Eloise and Croc
At some point during any one bedroom shack up adventure the question about pets and plants is bound to come up. The wonderful conversations about the pro and cons of a parquet are the things that young relationships thrive on. Over brownies discussing what size cage to get. Morning pillow talk about a newspaper subscription to line the cage. While doing the crossword of said paper deciding we weren’t bird in cage type of people; we only bought free range chicken after all. The airy light stuff that people talk about when the only thing that matters is that they’re there.
Heather and I’s first foray into the adoption of wildlife was a Venus fly trap named Croc. Within three clicks and a credit card we were the new owners of eco-friendly pest control from tedsexoticplants.com. Within days our loft went from boring people keeping storage to exotic jungle in waiting. When it came to Croc, waiting was the word that best described him. Our expectations were Little Shop of Horrors but waiting him to catch anything was the equivalent of staring at the wheatgrass at Booster Juice. We would stare at Croc though, coaching that bastard on for hours. Leaving the screen open letting the bugs in just so the little guy could have a chance. Then we’d end up trying to sleep with the drone of flies in our bedroom and Heather yelling at Croc to do his fucking job. Throwing the odd pillow in his direction. I realized while swatting flies with Wednesday’s Trib that I had become Rick Moranis and that movie had more truth to it than I had first realized.
After a few weeks we tried to make Croc a more exciting part of our Swedish bookshelf. We ventured to the flea market and Heather would pick a different pot every week suggesting “Maybe he’s just not happy in his home.” A new package from amazon was showing up with the paper every couple days with a book on the subject. My personal favorite being John William Wainwright’s work circa 1980. Eventually Heather’s enthusiasm for Croc dwindled and I was left to watering the little monster; only pure water, tapped and bottled have too many minerals; and feeding him crickets I caught in the park.
Over croissants, the Tribune sitting unread on the table, Heather thought that things in the apartment needed a little more life. She suggested a dog but my social skills were not indicative of walking around the neighborhood everyday leashed to a reason for conversation. A cat was out of the picture because 600 square feet was not nearly enough room for Heather to be sharing with a box of shit. After doing the dishes and throwing the newspaper in the recycle Heather said a fish tank would be a nice addition
I was not thrilled at the prospect of another living organism sharing our resources doing less than a screensaver, but after a Sunday at the aquarium the decision was made and the barrage of amazon boxes began coming to the door again. Books about freshwater fish, saltwater fish, Lake Malawi Cichlids, one about Piranhas I ordered despite Heather’s disapproval. We even ordered One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish. Croc had to be moved to the top of the fridge to make room for all the fish lit coming daily. In the end we decided to get a Siamese fighting fish named Eloise.
The name Siamese fighting fish sounds like an exotic thing with sharp teeth that small animals and children should stay away from. In reality, they are kind of glorified goldfish. If you are picturing spy killing ninja fish you are way off the mark. Think more like swimming kite, less death agent of the sea. Eloise was a stunning combination crimson red, electric blue and white; like a neon lit American flag floating through the water. He was a great addition to our living space (I never told Heather that Eloise may be genderly confused) and added some life to all the particle board and polyester that made up the rest of the room.
Eloise also brought a new project to us. In the beginning it was just him in his tank with the jade gravel at the bottom. Then a little piece of driftwood Heather had moved around almost nightly to get it just so. Next came the treasure chest that opened and closed letting a glurp of bubbles rise to the top each time. Then he got his castle that he was king or queen of depending on who you asked. Heather spent an entire Sunday afternoon arranging led lights so the mood would be just right for her. After about a year we got a bigger tank, not because King Eloise needed it but Heather insisted that she needed more things.
The average lifespan of a male Siamese fighting fish is three years, females tend to live a few months longer. Eloise surpassed the three year mark by 11 months, and eleven days. She almost made it to the ripe age of four before I found her like old glory, floating, abandon from a ship that had long ago hit bottom. It was just over a year since Heather had mentioned him, and about 2 since The King had received anything new for his realm.
