*** WAIT! Don't read me yet! First go check up the writeup under Oscar by AT, it's short, and you'll understand just a bit about why he was such a cool fish.

His name was Oscar. He was purchased at the Petco up in Cambridge, Mass for a mere $3.99. That's how much his life was worth.

I had been frequenting the Petco often enough in the early days of having a fish tank. Initially it was to buy more fish. Your first tank always fails. It's a messy adventure that usually ends in a flush or two, and away the fishy goes on a porcelain adventure. But as I got better at learning how to stabilize a tank: the right amount of fish, keeping the water clean, balancing the pH, I slowly started visiting the Petco only for supplies. I'd wander around the store, checking out the new fish, and chat it up with the guys who worked there. They had gotten to know me, asked how my tank was doing, did I like the new filter, etc, ya know... fish talk. And when I did have a tragedy or two, I would come in asking them questions about replacements.

That's the horrible thing, most fish are completely replaceable. Granted if you dump a couple hundred on a rare tropical fish, that's another story. But as a general rule, fish are still more like possessions than living things. When one dies, you go get another one, that's why they are good starter pets for kids. Actually, no, that's fucked up now that I think about it, but anyway...

So yeah, I'd stop in Petco once in a while looking for a new fish. They were pretty protective of their fish; they didn't want you to take something home that would die in your tank. Eventually I learned that instead of saying, "Hey can I get the pretty blue fishy in tank 39?", I'd find one of the fish dudes and be a bit more clever, "Would this fish be cool with the others I have in my tank?" They were happy to help me out and gave good suggestions. After a particularly nasty bout of fungus growing in my tank, I walked into the store one day all bummed out. Yeah, seven fish dead, two hanging on for dear life, and nine smug little bastards left. He laughed. I have just the fish for you he said, and walked me over to the cooler tanks hidden in back. Just came in this morning, you'll love this fish, it's small now but will grow quick, and cheap too. I was sold. The guy was distracted by another customer for a while, so eventually when he snagged my fish and handed me the plastic bag, I was on my way home before I even looked at what he gave me.

I held up the bag and this tiny little fish literally stared back at me. He was an ugly little motherfucker, not even an inch long, but more importantly, not the fish I had picked out. Shit. The T would take me a while to get him back to the store, and he only had so much air in that little bag... I was closer to home and figured I'd return him some other time. So home the fish came with me. I came in, dumped him in the tank, and didn't give it a second look.

The next morning, I was up for work and feeding the fish when I noticed the new one in there. He was hiding in the back, completely by himself, the rest of the fish gathered in the other end of the tank. I thought nothing of it, fed them, watched all of them come up for food, and shrugged it off. If they can eat together everything is fine. This happened for about a week. The new fish was eating, seemed happy, the rest of the fish didn't care about him too much, everything was hunky dory. So when I was ready to take him back that next weekend I kinda felt bad. But damn it, I wanted the other fish, so he was going back. Boy was I wrong. I tried for a half hour to 'fish' the fucker out, har har. But he wasn't having any of it. He was small and fast and intent on staying. So with a fuck you, too, I wandered out figuring I would get him later, the little bastard, and went on my way.

The next weekend a similar thing happened. I tired to fish him out again with no success, but this time I had to wander back to the Petco with or without him because I was running out of fish food. I walked into the store, same guy was there, and he asks me how my new fish is. I walked him over to the tank and asked him to point out the fish he gave me. I then pointed to the other kind of fish in the tank, and said "No this is the kind you gave me. I was going to return him but I can't get the bastard out of my tank."

And again he laughed, the sadistic fuckhead. "Oh I gave you an Oscar!" A what? He then told me about Oscars, what kind of fish they were like, aggressive and mean, and he was concerned for my tank. I said no, everything is cool in there, fish are all healthy and happy, no problems really. He was still really small, posed no kind of a threat, and the other fish were cool with him, may as well just keep him. The guy then told me I should get special food for him, these little pellets instead of flakes, which came in three sizes, small, medium and large. If I ever wanted to treat him I could buy frozen brine shrimp. Cool, a fish that had treats! I picked up the original fish I had wanted (yeah I looked in the bag this time), grabbed some flake fish food, a bag of the small food for Oscars, a couple of the packs of frozen treats, and off I went.

I came home and checked out the fish again. Oscar, huh? Well if you have a name that means you have to stay. I dumped the two kinds of food in the tank, watched him eat both kinds, success. I watched the tank a while that day and noticed even though Oscar was still small, he was bigger than the ones at the pet store. Slightly peculiar, but my tank was a healthier environment compared to the tanks in the store which were overcrowded, so I shrugged that off.

By about week three, Oscar started noticeably growing. I was putting more of the pellets in the tank because he was eating too much of the flake food for the others. I dumped one of the frozen cube things in the tank for him, which he attacked before it even completely melted in the water. Hungry little fella. Over the next couple days I was following every meal with one of the brine treats. It was cool to just watch him attack them; the other fish didn't dare go near any of it. He was even jumping out of the water when I had the tank cover off. Eventually I could hold up a pellet, and with the possibility of a small fish nip, he would grab it off my finger from a couple inches above the water level. He was a rad little fish.

