By Jerry Zezima
It is with a heavy heart and stewed gills that I announce the passing of Camilla, our beloved and semi-intelligent betta fish, who tragically succumbed to water on the brain and now sleeps with all of our other fishes.
Camilla, who should have been called Camillo because the fish was gender-fluid and very coy, though not koi, died at the ripe old age of 2.
She was the longest-living of the family’s fabulous fleet of fine finny friends. The average lifespan of most of the other fish we have had over the years was approximately as long as the Super Bowl halftime show.
A notable exception was Curly, who survived for weeks after the demise of his bowl mates, Moe and Larry, who died within minutes of each other, probably in a suicide pact.
Curly was killed when I opened a kitchen cabinet and a bottle of vitamins fell out, conking him on the head.
My wife, Sue, was aghast, as were our young daughters, Katie and Lauren, who wailed, “You killed our fish!”
I tried to soothe them with comforting words: “They were Mommy’s vitamins.”
Another standout was Pumpkin, out of whose bowl Ramona, the first and dumbest of our four cats (all of whom have since gone to that big litter box in the sky), liked to drink.
Pumpkin would play peekaboo with Ramona. The scaly scamp also liked to squirt the flummoxed feline, though Ramona never succeeded in gobbling up Mrs. Zezima’s unfrozen fish stick.
I actually bonded with Pumpkin, who would greet me every day by swimming to the side of the bowl and gulping a silent “Good morning!” Then I would feed a flaky breakfast to the flaky fish.
When Pumpkin passed, at about a year old, Katie and Lauren sobbed uncontrollably during a solemn toilet-side service that concluded when their lifeless pal was flushed to kingdom come.
It was the same sad routine with all of our other, similarly doomed, shorter-lived goldfish, a couple of which didn’t survive the car ride home from the pet store.
Then there was Camilla, whom we adopted a couple of years ago at the urging of our granddaughters Chloe and Lilly.
Sue and I drove with the girls to the pet store and bought a pink female betta fish and color-coordinated pink pebbles in the hope that we would be the cover story in Good Bowlkeeping.
Unfortunately, Camilla’s bowl held only 16 ounces of water, the same size as the bowl that houses Igor, a blue male betta fish that lives with Chloe and Lilly.
“You should get a larger bowl,” a pet-store employee suggested.
I ignored the advice. Forty-eight hours later, Camilla went belly-up.
Unbeknownst to Chloe and Lilly — who also are unaware that the first two Igors had suffered the same fate and that the third one is now the charm — I launched Camilla into the porcelain version of Davy Jones’ locker and bought another pink betta fish, this one a male that we also called Camilla.
The friendly fish, who had the same bubbly personality as the late, lamented Pumpkin, far exceeded its life expectancy, probably because I gave in and bought a one-gallon bowl that was a spacious mansion compared to the cramped condo where the original Camilla lived ever so briefly.
On visits to our house, Chloe and Lilly were none the wiser and always loved to feed Camilla the same drab food that nourished so many of our other fish.
I have not yet broken the news to the girls that their tiny friend has gone to fishy heaven, but Sue and I did have a respectful funeral that involved indoor plumbing.
Farewell, Camilla. Float in peace.
Copyright 2021 by Jerry Zezima