Wednesday, August 8, 2012

A Fish Tale

Not that kind of fish tale.

While in America, my son was given pets. The first was a beetle. See, part of the rites of summer is that Japanese children catch and keep various species of beetles that show up in the summer. What Makoto got was a female rhino beetle. This does take a bit of explaining, during summer, one can find these damn things everywhere for sale in stores (Or even vending machines) and hordes of Japanese little boys roam the woodlands with nets in the hopes of catching one of their own. They carry them in cages to and from their schools and spend hours pouring over books about these things.

As a guy who grew up in an area where the only large beetle around was the stink beetle, I admit that the whole notion is a bit odd to me.

But Makoto, apparently, was the only boy in his class that didn't have a beetle. Two years prior, he did have two and last year he had a whole mess, but this year, nothing. So our neighbor, the farmer, having caught one, presented it to Makoto.

The other pets were goldfish, again given to him this time by members of the International Club who won them at the summer festival at the goldfish scooping stall.

Now, these were problematic. The year before last, Makoto took very good care of his beetles (Or, rather, his parents took good care of his beetles) and they lasted well into the fall, but that year we didn't make the migration down to Beloved's parents' house in the southern end of Japan. Last year however, Beloved and the boys did while I was in Tokyo taking a class. The result was a tank full of dead beetles when I returned.

I'm not against pets of course, I had a whole zoo full growing up, but I arrived home on July 31st, and we were to depart for the in-laws' on August 5, a 14 hour drive in the hot summer heat one we were planning on taking two days to complete. Obviously, taking the beetle and the fish was not going to work. The problem was what to do with them?

Makoto, as with all boys, would not hear of not taking his pets, but there were problems.

For one, Makoto decided that he had to take his beetle to school (I'm not too sure how this worked. He's not allowed to bring toys, shirts that have buttons, or knit sweaters, but beetles are ok). A short car trip in 90+ weather, even with the AC on, more or less parboiled the beetle to the point that both his parents went to work to convince him to release it back into the wild of the wood pile where it would be 'happier' (Given how the beetle was falling off of things and twitching, it was more to the point of let's get it out of here before Makoto discovers it on its back with its legs folded in).

As for the fish, we started off with 7 feeders, I arrived to 6 and the day before we left, we had 4. These were feeders, not very strong, but what to do with them?

Beloved's idea was that they should be released to the river and after a rather tearful goodbye and explanation to Makoto about how long car trips wouldn't be good for his fish, they were.

Before I get yelled at for introducing non-native species, I know that the shock from going from a fairly warm, placid, tank to a swift flowing river full of snow melt killed them more or less instantly. Thankfully, the current took them before Makoto could see this and he thought that the one fish we saw swimming in that frantic, stricken circle was just saying goodbye.

No, this is not funny, sorry. But for the life of me, I'm not sure what else we could have done with them. They were feeders and, like all children who have ever won feeder goldfish know, chances were they wouldn't have lasted the week. Taking them in the car would have meant a slow death by suffocation in the summer heat of the car and a very upset little boy and we didn't have someone to give them to take care of while we wandered off on vacation. I could blame the people who gave Makoto these animals without bothering to check with his parents to make sure that it would be ok because the timing was the worst possible time that they could have come up with, but I can't because all they wanted to do was make my son happy.

The only good thing to come out of this mess was that Makoto very bravely swallowed his wants and released his pets to be 'happy', I just wish that his father didn't feel like such a heel for knowing that the happy life would be very short.

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