Eventually the treats were gone and I wasn't in any hurry to replace them. When the next meal came without any treat, I could tell he was pissed, swimming all around the tank and stirring up all the other fish. Tough shit, I thought. Well no, because Oscar had other plans. Within a few days he had decided all the food in the tank was his, and the other fish were getting hungry and lethargic. Back to the Petco, I was advised by the guy to go to the medium sized food, and I should lay off the brine treats. Of course I bought more anyway, dumb move, but it was entertaining.

When I came to the end of the second purchase of treats, Oscar had gotten big. He was about 3" at this point and as large as the biggest fish in the tank. The other new fish had barely grown at all. The last meal of treats was again traumatic for everyone. Oscar was pissed, I felt bad, and the rest of my fish were being terrorized. But again, tough shit, right? No this time I had to pay. I woke up the next morning and was missing a fish. I figured it had died in the night. It was caught in the filter or something, but when I cleaned out the filter no fish were inside.

A couple days later, another fish was missing. I was boggled. By the end of the week, a total of four were 'missing'. And I had run out of food. Back to the Petco, told the dude what was going on. Laughter again at my expense. He tells me Oscars can eat live fish. I came to the store that day to get more food and more fish for the tank. I left with only more fish for the tank, because they were the food. I had purchased small live goldfish, five of them, and they were Oscar's dinner. Completely rad. I dumped them in the tank and one was gobbled up soon after.

Needless to say, the rest is easy enough to figure out. My fish had developed a taste for the good life. He wasn't happy with the pellets, completely stopped eating them, and instead feasted on the other inhabitants of my tank. Eventually only Oscar was left. By this point he was about 5" long and a beast of a presence in my tank. One day a friend of mine accompanied me to Petco for my fish purchase and came home with me when I dumped about twenty tiny little goldfish into the tank. Oscar gobbled up three immediately and he would feed on the rest for a little over a week. It was like watching Shark Week on The Discovery Channel. I started having showings when I would feed him.

Oscar graduated to the medium sized feeder goldfish, and then the large, and had reached about 9" long. If you remember from before, the tank was only 12" wide, so poor Oscar was having a bit of trouble turning around. Back at the Petco buying more goldfish, I again talked to the dude who worked there, and he told me I needed a bigger tank. Except that wasn't an option whatsoever. I already had a huge tank in my small Boston apartment, anything bigger would need a full time caretaker, and I wasn't about to drop a grand on a tank and the industrial sized filter it would need. The guy told me that Oscar should hopefully stop growing, most fish would adapt to their tank. But Oscar was a beast, literally a caged animal, and he continued to grow. The only other possibility I had left was to bring him back to the store and hope someone with a huge tank would adopt him. The chances of that were slim since this was a city pet store, maybe somewhere in suburbia where people had ginormous tanks, someone would take him, but at the Cambridge Petco no one would want Oscar. He was just too big. I had no car to shuffle him out of the city. So I purchased more fish for him, only a handful this time, hoping he would understand that they needed to last him a week, he was on a diet damn it. The fish were gone in a day.

Eventually Oscar was over a foot long and absolutely could not turn around, he always had to face right, poor fish. This became a problem for chasing after his food. That, and he was not as fast as he was before, he couldn't get up any speed. I had to start feeding him the pellets again, any that floated behind him the goldfish ate. I felt completely horrible. Poor Oscar was screwed, there was nothing I could do. The goldfish were growing and poking at him to get his food, he was defenseless and slowly starving.

About six months into Oscar's life, I woke with the intention of cleaning the tank for him. It was the least I could do for the poor fish. The tank was in front of my window in the apartment. It was fall, the windows were open, and no screens on them. I was five floors up. The cover was off but I wasn't cleaning the tank, I was just sitting there looking at him. I stared talking to him, "Oscar, I can't flush you, you'll have sewage back flowing into every apartment in the Fenway. Never mind I couldn't even get you out of the tank, you may eat one of my fingers off or something. It's my fault, too. I teased you with the good life, catered to your whims, I never told you you'd get fucked in the end. You're going to end up rotting in here and the goldfish are going to eat you."

A few minutes later Oscar started wiggling around as much as possible. I just kind of watched him have this fit, and before I had even realized what happened, he had jumped out of the tank and out the window. I mentioned before, he could jump, and he never did anything dumb like fall out, but this time he completely maneuvered himself into a flat out spin that carried him down five flights to the alley way, anything but a watery grave.

I was dumbfounded. I couldn't even see him down there when I poked my head out the window. That stupid, stupid fish, what the hell did he just do! Then it hit me. Oscar was always wise, he probably knew exactly what I just finished telling him. He wanted to go out valiantly. Suicide was more noble than being eaten alive by goldfish.

I went downstairs to the alley hoping at the very least to see if he was dead, and then get him out of the alley. What would people think if they saw a foot long fish lying in an alley behind Fenway Park, pretty damn far from any body of water. When I got down there he was gone. I like to think he either flopped himself to a more private place to spend his last remaining minutes gasping for air. Either that, or he landed on someone's fire escape, and the next person out there to smoke a butt would be staring at a dead fish. Yeah, Oscar definitely wanted to go out with a bang.

After a short period of mourning, I was back at Petco for more fish. I explained to the guy what happened, this time he didn't laugh. He probably thought I was full of shit.

How's your fish?
Oh he jumped out the window.
Yeah, really.