Dead crawfish don’t float like you’d expect them to. They sink down to rest their claws on the glass pebbles upon which they once walked; uneaten spinach for a death bed. The red of their carapace mutes to something dull and lifeless as the black of their beady little eyes fades to a cloudy grey. At least that’s how it happened for Starbuck the Crawfish. I guess you’d need to read my previous entry to get most of this, but I’ll catch you up super quick: my daughter saved a crawfish from certain death at a BBQ, named him Starbuck, put him in a bubbling fish tank, and then started feeding him spinach.
My daughter was literally skipping into the house and wearing a comical smile the day she faced her horror. My mom was in town, we had just watched Iron Man 3 and gorged on pricey junk food; Catelynn was still riding a saccharine high when she ran into her room to check on Starbuck. She called me in with a whisper and I made it in just in time to see her smile morph into pure pain as she tap tap tapped on Starbuck’s tank. He’d usually raise his claws and charge the tank wall as if to say “What? WHAT? You want some of this?” But he’d lost his defiance, his life.
I looked at her and said the only thing I could think to say: “honey, you didn’t do anything wrong.” I could tell she was inconsolable so I gave her space. I walked into the living room and told everyone the news. As soon as I got it out, as soon as I told everyone that my daughter was inconsolable, my mom looked at me and said “honey, you didn’t do anything wrong.” I laughed a bit because it was one of those full circle moments; my mom said the same thing to me that I said to my daughter. Of course I hadn’t done anything wrong and I knew it, and through that realization, I understood that my daughter knew that she hadn’t done anything wrong either. I went back into her room a while later and told her the things that she needed to hear. That I loved her and her feelings were true and pure. Terra thought we should bury Starbuck to offer a bit of closure and Catelynn agreed.
I took Starbuck and wrapped him in a paper towel and placed him gently in a Tupperware box. I went out back and started digging a hole. I was about a foot into it when I started wondering: how deep does a crawfish grave need to be? Will the dogs smell him and dig it up if I make it too shallow? Holy shit; is that why human graves are six feet deep? Is that some sort of magical number that dissuades scavengers from digging? Fuck it; this Tupperware is airtight and eighteen inches will have to do.
I went back inside and got Catelynn; we did the deed. She tossed, dramatically of course, the first handful of dirt upon the Tupperware coffin as if we were in an old school gangster movie. I shoveled on the rest and we tamped down the loose soil. She started to cry again and I started to tear up watching her. We went back inside and ate dinner.
I watched my father kill one of my canaries with a vacuum cleaner when I was five years old. I’m laughing as I type this and it’s bothersome to think about what that might mean, but that’s irrelevant for now. It was an accident; Pops was cleaning their cage with the vacuum cleaner hose like he’d done many times before and the dumb one, they yellow canary I’d gotten for my birthday and named Tweety, jumped down to try and escape. He went head first into the hose and died somewhere along the line. My father dug him out of the bag to see if he was still alive and then just threw him in the trash. I used to wonder if Tweety had thought he’d made it, thought he was free, before it all went black… When it came to Starbuck, I was on edge because I knew this seemingly insignificant moment was a pivotal one for my daughter.
It’d be wrong to teach a child that when something dies, you can just replace it with something else, and I told this to Catelynn, but it’d also be wrong to waste a $60 fish tank that’d only been occupied for a week. My daughter’s face was still speckled with petechiae from crying but she nodded when I asked her if she’d like to go buy a betta. We drove to Petco to pick out a fighting fish to take Starbuck’s place in the tank. Thirty minutes later we were on our way back home with No Name the Betta and my monster was smiling again.
There was a picture of a betta on the little cup that No Name came in and Catelynn asked me why none of the bettas at Petco were as pretty as the one in the picture. I told her that “the fish in the picture was a model” because it was the first thing that came to mind but it got me thinking; are there really professional model fishes out there? Do they live in enormous cups? Are they given as many blood worms as they want, and if so, do they suffer from bulimia like human models? Whatever. We made it home and No Name is still swimming to this day. He seems to be immune to whatever killed Starbuck.
A few days later my daughter asked “dad, do you think that just maybe there’s a crawfish heaven?” This set me back a bit because we’re an agnostic family but simply saying “no” would’ve been hard even for me. I asked her why she wanted to know and she told me that it was just too hard to imagine him as completely gone. Of course I went the “nobody is ever gone as long as you keep them in your thoughts” route, but I also used the moment to teach her a bit about humanity. I used her question as an example as to how easy it is, how comforting it can be, to reach for a mythological crutch when times are hard. Sure, her pet could be dead and gone forever… or maybe he’s frolicking in an endless field of spinach with his perfect claws held high in defiance. “What? WHAT? You want some of this?” Thanks to Starbuck, she got her first taste of Marx’s opium. I never answered her question, because in doing so, I’d be robbing her of a conclusion that she needs to make on her own.
I write and sell books and they never cost more than a dollar. If you’re a fan of fiction, you should check out Trailer Park Juggernauts here: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00704HK6Q If you’re a fan of real life with just a sprinkling of fiction, you should check out Ephemeral Truths and Short Fiction here: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00AYRAXNI