I’m okay with pets. I’m less good with pets that are basically houseplants. And yet, in my third year of law school, I found myself in need of such a pet.

“You need a pet,” my roommate L said. Later, she and her husband would messy-breakup during finals. He cried like a donkey.

“I don’t think I do,” I replied.

“You can get a fish,” she insisted.

L had moved to Chicago with four fish, named Bing, Bang, Bong and Slagithor. By the time she and I moved in together only Bang remained. That should have been a warning sign.

“Can I get a shitty goldfish from the fair?” I bargained.

No I could not, because Bang was a Fancy Goldfish.

Fancy Goldfish are not “competitive swimmers.” That means that a fish that is any good at all at being a fish can outswim them and will eat all their food.

So I had a duty to purchase a noncompetitive fish. We went to the pet store and I came back with one of these defective little guys:


Because everything was racism when we were naming fish, this noncompetitive swimmer is a “Black Moor.”

I named him Bamf, after the sound Nightcrawler makes in comic books when he disappears. That’s how long I expected him to last.


We’d had Bamf slightly longer than a fictional disapparation when Bang came down with a bad case of fin rot. That’s the fish disease that makes your pet look like Daryl Hannah in Splash when she was extra sad.


Fin rot doesn’t HAVE to be fatal, but it often is. Still, we dutifully trotted to the pet store and got medicine and put it in the tank as scheduled every day and cleaned the tank and….

Yeah, Bang died.

And the fin rot medicine gave Bamf a serious case of constipation. He didn’t poop the entire time the medicine was in the tank. Pooping is basically what fish do, swimming around with turdstrings dangling behind them like a supermodel with a tiny dog so small all you can see is the leash. Something had to be done.

Peas are fish laxatives. Usually when we fed the fish peas, they would gobble the squished green mess down and then ten minutes later take a shit the size of one of the water plants.

Not this time.

This time, that pea got hung up on whatever blockage was already in Bamf, and just made the problem worse. Eventually he was so full of poops that it affected his swim bladder, and his already noncompetitive swimming devolved into swimming like that lady in your aqua-cize class.

He became so bad at swimming that the tiny suction of the water filter was too much and he adhered to the filter. His swim bladder burst. He couldn’t regulate his buoyancy anymore.

And yet he gamely paddled on.

He couldn’t feed himself or turn over, but he would wobble to your fingers in the water to be hand-fed and flipped so he didn’t dry out too badly.

Clearly something had to be done. We researched fish euthanasia. Don’t flush fish; it drowns them in liquid shit. The general consensus was either “immerse them in alcohol” or “freeze them.” Both alcohol poisoning and hypothermia depress the central nervous system so the fish just goes to sleep.

We had a jug of vodka in the freezer so we split the difference and just dropped him in a pint glass of frozen booze.

I’d like to tell you he died happy, but who the fuck knows, with fish?