Jerry Zezima: Funeral for a fish

Jerry Zezima, Tribune News Service on

Published in Lifestyles

Camilla Zezima sleeps with the fishes. Those eternal nappers include the first two Camillas and the countless other fish that have been part of our family, if only briefly, over the years.

Camilla III, as she (or he) was dubbed, lasted 12 months and was predeceased by the original Camilla, a female who went belly-up after only 48 hours, and her successor, Camilla II, a male who lived to the ripe old age of 2.

The last two Camillas were gender-fluid because my granddaughters, who talked me into getting the first Camilla, thought they were not only female, but the same fish.

Even I was confused.

After the latest Camilla recently joined his scaly relatives in Davy Jones’ locker, I found out that my granddaughters’ pet fish, a blue betta named Igor, had kicked the water bucket for the sixth or seventh time. My daughter, the girls’ mother, had lost count.

The kiddies apparently didn’t notice the fish’s lifeless body floating in his bowl and were none the wiser after their daddy stopped at the pet store after work, got another Igor and surreptitiously made the switch.


But I couldn’t take that chance after finding Camilla III stone cold dead on the pink pebbles at the bottom of his bowl because my granddaughters were coming over and I didn’t want them to suffer the trauma they had escaped with their own fish.

So I went to the pet store and found a dead (or, rather, live) ringer for the first three Camillas.

“My pink betta fish died this morning and I need an exact duplicate before my granddaughters arrive,” I told Meaghan, the fish department manager.

“People come in all the time with the same problem,” she said. “They’ll say, ‘I need a red fish right away!’ I’ll take them over here, they’ll get one and rush home. One woman had to replace a blue lobster, which is a crayfish, every other week because they kept dying. She had a 2-year-old who would have been upset. She finally got it right.”


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