When I was younger, there were a number of things which seemed just beyond cool when my friends or the promotional material would describe them. Around 10th grade in high school, I heard that there were these things called “Bio-Spheres” that would be little closed-off ecosystems that would maintain themselves and you could watch all this life going on inside, without having to do anything. That sounded absolutely cool!
When I was 29, I happened to be at one of those mall stores that are filled with fake rocks and globes and “nature”-related projects, and I saw they had these Ecospheres for sale! I immediately dropped the cash for one of them, which had algae, some branch, and about 5 little shrimp in them. I took it home and kept it.
I didn’t initially name the shrimp, since they didn’t really have personalities… except one. One of them would just whip around the sphere like a damned maniac, and then stop on a dime. I called him “Spaz”.
Over the years, the shrimp died. One of them died within a week, but the rest did pretty well, and lasted a year or two. But by the second year, I was down to two. One was Spaz. The other barely moved at all. I called him “Dullard”.
Dullard and Spaz lived their little shrimp lives together, checking for food, going through sleep cycles, and the rest. I, the friendly and benevolent owner, would check on them every few days, or maybe every few weeks, just to see how things were up. Life was generally good; lots of algae, lots of place to move, and so on.
Dullard died about three and a half years in. I found him there, pretty much gone, and then he joined the ecosystem like the others had. Spaz, apparently, was unfazed. Or maybe he was. We didn’t talk much.
He was my favorite pet ever, because he didn’t need me and I didn’t need to check on him. He just needed a little light, a little warmth, and he was all set. I’d sometimes check on him and there he was, speeding around the sphere, flitting this way and that, and then hiding away. He was less expressive than a fish, but still, I couldn’t help but like the little guy.
I started working on my movie, bought a house, did all the things a human does to convince themselves they’re not also running around like idiots in a big sphere with an ending coming at some hazy point in the future. Spaz didn’t like the move to the house but otherwise was A-OK with the shelf he was on, near a window, living the way he does.
This morning, I discovered Spaz had died. He did it, like he did everything else, quietly. He must have just given up, old age getting the best of him. I’d checked on him just yesterday, and he’d not been acting unusual, but maybe he wasn’t feeling too good.
Since I don’t know how long Spaz was in the store, I don’t know his age, but he appears to have been between six and seven years old. Since the Ecosphere documentation/manual said that some “have been known” to live for five years, Spaz was pretty fuckin’ incredible as far as shrimp go. And as pets go.
A long time ago, I was riding in a car with two friends when a bug hit our windshield. The bug made a really loud noise when he hit, and we talked about it for about 3 minutes. I then realized that we, much more complicated beings that we are, had spent an enormous amount of time by that bug’s standard, probably a significant amount of time (the equivalence of months of our life) talking about his short, sad existence and our part in it. So really, in some ways, that bug had quite the send off, much more, say, than the average bug gets.
If you got down to this part in my essay, you’ve now spent a minute or two reading about Spaz. Hundreds of people read this journal, and so all these wonderfully complicated beings, much more complicated than Spaz, and who he’ll never know, and wouldn’t comprehend if he did know, would spend the equivalence of months, just thinking about him and hearing what he was.
Were we all so lucky.
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