Editor’s note: This is another column in Bill Boyd’s new series, “The Way It Was,” about growing up in Marysville. Bill continues to work with the Union County Historical Society to obtain information for his stories. With Marysville and Union County celebrating Bicentennial anniversaries in 2019 and 2020, respectively, these articles help depict what life was like in those early years.
When I was about 12 years old, I got an aquarium. It wasn’t very big, maybe five gallons.
I got it in a trade with a boy named Lloyd Gordon. He was getting a bigger aquarium for his fish, so we made the trade. I can’t remember what I traded, but as part of the deal, Lloyd gave me a guppy, plus a miniature house to put in the tank so the guppy would have a place to hide.
I put the aquarium on the desk in my bedroom, and I enjoyed watching the guppy swim in and out of the tiny house. I became more and more attached to that little fish, and I named it “Nicki” after a little dog I had a few years earlier.
I would watch Nicki swim around the small tank when I went to bed every night. It was a nice place for a guppy.
But sometimes Nicki looked a little lonely, so I decided to get another fish to keep it company. I could probably get another guppy from Lloyd, but I decided to get a different kind of fish.
So the next time my parents and I were in Columbus shopping, I had them take me to an aquarium on North High Street. They had all sorts of tropical fish. After looking at them all, I settled on something called a “hatchet fish.” It wasn’t very large, maybe an inch or so in length, and it was shiny silver in color. I think it was also the skinniest fish I ever saw. If you looked at it as it was swimming directly toward you, you could hardly see it. That’s how skinny it was.
Those two fish swam together in that small aquarium. I think they became good friends, and Nicki didn’t seem so lonely anymore. Then, one day, as I looked into the tank, I couldn’t find Nicki. I thought perhaps it was hiding in the little house. But it wasn’t there. Nicki had completely disappeared.
A few days later when I was at the library, I looked in a book about tropical fish, and I found out more about hatchet fish.
I found that they are carnivores. They didn’t eat the fish flakes I put in the tank. They ate other fish. That’s when it became clear to me that my hatchet fish had eaten Nicki!
I didn’t take kindly to that. In fact, I think I was a bit angry at my hatchet fish. That was silly, of course. The hatchet fish was just doing what a lot of fish do. They eat other fish.
A few weeks later, I left town for a couple weeks to go to Boy Scout camp. I had a great time there, and when I returned to Marysville, I got another surprise. My hatchet fish was gone. I even looked inside the little house, but there was no trace of it.
I thought perhaps it could have died, and my mother got rid of it. But she said she didn’t even know it was gone. I mean, that fish had totally disappeared.
I talked to Lloyd about it and he told me that hatchet fish are also called “flying fish” because they can leap quite a distance out of the water. He said my fish might have flipped out of the tank, and could be lying somewhere on my desktop or on the floor. I looked all over for it, even underneath the desk, but I couldn’t find a trace of it.
Then a few days later, my mother found it while she was straightening up my room. When the fish flew out of the aquarium, it landed inside a mug on my desk where I kept pencils and pens. She said it didn’t look much like a fish anymore. It looked more like a small, crisp potato chip.
I suppose I felt sorry for it, but I certainly didn’t grieve very long. After all, it was the fish that ate Nicki. And you know how attached I was to Nicki.
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