How a Fish Almost Destroyed My Childhood

When I was seven, my family moved from suburban California to rural Idaho.   In an effort to embrace Northern Idaho culture, my dad took me fishing at a lake near our house.   I was really excited.

Mostly because I thought that I would get to keep the fish I caught as a pet.  

My dad spent all day showing me how to thread a worm and cast a line.  

Every second, I expected to feel a pull on my hook and reel in my new best friend.  It never happened.  

I was heartbroken.  Even though I never got to meet my fish friend, it felt like he had been forcibly taken from me.  My hopes were crushed.  As my dad was desperately trying to console me, a kindly fisherman took note and offered to let me have one of the fish he had in his bucket. 

I was ecstatic!  My mind immediately composed a vivid montage of all the fun times I would have with my new friend. 

The fisherman set his bucket on the dock and let me pick out my fish.  I chose the cutest fish I could find and lovingly transferred it to my own bucket.   "Hi," I whispered; "My name is Allie.  I'm your new best friend."   

Once we got home, my dad went to take a nap and I carried my fish's bucket out into our backyard.   I set the bucket down and ran as fast as my excited little legs could carry me to fetch a shovel.  


I set my friend free in his new home and watched him swim around for awhile.  I felt so pleased with myself for transporting this humble little fish from his old life of poverty and hardship to a new life with his very own pond and all the bread pieces he could eat.  

After making sure that my fish was comfortable and happy, I went inside to make toys and furniture for him.  I glued toothpicks and popsicle sticks together to form miniature chairs and tables.  My fish was going to love his new home!  I was so excited for him.  

An hour or so later, I proudly carried the things I made outside to give to my fish.  

As I got closer to the pond, I could already sense that there was something wrong.  There were no happy splashing sounds.  I couldn't see the water over the top of hole I'd dug.  I dropped the fish furniture I had made and broke into a run.  

When I reached the pond, I was horrified to discover that most of the water had been absorbed into the ground.  My fish was lying on its side, flopping around in about a half-inch of mud-water.  

WHAT HAD I DONE????  I immediately got the hose and started spraying my fish with a stream of cold water.  

I filled up the hole and waited.  My fish floated belly-up in the murky water.  Every now and then he would thrash around and try to turn himself over unsuccessfully.  I tried to help him stay right-side up by holding him in the correct orientation and then releasing him gently, but he always flopped back over lifelessly.  It became clear that he wasn't going to make it.  

I knew what I had to do.  

I went inside and got my mom's butcher knife.  

I didn't want my fish to suffer.  I had to be brave for him.  I had to do the right thing and finish what I started.  I drug the fish over to our brick patio and prepared to end its life as quickly and painlessly as I could. 

I held the blade high over my head.  It glinted in the sunlight as I tried to steady my nerves.   

I took a deep breath and brought the knife down as hard as I could. 

 I barely dented my fish.  It flopped around as urgently as a half-dead fish can, as if to say "OHMYGODI'MBLEEDING!!!!!! WHAT THE F*CKING F*CK ARE YOU DOING???? IF YOU'RE GOING TO DECAPITATE ME, DO IT!!! KIIIIIIIIIILLLLL MEEEEEEEEEEE!!!!!"

I began to frantically hack at it, over and over, like a berserk war machine.  


I couldn't kill it.  My pathetic 7-year-old muscles could not sever the fish's head.  I needed help. 

I ran inside and woke up my dad.  

Imagine, for a second, that you are peacefully slumbering after a nice day of bonding with your young daughter - who you think is playing peacefully out in the yard.  You are warm and comfortable and feeling secure about your life.  And then you are abruptly woken up by this:

Upon discovering that his daughter was crying and covered in blood, my dad became visibly distressed.  He asked me what was wrong and if I was okay and where did all the blood come from? But all he could get out of me were half-sentences interrupted by hyperventilation and random screaming.  

I was eventually able to drag him out to the patio where the fish was still flopping around heroically, spattering blood all over our new brickwork.  My dad told me to go inside.  

From under the covers of my parent's bed, I could hear metal strike brick.  Just once.  Then my dad came back inside and sat down on the bed next to me.  He patted me on the head and asked me if I wanted fish tacos for dinner.