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Every summer my husband sets up an outdoor water lily garden in an old slate laundry tub. He buys feeder fish to eat the inevitable mosquito larvae. Over the summer, the feeder fish grow larger and turn golden orange, which is how we got our current monster.

To decommission the tank takes almost a week. (I should note here that my husband is fifteen years older than I am, does things very methodically, meticulously, and slowly. He stops to smoke his pipe every twenty minutes, which probably adds hours to everything he does, especially when he makes his breakfast, since no smoking is allowed in the house except the basement.)

So first he must clean and prepare the indoor tank, which involves siphoning water, scrubbing and scraping the glass walls, cleaning the filters which are C-clamped at the front (I know, not very attractive, but keeps cats from doing mischief), vacuuming the gravel, washing the rocks that the fish likes, and making sure all the tubing and air stone bubbler are working. He has a special method for preparing the new water, but the description of his process would drive you nuts, if I haven't already.

Then before he brings the fish inside for the winter, he has to take out the water lily and perform "the water lily goes dormant ritual", which takes a full day, no joke. Yesterday, he cleared the place in his smoking room basement for the water lily only to find that the heavy duty plastic garbage bags he saves from year to year for the requisite storage had leaked onto some fiberglass boards. At least, this is what he told me and I believed him. I stay out of that zone for sanity and health reasons.

It was what he told me next that made me realize one reason I love him, despite all our differences and my grumblings. He said there was a small black newt living in the fiberglass and he tried to save him, but the newt kept slipping through his fingers. He was concerned that the fiberglass was bad for the newt. His eyes got teary and his voice choked up when he said after two hours, he lost track of the little newt.

Today was THE day for bringing the fish inside. Now for the main reason I love my husband, after 25 years he can still make me laugh until I cry, and here is how he did it today. He brought the fish inside, in a clear plastic bag that was obviously way too small for the fish, and his concern was that the fish was getting bits of leaves in its mouth, and would choke to death and die.

Knowing his usual method of floating the bag until the temperature was somewhat equal, I said, "Think triage. Either put him in a larger bag without leaf bits or just let him out of the bag and let him deal with the temperature difference. He's been doing that outside anyway." For once he listened to my advice and just let the fish monster out and he was fine, but my husband said forlornly, "but that was the bag I brought him home in."

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