Gluttony, it seems, is indeed a deadly sin. Ben Fish, that pig of a fish who inhaled every food pellet in sight before his bowlmates even managed to digest a bite, died Thursday.
We had returned two days earlier from a short business trip to Mumbai. While we were away, our landlord fed our three fish. All seemed well to me when we returned, though Aliyah insisted in hindsight that something about Ben Fish's behavior had seemed, well, fishy.
"I suspect foul play," she scowled. "I think Ben Fish was poisoned."
"Why would our landlord murder Ben Fish?" I asked.
Aliyah looked at me as if the answer was obvious. "Because he's not paying rent," she deadpanned.
Time-lapse poison or no, two days after our return from Mumbai, I found Ben Fish floating belly-half-up on the surface of the dirty water (in my opinion, the real cause of death) filling their bowl. I tapped the glass. Aliyah Fish nibbled at Ben Fish's tail. He didn't move.
"Uh oh," I said.
I called Aliyah over and shared my morbid discovery. In between brief but passion bouts of sadness ("We couldn't even keep our first pet alive for a month!") she hatched all manner of conspiracy theories ("I'm sure Ben Fish was poisoned. There's no other explanation."), and searched the internet for specific causes of death (She googled "fish dying.") and for local veterinarians who might be able to perform a late-night fish autopsy ("I have to know what happened to Ben Fish. I don't care what it costs.").
It soon came time to dispose of the body. Perhaps too callously, I suggested flushing Ben Fish down the toilet. Aliyah reminded me that our toilet suffers from weak plumbing that sometimes prevents immediate, thorough disposal of waste. The toilet is prone to stragglers, and we did not want a dead fish floating there any longer than necessary.
"Get a shovel," Aliyah said. "We'll bury him in the park."
I shoved a spoon in my front pocket and gingerly placed Ben Fish inside a plastic bag.
"Now," Aliyah instructed, "we each need to pick something that's important to us to bury with him."
This proved tricky for me. I slowly walked through our house, but discovered that any object which meant anything to me was also something I was unwilling to bury next to a dead fish.
After several minutes of unsuccessful searching, I approached our medicine cabinet and pulled out my bottle of malaria pills. About 50 small pink pills rattled around inside. I began removing one. Aliyah narrowed her eyes.
"A malaria pill?"
"I don't want Ben Fish to get sick in the afterlife."
Aliyah graciously agreed that the green, white and orange wristband she'd selected (an office gift she'd received on the sixtieth anniversary of India's independence) could suffice as both our objects. Dropping the nationalistic accessory in the bag with Ben Fish, we began our funeral march.
Several Indian men were sleeping in the park. We tiptoed around them. Aliyah pointed to a spot beneath a tree. I stuck the spoon into the dirt. Hard as a rock. We continued looking, but found the park earth unforgiving.
Finally, we found a large pile of dead leaves and other dried brush. The pile reached nearly a meter high, and scooping out a deep crevice, we placed Ben Fish deep inside this once-verdant cave. After thoughtful eulogies ("I've never met a fish with such a strong personality," Aliyah said), we headed back upstairs to mourn with the survivors.
We walked from the park in silence for about three seconds. Then Aliyah looked at me with wide and excited eyes.
"Can we get a dog now?"