Heart's Desire

Patricia M. Snell

With assistance from Carol L. Easterly

Photos by the author.
© Copyright 2024 by Patricia M. Snell

                                                       from the author
from the autor
What happened almost 20 years ago that left a telltale sign on our dining room ceiling? What secret was Carol hiding behind her bedroom door? This is a story of lessons learned, the hard way.

I have to admit Iíve never been especially fond of animals. I am definitely not in favor of animals in my house. Why would I bring something into my house that has the potential to create problems? In my opinion, any reward that comes from having a pet in the house is not worth the trouble it brings.

My daughter, Carol, loves animals. It was her heartís desire to have a pet in the house. Over the years weíve had lots of cats and dogs, but they were strictly outdoor pets. Our dogs had a deluxe two-room dog house. The cats have a two-story barn for shelter.

Eventually, when Carol was a teenager she wore me down and I allowed her to have fish in her bedroom. Fish seemed like a low impact, low maintenance type of pet. Carol got a variety of 8 tropical fish and put them in a 10 gallon tank. The tank was on a shelf about 4 1/2 feet off the floor. Carol loved her fish as much as anyone can love a fish. She named them things like Sonny and Cher, and Elvis and Priscilla. The fish were fine and everything was going swimmingly for a while.

Then came time to clean the tank. I suggested her older brother, Paul, could help. Carol refused his help. She wanted to prove she could take care of her pets on her own. I should have followed Carol up to her room whether she wanted me there or not. I used poor judgement and stayed in the kitchen where I was finishing up washing dishes. Carol headed upstairs alone with complete confidence she could accomplish the task. Carolís plan was to move the fish into a small bowl and then carry the tank to the bathtub where she would empty some of the water. To Carol, it seemed like a workable plan. The execution of the plan did not go as planned.

Carol did not expect the tank to be so heavy as she inched it off the shelf. Every gallon of water weighs 8 pounds, plus the weight of the gravel and the tank itself would have made the whole thing about 110 pounds. No wonder Carol lost her grip. The tank came down and shattered over her knee, flooding the carpet with water, broken glass, and gravel. I heard the crash and raced up the stairs to find Carol standing in a puddle of water and debris. Her arms were outstretched as if she were still holding the tank. There was a moment of shocked silence as we both faced the harsh reality of what had just happened.

Carol broke the silence, ďShouldíve asked Paul to help whether he wanted to or not.Ē

ďShould've let you have a dog in your room.Ē

There was no time to lose. The carpet was saturated and we needed to clean up before too much water soaked through. Each piece of broken glass and gravel were painstakingly picked up and put into buckets. The water was soaked up with towels, rags, and anything absorbent - even old maxi pads were used. We stuck them to the bottoms of our feet and marched around the room. I turned on fans and aimed them at the wettest spots. It took several days of using fans to finally get the carpet dry. We must have done a pretty good job. The only telltale sign is the spot on the dining room ceiling. So much for assuming fish are low impact pets. The low impact pets left a lasting impact on the ceiling.

Obviously, Carol and I really didnít know the correct way to clean a fish tank. My husband, Bob, would have known, but he was away at work for the day. He would have known to siphon off water first. As it was, he didnít even know the fish were in Carolís room. Not wanting to risk his disapproval, we bought the fish and set up the tank without his knowledge. A 10 gallon tank of fish is a hard thing to hide, but Carolís father stayed out of her room most of the time. I suppose there are worse things a teenage girl could be hiding in her bedroom. A tank of fish seemed like an innocent secret behind Carolís closed door. All was well and the fish lived their secret lives peacefully until that fateful day when the tank needed to be cleaned.

In the aftermath of the crash the 8 fish survived but had to adjust to life in new homes - first in a large repurposed pretzel container, and then in a brand new tank. As for Carolís father, he was left wondering about the suspicious spot on the ceiling. He didnít find out the whole story until I spilled the beans long after Carol grew up and moved out. I figured the statute of limitations would protect me from blame. It was time to confess. It was time to clear my conscience. But time doesnít erase all blame, just as time hasnít erased the spot on the ceiling. Once the secret was out, Bob said heíd always figured the toilet had overflowed. Lesson learned - donít keep secrets from your husband, or father, not even innocent secrets like fish in a bedroom.

This story has a happy ending, not so much for the house with its spot on the ceiling, but for Carol and her love of animals. When she moved to her first apartment she adopted her beloved cat, Jewels. When Jewels passed away, Carol adopted Stella, and then Ernie. The dogs impact her house with joy every day. They are her heartís desires. For Carol, the reward of pets in her house far outweighs any trouble they might bring.

When Carol pays me a visit, her dogs are welcome. My heart has softened and I see the reward of their presence in my house. They are like medicine to lift spirits and calm nerves. Thank you, Stella and Ernie, for showing me the reward.

We still have no indoor animals, except the stuffed kind, and the unwelcome snakes in the basement. Yes, garter snakes in the basement, but thatís another story. (See my story - ďDonít Ask, Donít TellĒ)

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