I was in Moscow in the late 1990s. My mom had some contract work there, and she took my dad and I with her so that we could do some site-seeing. One afternoon, while wandering aimlessly around the city, I noticed a man leaning on the wall of a building a block ahead of us. He was middle aged, wearing a light gray suit and white tennis shoes. As I noticed this, I jokingly said to my dad “Hey, look, it’s the Russian Forrest Gump!” We shared a laugh, and kept walking, towards this man. As we got closer, I noticed that he was looking intently at me. His gaze never wavered as we approached, and I began to feel uncomfortable. As we drew next to him, he said loudly and clearly “Fish” and made two kisses in the air. It wasn’t like he was blowing kisses at me … he simply puckered and then smacked his lips. Dad and I stared blankly at this guy as we walked past, and somehow managed to suppress our laughter until we got to the next block. We both burst out with laughter. As our giggles subsided, the man went running past us at a brisk pace, turned a corner, and was gone.

To this day dad and I still crack up laughing about this. We have no idea what he was doing, or what, if anything, he may have been trying to communicate.

Completely unrelated to that story, I had pet fish when I was in college. The fish I had were simple goldfish – the kind with the big bulgy eyes. I started with a single fish, and had it for several months. On a lark, I named it Prometheus, and enjoyed the irony of having an aquatic animal named after the guy who stole fire from the gods. I later added a second, and then a third, fish to my collection. The second fish I named Phlogiston, keeping with the water/fire irony. I can’t now remember the name of the third fish, but I know I kept not only with the fire motif, but also with “P” as the first letter of the word. I think I named it Pyre, but I’m just not sure now.

My cat Echo scared all three fish to death.

When I moved to Lima after college to work for Arbor Health Care, I placed the fish on a wide, low bookcase just under the front window of my apartment. I got my cats Xanth and Echo a couple weeks after I had moved to Lima, when they were both just kittens. For about two weeks in a row, the same sequence of events would occur every morning. I would wake up, feed the kittens, and then walk to the fish tank to feed the fish. As I approached the tank, Echo would race across the room, jump onto the couch, then onto the top of the fish tank, and finally onto the window sill so that she could look down upon the fish. This routine always made me smile in the morning.

One morning, after this routine had been firmly established, Echo took her time eating breakfast. By the time she raced across the room to the couch, I had already lifted the lid of the fish tank. Echo leaped onto the couch, and then sprang into the air toward the tank, where she promptly fell in in a huge splash. She floundered and made a mess. She was scared and confused, as were all three fish! I finally managed to pull her out of the water, and wrapped her in a towel. When I came home from work that afternoon, I found one of the fish floating at the surface. Alas, I don’t remember which fish expired first.

Surprisingly, Echo did not learn her lesson, and she continued to leap from the couch onto the fish tank. I think you can see where this is going. Twice more she fell into the tank. Twice more a fish died. When the third fish finally expired, I dismantled the fish tank. Surprisingly, Echo stopped racing across the couch toward that window once the tank was removed.

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