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Nathan Kitzmann column: Family pet Oscar II's death is a bittersweet passing

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Last Monday, I came home from town quite tired, but still mildly cheerful, for I did not yet know that one of my last surviving aquarium fish, an Oscar named "Oscar" (don't ask where I found the name) had left this earth.

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I ate supper, watched an episode of "The Waltons," changed and otherwise went about my nightly routine without even checking to see if he was alive. The last duty I usually perform before turning in is The Feeding of the Fish, and I was just about to do this, when I realized that Oscar might not be at the peak of health.

Oscar actually hadn't been very healthy for some time. More than once we'd had to bring him back from the brink of death with some "medicine" that we purchased at the pet store. We felt at times that the medicine was all that was keeping him alive.

I was somewhat concerned about Oscar's apparent lack of scales. This was certainly not normal, but I managed to comfort myself with the reasoning that he was just shedding his, like I had read of snakes doing.

True, none of my aquarium management books mentioned this being a normal occurrence, but then again, Oscar was not a normal fish. Despite the fact that this poor specimen had not been very active for quite a while, on this particular occasion he seemed particularly ill.

He was very pale and completely motionless, which I knew was not a good sign. But I told myself that Oscar was just having a particularly deep sleep that day. Despite my conviction, or rather delusional hope, that nothing was wrong with my fish, I summoned my father to the family aquarium.

Like a skilled doctor, he quietly observed the specimen for a short time. He approached his patient from several angles, and gently tapped the side of the aquarium, which only made Oscar, who was propped up against the glass, tip over.

Finally, after about the longest two minutes that I have ever experienced, my father presented me with the frank, but nonetheless self-explanatory prognosis: "Get the garbage can."

Needless to say, I was rather shocked and saddened by my father's morbid verdict, but what surprised me even more was my father's suggestion for the disposal of the carcass. After all, the last time an Oscar (Oscar I) had died in this house, my father had performed an actual funeral for the lost fish, which mainly consisted of my father grabbing the body, which was wrapped up Egyptian style, and twirling it around in rapid revolutions.

After my dad felt that the fish had gained enough momentum to travel a great distance, he sent it off with a long, slow motion sounding, "Be free, Oscar, be free." Unfortunately, the deceased fish never made it to its intended destination, and instead got caught in the high branches of a nearby tree, where he sat for six months, watching over the Kitzmann family, making sure baby Nathan was safe.

We felt very secure during those six months, with a fish as great as Oscar the First protecting us from above, and we were very disgruntled to find one morning that a bald eagle had stolen our beloved pet.

As far as Oscar II goes, one can probably assume he is buried in a landfill right now, getting more buried by the minute. Although this may seem like an injustice to him, Oscar II had one prevailing problem throughout his life that may have accounted for the seemingly disrespectful way in which his carcass was disposed: he ate every new fish that was added to the aquarium.

For this reason, I must confess that Oscar's death was a bittersweet occurrence. The possibilities for fish varieties that I can incorporate into my aquarium are virtually endless now that carnivorous Oscar is gone. Yes, we will all miss him (at least for a week or so), but it'll be a welcome change of pace, and I look forward to having a great variety swimming about my aquarium again.

So long Oscar.

Nathan Kitzmann is a freshman and is homeschooled.

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