Brie Sherow 2014

We return from a day at Sea World and open the front door to hear bubbling and sloshing of water in enclosed spaces. The sun is nearly down but in Texas the heat stays after the light is gone. The air is heavy in the summer and it hangs on our limbs. It makes everything move in slow motion. It makes everything move in slow motion for me, but my baby sister moves in a parallel dimension.

Evan runs in the house ahead of me, leaping and twirling. We both know something is wrong, the air is always damp but today it is also rotten. I move cautiously, footsteps light on the cold stones of the front hall and trying not to breathe too hard, sneaking a glance around the corner into the living room. Tippy is running in circles, barking and chasing his tail. He can never catch it, snapping his teeth and his tail whips towards the tall white shelf with Mama’s shell collection. His feathered tail sweeps the shelf and Mama’s shells scatter across the floor, sinking into the soaking burl.

Evan is already there, giggling in her discovery of the disaster. She jumps, splashing her feet in the puddled mess. Our carpet is a swamp. I don’t want to get my feet wet but I come closer to assess the damage. The fish tank is leaking, leaking badly, it’s already all leaked out, only an inch of water left. While I had spent the day watching sharks and Belugas, my own fish had been suffering slowly. The survivors are piled at the bottom of the tank, gills struggling, mouths bubbling. They are covered by the dead bodies of fishes already gone, belly up, dried out.

Evan can’t contain her excitement, she already has the net and pleads with Mama to flush them herself. She loves watching them spin in circles as they get sucked down. Round and round they go, the Tiger Barbs, the Gold Dust Mollies, the Red Fire Guppies, the Rummynose Tetras. A whirlpool rainbow of fishes.

Salty tears blur their tiny bodies until all I can see are trails of neon spiralling down the toilet bowl. The toilet gargles like a sea monster’s giant maw, swallowing my fishes. After they’re gone I imagine their dull eyes staring up at me through the dark pipe. My baby sister squeals with excitement.

Evan loves all creatures, she loves bringing them into the house. Nothing is safe from her, snakes under rocks, beetles in the dirt, and spiders on trees. The green anoles in the spiny yucca plants shake their little stubs. The lizards drop their tails when threatened by predators, or by my sister.

I love animals too. I spend hours setting up obstacle courses for my gerbil, training him to run through a simulated wild environment with surprises at every corner. When I’m confident in his abilities I will set him free in the backyard.

Evan imagines the flushed fishes swimming through the sewers, back out to the rivers, where they can be captured and brought back to the tank after their adventure. I know better, I know that they are dead.

I am a practitioner. My explorations are careful and considered. I take note of everything around me, and my understanding of the world is based on what I’ve already learned. My sister is a wild philosopher. Her world is, and always will be, infinite in scope and possibilities.