Dad Buys Kids a Gift; Mom’s Accused of Muuuuurder!

Funny Tips for Family Pets #kids #pets #fish #funny #dad

So then…I open the freezer and see dead fish. Lots of dead fish.

Not the delicious kind that you cook for supper like salmon or swordfish.

No, these are dead aquarium fish of assorted colors and sizes, just randomly hanging out in my freezer.

A couple are in baggies, a small attempt at respect for their little frozen corpses, I suppose. The others are just lying about, exposed to the elements — tucked next to the box of popsicles, or plopped into the little shelf on the inside freezer door.

I sigh.

This glacial graveyard is my husband’s handiwork.

David is not a fish murderer.

But he IS the one who bought the enormous aquarium, 3 dozen exotic fish, cleaning supplies, fish food, and tank instructions – then plopped it all on my kitchen counter.

Flashback to 3 weeks ago…

I walk into my spotless kitchen to see half the counter space taken up with “All-Things-Fish.”

“What the hell?” I sputter.

“Mom, look what Daddy bought us!” Chloe is beaming.

“Yeah, Mom, look how cool this is!” Tucker is beaming.

David walks over to the kitchen with the kids. He is beaming.

I am seething. Inside.

Outside, I say, “Wow! This is amazing! Look at all those fish!”

The kids, aged 5 and 8, press their faces up close to the aquarium.

I steal a quick glare at David so the kids don’t see. He feigns innocence.

David knows I don’t like fish. (Sorry, PETA — and fish people.) Look, fish-tank fish don’t appear very smart; you can’t cuddle with them on the couch; and they can’t fetch anything meaningful. Fish tanks can be smelly, dirty, breeding grounds for bacteria and well…dead fish. And I especially don’t like the idea of this swimming cesspool in my kitchen — next to the food we eat.

“Have you named them?” I ask the kids brightly. They prattle off some names. I appear intensely interested.

But inside, I am sending David a telegraphic message. A message that says, “Why in the world would you buy this elaborate system and all these fish without at least MENTIONING it to me?”

David must be picking up on those brain waves because he blurts out, “The kids and I thought fish would be good low-maintenance pets.”

“Yeah, Mom, isn’t this a great surprise?” asks Chloe.

I agree that is this is indeed, a surprise — and of course, a really great one.

We all ooh and aah over the fish; the kids agree on a feeding schedule; David shows me the instruction booklet about the care and cleaning of the aquarium and filter tank.

I smile. I admire. I ask the kids which are their favorites.

As soon as we’re out of earshot of the kids, I say, “David, what the hell?  This is a very generous gift for the kids, but you know I don’t want this huge monstrosity in the kitchen — and I don’t want to deal with all this tank-cleaning, fish-feeding nonsense for these damn pooping fish!”

He says, “Well, we were at the pet store and they really wanted a pet. At least I didn’t get them a dog.”

I pale. (Again, sorry PETA – and dog people.) I’m allergic to dogs.

So now, instead of being incensed about the fish, I am relieved that dogs were not delivered.

I return to the kitchen and make my peace with the little swimmers.

I am a mother. I shall carry on the tradition of all outwardly-cheerful, internally-long-suffering martyr-mothers who endure daily indignities like cleaning out the frikkity-frik fish poop filter.

OK seriously — the fish make my kids happy — so I’m happy.

Life goes on.

Until it doesn’t. For the fish.

They start dying, one by one.

Not several at a time. ONE at a time.

It’s like a bad horror movie. “No, Rainbow, don’t swim in that corner of the aquarium! Louie swam there last night and was never seen again!” “Crystal, use the buddy system at the feeder. Don’t go there alone!”

So every morning, someone is floating face up to greet me at breakfast time.

And, of course, in David’s eyes, I am the prime suspect.

He interrogates me about the tank cleaning and the water refilling and if I’m overfeeding them. He complains about how expensive it was to buy the exotic fish and their habitat. He reminds me more than once that I didn’t want the aquarium in the first place.

“David, I swear to you.!”

So he calls the pet store to ask why all the fish are dying.

They put him on hold.

Maybe they’re depressed, I think. Maybe it’s a mass suicide, executed slowly, one day at a time.

But I imagine David glaring at me like: Mass suicide? More like mass genocide.

OK seriously — I am not killing the fish.

So then…the pet store tells him that maybe the mechanical or chemical filtration is off a little. They tell him if he brings the dead fish in, they will refund his money for those particular fish.

I’m surprised that the pet store makes you bring in your dead little fish to warrant a refund. Aren’t your receipt and your word of honor enough during this time of tragedy?

