This is one of the first picture I took of him, it was taken right after he started swimming again. Daniel and I had just gone for sushi and a few groceries when I found this little guy on the side of the road. He was about the size of my palm and was swept up into a pile of dirt, between the curb and the yellow line, a few feet from a gutter grate. No plastic bag, no water, just a fish in a pile of dirt. Some of his fins had been scuffed off from the pavement, and it looked like he had been stepped on more than once. One of his eyes was hanging out of the socket and a little wonky, and as far as I could tell, he (or she) was dead. So, like any other person would do, I gave him a little poke, just to make sure. To my surprise, he opened his mouth and gasped for air. I COULDN’T JUST LEAVE HIM THERE!! How many times has my poor father heard that while driving past some mangled roadkill or a dried-up worm… BUT he wasn’t here to stop me this time. I emptied my grocery bag, filled it with the water I had just bought, threw the half dead fish in the bag, and carefully walked home.
“He’s not gonna make it ’til morning,” I kept thinking, “He’s half dead already”… Who knows how long he had been there without air? After some extensive research I found out that he looked the most like a parrot fish, and that they like to eat a variety of things: fruits, veggies, and even meat. Who knew? So, I fed that stupid fish everything under the sun: watermelon, bits of lettuce, bacon, teenie pieces of pork, carrots… and it all just sank to the bottom while he floated on his side. He kept this up for two days. No moving or noticeable signs of life. Just half floating, half sinking to the bottom of his basin. I allowed myself the weekend to nurse him back to life, and decided that IF he made it, he would be the newest addition to my grade one classroom. I momentarily considered leaving him in the fountain at school, but the turtles have been known to mysteriously disappear, and I know all too well a good turtle (or fish) is not easily passed up here in China. So the classroom was a logical choice.
After the weekend he was looking a little better, like you can see above. He started turning orange-ish, and he was keeping himself vertical. I bought a little tank and put it in the class next to one of the silent reading spots. My little grade one students wrote about what might be in the tank. A hamster? A lizard? A tree frog? A WHALE?? The next morning I brought the fish in and surprised the kids with him. OMG MISS CASEY A NEW CLASS PET!!! The word “excited” isn’t enough to capture the look on their faces. That fish made those kids read and write like never before. We had a grade one “persuasive essay competition” to name him. Among the top contenders were Samuel with “Robot 9”, Cyrilla with “Orange”, Scarlett with “Nemo”, and Io with “October”, since that’s when he was found. We voted as a class, and October won. We called him Toby for short, which turned into Toby-Wan-Kanobi once the boys started reading Lego Star Wars books. They fought over who could read to him each day, and chose books like “Whales” or “Sharks”. It sounded a little something like this: “Toby, you can grow big and strong like the sharks if you remember to eat all your vegetables.” Freaking adorable. They said good morning to him every day and fed him at snack time. Needless to say, this fish’s life was vastly improved, and I believe my student’s enjoyed coming to school even more because of him.
To make an even longer story short, Toby got sick AND IT WAS NO ONE’S FAULT, just before we moved from China. He was buried in the Pearl River Delta just outside of our apartment, in an oatmeal box along with his favourite toy, the teenie yellow duck I found in a puddle.
He kept lots of people company in 2 1/2 years, and had a life full of adventure. He rode in taxis, went to parties, moved three times, destroyed anything I put inside his tank, and bit everyone he met. He was not a nice fish, but he was a good fish.
Lest we forget, Toby-Wan-Kanobi. Just keep swimming.