Safer to Give Them Too Little Than Too Much

By Andrea Lewis

I never told Ted that his tropical fish gave me a recurring nightmare. In the dream, I wake up at four in the morning and see that the aquarium glass has broken and the water is spreading across the living room rug and the poor bettas and zebra danios are flopping in their death throes by the aqueous light of the tank’s 40-watt bulb. I scoop up an innocent-looking lemon tetra, hoping to return it to some vessel of water and thereby save its pointless piscine life, but the little fucker grows huge in my grasp, its scales like razor blades, its gills pulsing frantically against my palms. As it wriggles in my hand like one big muscle, it turns its pointy head and sinks rows of piranha teeth into the base of my thumb.

Well. I know a metaphor for marriage when I see one.

Ted’s attorney made a point of saying that Ted would get the aquarium, as if in my covetousness I would take that too. My attorney made a point of saying that Ted had to claim his possessions by a certain date, yet he never showed.

I’ve been feeding them but this morning one of those tetras was floating sideways on the surface, its black-and-silver cufflink eye staring at me accusingly even in death. It was the one I had named Lucius for my high school sweetheart; and it felt as if Lucius himself had died, even though I just saw him at our ten-year reunion. He was with his wife Marianna, who was plump and beautiful and who wore an inappropriate fancy gown to the Saturday night dinner at the Airport Marriott. The dress had a long, midnight-blue train that rippled and shimmered like the tail of a neon blue-tux guppy.

Andrea Lewis’s stories, essays, and flash fiction have appeared in many on-line and print journals including Prairie Schooner, Raleigh Review, and Briar Cliff Review. Her collection of linked stories, What My Last Man Did, won the Blue Light Books Prize for fiction and was published by Indiana University Press. She lives in Seattle, WA.

Art by Lesley C. Weston (Watercolor and pen)

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