Are there that many people faking out pet stores that their fish have died, when in fact the fish are at home happily swimming and eating and pooping in their tank? And what if you flushed the little fella without realizing you had to bring his dead carcass in to the pet store for the manager to ID the body? Then what?

Would it go something like this?

Customer: My fish died. Here’s my receipt. I’d like a refund please.
Pet Store Manager: Sorry, sir, we don’t believe you. We need to see the body.
Customer: Why?
Pet Store Manager: Autopsy, sir. We need to rule out foul play.
Customer: Foul play? What are you accusing me of?
Pet Store Manager: Sorry, sir, just doing my job. You know the owner is the first and most obvious suspect. Once we rule you out, we can move on to other potential culprits based on the autopsy – teeth-marks from a cat perhaps; toxic cleaning fluids on his scales from an overzealous housekeeper; check his blood alcohol level – you can’t imagine how many times white wine is “accidentally” spilled into the tank.
Customer: Well, I don’t have the body anymore. I flushed it right away.
Pet Store Manager: Company policy, sir. We need to see the body. Or at least a death certificate from your local veterinarian? A picture of the funeral, perhaps?
Customer: [shows manager pics on phone]
Pet Store Manager: Oh, respectful ceremony, sir. The seaweed wreath is a nice touch. Lovely toilet bowl, sir. Is that a Kohler?

I imagine that would work, but David’s not taking any chances. If they want bodies, he will bring them bodies.

So he takes a few of the fish to the pet store and gets his money back. Then when another one dies, he puts it in a baggie in the freezer since the pet store is far away, so he’ll take care of it “later.” And then another dies and another. And “later” turns into a week and another week. And pretty soon, the kids are completely immune to another fish kicking the bucket.

It’s practically like this each morning:

Kid 1: “Pass the cereal and – (pointing) oh, Jazzy’s bit the dust.”
Kid 2: “No, I think that’s Buster. Jazzy croaked a few days ago. She’s in the freezer.”
Kid 1: (takes closer look) “Yeah, that’s Buster all right. Pass the cereal, please.”

So now the fish are stacking up in the freezer and David has already made 3 trips to the pet store for refunds, so I imagine that he’s just waiting for the whole herd to go belly up before making the last Refund Run.

But I’m tired of seeing these little colorful fish popsicles in my freezer, just cast about willy nilly.

If he does not return them soon — I will thaw them, make ceviche, and serve it to him.

— Darcy Perdu

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(Any funny fish stories? Tell us your tales about pets, martyr moms, or well-meaning spouses whose impulsive actions drive you batty! I love to read your comments!)

Illustrations by Aaron Wardell (

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25 replies on “Dad Buys Kids a Gift; Mom’s Accused of Muuuuurder!

  1. AinOakPark said:

    I have a story about a baby pet rat and a toilet and CPR, if you want to hear it.

    I know it’s not fish, but it DOES involve a toilet, so I am going with that connection….

      • AinOakPark said:

        So, back in the day, the kids wanted a pet, a dog to be specific, and I say that no, no dogs because a) I am the one who will have to take care of it since PLAYING WITH IT doesn’t count, and b) if I wanted that much more responsibility, I’d have another child because you can (mostly) take children where ever you go and because they’d be on the health insurance plan. My husband was NOT a fan of getting pet rats, but I convinced him by telling him that pet rats are great because they are smarter and friendlier than hamsters, they have personalities (being smart), they are easy to feed and care for and you can leave them with an extra water bottle and food and go away, but in four days they will still be happy to see you.

        Anyway, we get a new baby (tiny, not even a handful) rat and we know that the more they are handled when they are little, the better for everyone, including the animal. So, my youngest is home, probably with her older sister who paid no attention to her, but would remember to bring her out of the house if a fire should occur, and she has the rat cupped in one hand as she does whatever a budding cosmetologist does in the bathroom. She drops a tissue in the toilet and flushes. This TOTALLY FREAKS THE POOR BABY RAT OUT and it LEAPS out of her hand INTO THE TOILET. My youngest said that she looked down and there it was, swirling around and she says, “OH S**T!” and reaches in and “saves” the little thing.

        So, there she is, toilet watered rat in hand. What does she do? Decides to WASH IT – so she soaps it up and rinses it off and dries it with a towel. Except it is kind of breathing funny. So she decides to just put it back in the cage and let it “rest” for a while.

