The Messages: Doom Of The Betta Fish

Posted August 4th, 2013 by June O'Hara and filed in The Messages



it’s hot as hell and the air conditioner in my bedroom is broken

the fan is just blowing hot air around

it’s impossible to sleep

i’ve been wondering how Bill’s doing

last we spoke, he was still upset about that accident

send him my best, and tell him that crossing guards make mistakes like everyone else

anyway. . .

it’s weird

lying here, i keep thinking of this fish i had in high school

Bachelor, his name was. he was a betta — you know, the red and blue kind whose fins flare out when they feel threatened?

i was dating this boy at the time.

he was crazy for fish. even worked in a fish store

looking back, getting Bachelor was probably his idea

i’d have done anything for this boy


here i was with this fish

“bettas are very sensitive to temperature,” my boyfriend told me. “Bachelor’s water has to stay between 76 and 82 degrees at all times. whatever you do, don’t go outside of that range. it could be fatal.”

fatal? Jesus. i’d bought the fish for $4.99

my commitment issues reared up, but i couldn’t turn back

it was mid-July. scorching hot. my only relief was a fan

nights, i tossed and turned, just like i am now

if i turned on the fan, Bachelor’s water could fall below 76 degrees

but late one night, marinating in my own sweat, i got up and looked into Bachelor’s bowl

there he was, fins gliding through the water with comfort and ease

i was jealous of the fucker

he was rested, composed, serene i, on the other hand, was peaked, short-tempered, and hallucinating from sleep deprivation

i hated to pull rank, but food chain-wise, i had the advantage. there were too many species between us

just. too. many.

finally, I turned the fan on.

and you know what? Bachelor’s water may have dipped to 75.9 degrees, but he fared just fine. for months

until my aerosol hairspray finally caught up with him

it was the ’80’s, big hair and such

the atmosphere in my bedroom, i realized too late, was toxic. my hair held firm, but Bachelor grew weak

perhaps he’d have survived Paul Mitchell or Sebastian products, but i couldn’t afford them

regardless, i decided i’m not cut out for a pet fish

i do better with cats. they seem less vulnerable to airborne poisons


i should let you go

thanks for your ear

again, please send Bill my best

hope your rash is better

talk soon,


The Heat Wave: Epiphanies and Confessions | The Password

20 Responses to “The Messages: Doom Of The Betta Fish”

  1. Indigo Roth says:

    Ah, Big Hair. How I miss it. I just can’t take Melanie Griffith seriously without it. You know, that Bonfire Of The Vanities cut? Heh. Oh, and yes, poor fish. Indigo x

    • June O'Hara says:

      Melanie Griffith, Indigo? If I’d have thought of it, I’d have inserted her into the post. One way or another.

      Yeah. Poor Bachelor.

  2. Agent 54 says:

    I too am a fan of big hair. Sacrifices must be made. Bachelor lives on in our memories. Nice pic too.

  3. Cheryl P. says:

    Accident????? What accident??? My neighbor is an air traffic controller and I have never seen him sober. Hope Bill doesn’t work with my neighbor.

    As for Bachelor…Everyone (er..everyfish) has to go sometime. I am sure he was glad to throw himself on a gauntlet for the sake of your big hair.

  4. June O'Hara says:

    Throw himself on a gauntlet, Cheryl? I LOVE it!

  5. john says:

    I love the line

    “perhaps he’d have survived Paul Mitchell or Sebastian products, but i couldn’t afford them”

    I love the poetry format, it’s so freeing.

    Plus, that fish had a gilded life! No predators, no searching for food, listening to 80s music on the radio and a ring side seat to your teenage life. That’s like the old E Ticket at Disneyland.

    And maybe the hair spray had a hallucinogenic or narcotic effect on him and he was as blissed out as JFK on his best day.

    Bachelor could be in Fish Heaven looking down and actually missing his earthbound days with you.

    Of course, he also might be soul-less and nothing more than an extra half ounce of fish emulsion being sold in a Home Depot in Sheboygan Wisconsin. Life has a lot of extremes like that.

  6. Lauren says:

    The things we do for love. I think it was a fair tradeoff – big hair for a dead fish.

    I’m laughing at what Cheryl wrote. Though she brings up a good point. I want to know about the accident.

    • June O'Hara says:

      Lauren, big hair vs. dead fish. You make it sound so simple. :)

      Maybe I’ll write about the accident in the next “message.”

  7. I can see you had fun writing this. I had fun reading it. When I was that age, I had guppies. Thousands of them as they kept breeding. Then you had to quickly get the babies out of the bowl or the mother would eat them.

    And for me it was Aqua Net and the 60s. 😉

  8. June O'Hara says:

    Jayne, yes! Aqua Net. That was some serious shit. We should be glad it didn’t poison us, too.

    Mothers eating their young…a Darwinian thing, I guess.


  9. Ben Ellard says:

    Used to deliver tons of Aqua Net from chemical companies to canning companies to packaging companies to distribution companies to dollar stores all over the Bronx. Nearly killed me.

  10. I totally miss 80’s big hair AND Aquanet!

    RIP Bachelor!

  11. Babs says:

    Oh the hair spray I used back in the 70’s!

    I used one called Lanospray and I loved it, because it was so easy to wash out of your hair. The problem was when I got caught in the rain (which happened a lot in the UK) the hair spray would become milk like and I would get rivers of white dripping from my hair and running down my face!

    The things we did, in the name of fashion.

  12. June O'Hara says:

    Babs, oh no! Like milk? That’s just not right.

    In the name of fashion. . .word.

  13. J. Bear Savo says:

    In fourth grade, my class had an aquarium. The week that I was in charge of cleaning the tank and adding water to it, I dumped in a gallon of water that had been reserved for our classroom plants, one that — unbeknownst to me — had Miracle Gro mixed in it.

    The fish survived… But I’ll never forget the dread of my teach when she realized what I had done. It was as if I had potentially poisoned her children.

  14. Phil says:

    Big hair, bad outfits, and glam metal are what killed that fish! Or, just maybe he died of AquaNet poisoning!

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