Heather’s attention had moved from harboring life in the apartment to other activities. First was pottery. The idea had come to her one day when she was perusing the fridge for nothing in particular and decided that Croc’s pot was no longer appropriate. I suggested we go to the flea market that Sunday and find Croc a proper pot. At that she decided that they were all wrong there and would make Croc a pot with her very own hands. And so, books on World War 2 and the human genome were quickly replaced by volumes about pinch pots and glazing. Classes began 2 weeks from then every other Tuesday.
Over the next several months Croc moved bi-weekly into different monstrosities which Heather would bring home. Lopsided coil pots glazed in puce, some kind of vase like thing with heart shaped holes on the side. Then something only the mind of Tim Burton could find beautiful. Her interest eventually dwindled and Croc was left with some kind of cross between an urn and a caesural dish glazed in yellow.
Next came Pilates, then French cooking, Astrology and Scrapbooking. Doing the Sudoku on a Tuesday I realized that I was spending every night with Croc and Eloise except for Wednesday’s and Sundays. The next night, I noticed that Heather’s tits were bigger over a plate of ratatouille and I knew. On some primal level I’d already known, but when she asked what we were eating, I knew.
The weeks following were kind of a mess. Tribunes piling up on the table, dishes in the sink since Sunday. Still fed red white and blue and pest control, still did the Sudoku, still made dinner every night. But things had definitely changed.
I went to the Flea Market on Sunday solo, Heather had a reading to do. Found castle grey skull for 4 bucks. Bought it and placed Crocs pot on the top floor, covering the knock off corning ware where Croc had been calling home since pottery class ended. Croc that looked like castle grey skull (80s Vintages) Vintage. Heather walked in, asked what it was. I told her I was waiting for a new pot, until then I am the Master of the Universe. She said I was ridiculous and clicked on the TV. She was on her third tour of the 154 episodes of Gilmore Girls.
Death changes everything and Eloise proved that. Enter Heather, coming back from backgammon or sky writing or something wearing the same clothes that she left in minus a sock. She found me reading the sports in the Poang chair, staring at Eloise fluttering in the filter bubbles.
What are you doing? Eloise now spinning around in the current and every heart beat is another spin.
Is that thing dead?
I nodded, taking a gulp of the beer.
I knew you would kill it.
Eloise proved to be the flame that sent the end game in motion. Rocking, rocking watching Eloise flutter
I can’t live like this anymore, Christ, you couldn’t even take care of her.
Him it’s a him.
Take whatever you want.
Then I left. The next 43 hours were a blur. They started at the shithole bar down the block and ended with me on the landlord’s couch with my head pulsing and my mouth tasting like the underside of a pool table in a dumpster. I shook the cobwebs out, nodded to Rick, mumbling my appreciation for taking care of whatever the hell happened and made my way upstairs.
I opened the unlocked door and pulled the blinds closed before taking inventory. Gone, three of the four bookcases. Here, all the books from the three bookcases. Gone, stereo. Here, clock radio. Gone, flatscreen, bed. Here, Tiger print Poang chair, sheets from bed. Gone, Heather. Here, me.
Croc was still here but gone were all the pots. Heather had left him in a mound of dirt on top of the fridge taking his pot and Castle Gray Skull with her. Eloise’s tank was still here along with her corpse and a note.
Get rid of the fish, clean and drain the tank, be by Tuesday to pick up. Heather
I tried to clean myself up a little (gone, towels, shampoo, toothpaste, here, toothbrush, deodorant, baking soda) put some clean clothes on and sent Eloise to the golden fish bowl in the sky or wherever fish go in the afterlife. I drained the tank, put his things in a box and marked it HEATHER with a green Sharpie.
I took the empty tank down to the parking lot and kicked the front in. I kicked in the sides, I was about to kick in the back when Ruby from 3C came down.
What’s going on?
I told her I was cleaning the tank for Heather
That’s fucking hilarious. Yeah I saw her cleaning your shit out with a couple of guys yesterday. I was going to ask her about it but she fucking hates me.
It was true. Heather would take the stairs when she saw Ruby in the elevator.
Can I kick the back out?