        Meanwhile, back at the ranch, I come home, and take the poor critter out, thinking it needs to get used to me, too. I don’t remember where the kids are at this point – probably out with Dad because I know I am home alone – but I notice that the poor thing is kind of hunched over and breathing all wonky and the thing is not looking so good, and then it just kind of falls over in my hand. So I am a complete nut job and I flip the thing over and I put my mouth over the little thing’s nose/mouth and blow ever so gently a light puff (because I don’t want to explode the little lungs) and I take my index finger and give it little heart compressions and I am saying things like, “Come on, Sweetie, come on…” and after a few puffs and more CPR, the little thing gets all frisky and I sigh with relief and put her back in the cage.

        Later I tell the kids what happened and ask if they have any insight and the youngest explains the whole bathroom incident. The rat was one of the best rats we ever had as a pet.

        And I got a good story out of it.

        I also have a story about the freezer and a different rat, but that’s not such a happy-ending story, so I will just keep that one to myself.

        • That is hilarious! And you deserve a MEDAL for giving MOUTH-TO-MOUTH to a RAT!!!!! Best Mom Ever!

          • AinOakPark said:

            And,just FYI, I think that ceviche is the way to go. It will teach a life lesson. No one is too old to learn a life lesson. I mean the life lesson that “Payback is a b****”. You deserve a reward for sucking it up and making the best of it. Certainly, you can FEED the fish (but only continue if he doesn’t complain or accuse), but you should NOT have to clean it. Let him step up to the plate on that one. (Yes! – Use that sports analogy! – guys “get” them!) Really, you should NOT be doing anything but feeding them, if that, since you didn’t have any input about the whole thing in the beginning. Keep us posted on how that all goes. And from what I remember when my brother was a boy, back in the Stone Age, neon tetras, en masse, are lovely to watch and pretty darn sturdy.

  2. mimi gin said:

    Unfortunately I’m the fish killer in my house. My husband has forbidden me from EVER having another anything in a tank. :(

  3. Judy said:

    You can’t just set up a fish tank and plop fish into it or else they will all die. The tank needs a set up period with one or two certain types of fish in it. They eat and poop and create some sort of biologically happy gravel and filtration system. Once that happens you can start introducing fish to it. Don’t over clean the tank or else you’ve cleaned out all that biologically happy stuff. Don’t get crazy with the chemicals either or that will throw it out of whack. There is something call a bio bag you can buy to help your tank get back to the biologically happy state. Also, if you know someone with an established tank, hijack some of their gravel. I wouldn’t really call myself a fish person, just someone who has lived through all the above before who happens to have 2 tanks of fish that hubby maintains.

  4. Romy said:

    When I was nine, my Mom got my twin sister and me goldfish for our birthday. They lived in a round, unfiltered, no tech bowl with blue rocks on the bottom. Trying to be nice, we let our little sister, who was three, name one of them and declared it hers.

    Well, goldfish do not have a long lifespan as you know. The first fish that died got a respectful flush down the toilet. We weren’t sad – it was a fish. We ate fish for dinner. We couldn’t pet it or cuddle it. It was a fish.

    My little sister did not feel the same way. She LOVED that fish. So, on the fateful day that the fish, who I believed was “Goldie,” floated to the top, Katy was hysterical. She had super curly hair, and huge cheeks covered in freckles. I can still see the elephant tears flying off her face. So, needless to say, Goldie could not get a simple flush. We had to have a funeral. My mother got a matchbox and put Goldie in it. We had a funeral procession to the side yard and buried Goldie, while Katy cried hysterically. Erin (my twin) and I also cried because we were laughing so hard at the eulogy my Mom was giving this fish. We may have even said an Our Father, I’m not sure. I do remember getting an elbow from my Mom, who was also trying not to laugh, during the ceremony. We must have been quite a sight standing there eulogizing a fish while four lane traffic passed our house. We haven’t had a fish since.

    • Lori said:

      Actually, goldfish are very long lived. Some species can live more than 40 years. The reason people think they aren’t long lived it’s because they keep them in those torture chambers called bowls.

  5. We adopted a cannibal Fantail (goldfish) and his lover a few years back. (We didn’t really know whether it was a he or a she, nor if his lover was a he or a she, because we knew nothing about goldfish. Actually we didn’t even know if they were lovers either, but apparently Whiskey was the only other fish in that tank that didn’t end up being eaten by Bob) They officially belonged to my daughter who named the cannibal Bob and his lover Whiskey. Bob was mutant. I kid you not. He was at least three times bigger than Whiskey. He ate anything that was dropped into the bowl. His previous owner had fed him shrimps.

