once upon a time, papa brought home an arowana the size of an adult’s finger. he bought the fish not because he’s a certified pet lover, but because he wanted the arowana’s luck to enter our lives.
the silver arowana’s scales are baptized by the water of the aquarium tank that has long been the abode of goldfishes (whose life spans for a week) and piranha-tilapia look-alike fishes.
everyday papa makes sure to devote at least 5 minutes of conversation with the arowana. he whispers at the tank, he sings to the fish while feeding it with smaller fishes called kataba, he talks to the water creature as if it is the friend that he never had before. there’s nothing wrong with that. sure, the arowana must bring our lives plenty of luck.
as the days pass, the finger-sized arowana soon grows at arm’s length that pushed papa to buy a larger tank the fast growth of papa’s silver best friend soon draws attention from floating air of curiosity among the neighbors. everyday, kids, teens and adults visit our living area to get a glimpse of papa’s silver best friend. like papa, they also like talking and smiling and giggling and whispering at the tank. perhaps they find their reflections that merge with the arowana’s face funny.
everyday they come back, maybe for luck, maybe because of their curiosity, or maybe because of sheer boredom.
when papa was assigned for a mission to africa, another neighbor, from room somewhereoverthere brought home a grown up arowana in a tank. unlike papa’s arowana, his lucky pet is pinkish. every morning he visits papa’s pet, staring, whispering and observing the swimming creature of luck. on each visit, he leaves me with remarks of how lucky our family is, and comments on the fast growth of papa’s pet that could be sold for thousands. i always reply with a generic “yeah, yeah” because i smell something fishy with this neighbor.
one morning, he asked me why his lucky pet is not as silveryshiny as papa’s. i told him he must have got a different breed, simple as that. he said papa is really lucky then followed it up with observations and comments regarding our family. mama’s abroad, me in a university, sister doing fine at school, papa at africa, as if everything in our lives is in perfect position according to him.
this neighbor continues to eye papa’s arowana as it grows larger and longer. one day, while i am off to school with my sister, and my lola is the only guardian of the lucky pet left in the house, mister neighbor who owns a pinkish arowana once again visits the tank of papa’s pet. lola says he brought with him a small pail filled with katabas swimming in dark liquid. before lola could ask the purpose of that uncalled gift, mister neighbor who owns a pinkish arowana poured the pail-full of katabas inside the tank of papa’s lucky silver pet.
later at night, the dark tank with swimming katabas greeted me and my sister. immediately, i plunged my hand inside the tank to check if papa’s pet is still there. it’s there all right, there’s a long, slimy fish inside but it does not react to my touch. usually, papa’s pet would jump upon the slightest touch of whatever object. this time, it just floats inside the dark tank.
lola narrated the incident. i called the neighbor who owns the pink arowana and asked him what happened. he said he just brought papa’s pet some food. some katabas he found at the nearby golf course water canal. what an ass. at that moment, i wanted to smack the lifeless body of papa’s lucky pet right into his face but respect for papa’s pet ruled over me.
i called papa and informed him of his lucky pet’s demise. the atmosphere of sadness dominated our house for weeks.
more weeks have passed and we got a call from the soldiers saying papa got himself in an accident.
more weeks have passed and papa went home with broken ribs. their vehicle crashed down a cliff in africa.
we moved on with our lives and papa did not get another pet thereafter.