fish what I was doing and required of them, they cooperated. It was very cool. Only one was skittish and required more patience. But, even that one cooperated.

  2. Ken Conklin:

    When I was a little boy my Grandpa would take me fishing on a lake. When we got home, we had to clean the fish (using a waist-high tree stump as a workbench) before Grandma could cook them. The first step was to grab the fish by the head and use a knife to scrape the scales off the fish (you scrape against the grain, and the scales fly off in all directions). But the fish would flop around as soon as we took them out of the water bucket, making it impossible to do the scraping. Grandpa taught me to use a rock or hammer to bash the fish in its head and knock it unconscious; then we could scrape the scales off; then cut off the fins and tail; then scrape out the innards; then cut off the head. Good lesson for a little kid like I was once upon a time. Those fish tasted wonderful, especially the perch.

    @galekaminari: I talked to the fish while they were still in the lake, asking them to bite the hook so I could catch them. And they did! But it never occurred to me to ask them to stop flopping around so I could scrape their scales off. I'll have to try that if I ever go fishing again.

  3. Gale:

    Ken, seems a bit much to ask the fish in your case. But Koi will lie still as soon as you touch them with the knife, reportedly. I don't think they have to be scaled tho.

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