    They lived in a round bowl and they seemed to do alright. They only got standard fish food, because I strongly doubted that shrimp, bread crumbs, etc was healthy food for gold fish. Bob was probably not happy with my strict regime, because he would try to eat me whenever I put my finger in the water. He wouldn’t munch on anyone else’s finger, only mine. And this mutant troll fish was able to get the entire tip of my index finger in his mouth, he was that big.

    I agreed to get the gold fish, because as one of the commenters above mentioned, gold fish don’t live long. Whiskey died after a year. I thought, surely, Bob will go to the fishy hereafter soon, as well. I was wrong.

    He simply refused to die. He even survived a puppy attack without dying from a heart attack. We were watching my niece’s boxer pup and I woke up one morning to a TV room completely covered in fish food confetti and a fish bowl about half full of water. Bob was trying to hide behind a plant, otherwise he seemed quite okay. He immediately tried to eat my finger when I checked on him. The pup, on the other hand, was a bit under the weather for the rest of the day. With a fish breath of DEATH! *shudders*

    3 years afterwards, Bob was still swimming happily around. We gave him away to a friend of my daughter’s who had a huge tank. When we checked a year after that, Bob was still very much alive and not only that, he lived happily with all sorts of other fish. His cannibal days were over.

    I bet Mutant-Bob is still alive. Still growing. Just waiting to get big enough to eat us all ;-)
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  6. I’ve never had much luck with fish.

    I had a tank, I added water, I CHECKED the water.

    I went out and purchased about $200 worth of stuff just for the water.

    I waited, telling visitors that I am “conditioning my tank, so it will be less stressful for the fish once they are introduced to their new environment” and almost, ALMOST, managed to utter the sentence without sounding like I was David Attenborough and that I was indeed intrinsic to the survival of fish.

    My fish were going to be lucky.

    They’d be grateful.

    They would worship me as a GOD.

    I went and bought fish.

    They all died.

    I went and bought more fish.

    THEY all died.

    I emptied the tank, placed a large amount of peat moss in the bottom of it and filled it with carnivorous plants.

    They thrived.

    And are friendlier than fish anyway.

      • Indeed!

        I recommend the carnivorous variety – they do really well in a terrarium (what the tank becomes) and surprisingly don’t need to eat creeping things to thrive.

        And they are just a little bit awesome.

  7. My husband had fish. Quite a few died when we moved which made him very sad. We work very close to home. A few weeks after our move my daughter phoned my husband to come home quickly something was wrong with the fish. The thermostat broke and the fish were overheating. My daughter told me that it was very sad and funny at the same time as my husband was trying CPR on the fish.
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  8. Steve J said:

    Oh my God! I am crying, laughing, crying, laughing. The story and all the replies. I must have missed the ending. Did you just grow accustomed to the fish and tank, did you kill them all, did you kill your husband? What? What? What?

    • The Death March to the Freezer continued until every last one of those poor little fishies bit the dust. And I PROMISE you, I did NOT kill them. As the other commenters can attest, aquarium fish are delicate creatures! My next pet will be a rhino.

      • Judy said:

        Certainly a rhino must be less work than a fish tank! I suggest a very large pooper scooper.

  9. Caitlin said:

    My ex-husband gave me two leopard geckos for my birthday one year, and I named them Mulder and Scully. Two days after I got them, Mulder was found dead in their tank under mysterious circumstances. We called the pet store, and were given a very similar response to yours: produce the corpse, and we will replace the lizard. However, that day, we had a snowstorm, and so Mulder was relegated to a baggie in the freezer for a week. We finally took him back to the pet store, and I traded his little freeze-dried body for another gecko, who I named Fergal. Who lasted a week before he was found HANGING with his head wedged between the lid of the tank and the lip of the aquarium. We decided that Scully was a Black Widow after that, and returned poor dead Fergal for a refund and let Scully live a solitary life until the day she got out and one of our cats ate her.

    • Ha! I love this story! Scully is TOTALLY guilty of homicide — and punishment by “cat swallowing” is completely appropriate!

      • Caitlin said:

        I felt a little bad because Scully was loose in our house for two days before one of the cats presented us with her mangled corpse. I’m not sure if that means our house was unspeakably messy or she was a really good hider.

  10. I don’t have any fish stories, but seriously? They ask for the dead fish as proof?
    Well, at least he’s getting his money back.
    I once had a bird, Milo. And it died in like a week. I was devastated and I cried and I refused to get another pet. Because they might die and I’d be sad all over again.
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    • Ellen, I completely agree! Those fish were the proverbial albatross around my neck! :o) Glad you broke free!