Tuesday, March 22, 2005

legendairy fish of buddy don: brownie

i been keepin a tank of africun cichlids since 1993, witch i gut started a'keepin em after a roommate killt all the fish in a communty tank of typicull tropicull fish -- tetras, betas, angels n such. after them fish wuz killt off by that sick friend, i deecided twuz time to change the kinda fish i wuz a'keepin (n time to git rid of that roommate, witch thats a long tale thatll git tole tords the end of that novel, life n pinions of buddy don, hillbilly).

over the years of keepin cichlids n watchin em with grate keer, i dun larnt lots bout em. thays a innerestin bunch of fish to keep in a tank on a counta how (1) they dont use color fer camaflodge, witch that means they kin git verr brite colors on em, (2) they cum frum the rift lakes of africa, eethur lake tangangyeeka or malawi, witch them lakes has water flowin in but no way fer it to flow out ceptn by eevaporayshun n that means them fish kin take it ifn the water qualty gits a lil compromised n finely (3) they gut em a verr innerestin soshul struckchur that makes em fun to watch n larn bout.

corse, ye dont start out knowin much, so whut i dun wuz to git five melanochromis vermivorus whenever they wuz young n putt em in a 30 gallon tank. ifn i hadda knowed better, i never wooda put so minny into such a small tank, but i dint know much of nuthin bout em then. i also dint real eyes how i had picked one of the most agressive kinds.

so whut happend wuz whut ye coulda perdickted ifn ye knew a lil moren i did, witch is how once them fish started in to growin, purty soon the males wuz all riled bout how small thar livin quarters wuz. i had dun larnt bout how them cichlids wuz smart a nuff to wurk together on a counta how i had me a lil turtle name of tortuga that wuz in the tank n whenever it started gittin lil white spots on its back, i tride to figger whut wuz rong with it. tuck me a while to figger how twuz them cichlids a'doon it, all five of em, swimmin in fomrayshun frum behing that turtle a'takin turns bitin at them spots. so i gut the turtle outta thar n tuck to watchin them cichlids.

twernt hardly no time atall till two of em wuz the biggest. whenever i furst bought em, they wuz yaller with a horizontull black stripe down long thar side. but when they gut a lil older, one of em turnt brown n a nuthern turnt black. i named em brownie n blackie. frum the time thar colors started in to changin, them two fish wuz in a battle lack ye aint never seed befor. furst they wood take turns pointin thar mouth at tutherns anal fin n switchin posishuns as ifn to say to each other, 'ye aint gut the guts to bite me.' frum thar, they tuck to chasin each other round in lil circles to whar ye couldnt tell witchn wuz a'gittin chased nor witch wuz a'doon the chasin.

corse, they tricked up the tank to whar they had em sum hidin places, witch they lacks to 'aqua-scape' thar tanks by suckin up the gravel from the tank n spittin it out in a nuther place till they git em a hole dug n a lil barrier bilt. tiz amazin how they make a home fer tharself.

purty soon they gut to fitin mouth to mouth, witch thats whar one or tuther of em is a'gone git hurt n lackly killt, n fack is, after battlin fer days, brownie finely killt blackie. he drug the carcass of the dead fish into a lil place he had made fer hisself in a ole pot i had stuck in the tank n whenever i went to remove the dead bidy, he attacked me n made me wait one day, witch once the bidy gut to rottin, seem lack brownie couldnt push it out quick a nuff. after that twuznt but two fish left, jes brownie n a nuther fish i give the name of trumbly.

i wuz a'livin in inwood on the island of man hattan at the time. inwood is as far north on the island as ye kin git, witch tiz a nayborhood whar mos everthang on the west side of broadway is ole irish n mos everthang on the east side is dominicans. twuz a verr nice place to liv only ye had to spend a hour n ten minuts each way a'gittin to wurk in midtown man hattan, witch thats the part jes south of centrull park. i tuck a noshun twuz time fer me to move down to midtown n save myself a good cuple hours commutin everday. i also figgerd twuz time to git me a bigger tank, witch i bought a 155 gallon monster fer that.

fer a lil while, i had bofem apartments at the same time. i gut the new tank all set up n let the water git to settin lack it needs to do befor ye stick inny fish in it n kep the lil tank uptown in inwood. i lef the lites off n gut back to feed them fish ever two or three days, witch that tank wuz a'sittin on the bare floor in a corner of my ole bedroom, but quick as i cum in the room, i could see brownie a'watchin me. by this time, he wuz dark brown with a lite stripe down his side.

finely twuz time, so i putt brownie n trumbly in a bucket of thar own water n lugged em over to the subway n rode downtown with em. my new apartment wuznt much, a lil railroad car lack place on 9th avenue at 56th street in a nayborhood sum say used to be called hells kitchen n sum say never wuz but witch they wuz a'callin it clinton by then innywho (not after the presdent by that name). i had cum up with a way of fittin that huge tank in thar, witch twuz six foot long n three foot high n two foot deep n a'sittin up on a stand to whar twuz as tall as me (bout six feet). i pored in sum of the water frum the tank into the bucket n kep at it till i figgerd twoodnt be too much of a shock fer them fish to go into the new tank n once i dun that, in they went.

twuz one of the mos amazin thangs i ever observed. trumbly wuz a female tho i dint know it at the time n furst thang she dun wuz to go hide. she wuz still mosly yaller. but brownie swum up n down that tank lack twuz natcherull fer im to have a big tank lack that. i watched im n as i did, he gut to turnin color till he wuz dark purple with a bright blue-purple stripe whar the black stripe used to be, kindly lack this pitcher.

i stocked the tank with other cichlids, even buyin a nuther of them same melanochromis vermivorus, witch twuz tiny whenever i bought it, but when it gut to puberty, it turnt real mean. i named thatn geronimo. innywho, brownie n trumbly mated n trumbly had her a mouthfull of lil fish fer bout a munth befor she let em out. twuz a sad thang on a counta how geronimo made it his bizness to eat as minny of em as he could git. brownie could chase geronimo down, but he couldnt be everwhar all the time, so one by one, them lilns gut to disappearin. brownie even tuck one into his mouth rite after twuz let outta trumbleys n swum up n down the tank n then let it out agin, witch i though he wuz a'gone eat his own chile, but he dint. geronimo tuck keer of that.

thay wuznt no questchun bout who wuz the big fish in that tank: twuz brownie, period. he wuz a good 'big fish,' witch he dint allow no fitin ceptn whenever he wonted to put geronimo back in his place.

but whut wuz sad wuz how trumbly woodnt have nuthin to do with brownie no more n nex time she mated, she dun it with geronimo. purty soon that tank wuz loded with lil yaller fish with black stripes down thar sides. n geronimo wuz gittin biggern meaner all the time, a'chasin down ever fish in the tank ceptn fer brownie. seemed lack brownie dint keer much to chase geronimo, jes keepin im a'runnin now n then, but trumbley wuz a differnt matter. i wuz watchin em one day when geronimo wuz speshly nasty to them other fish, bitin on the tales of his own offsprang. finely trumbley turnt on im in a flash n hit im rite hard. that fish went down upside down n never cum up agin, dead by the nex mornin.

after that, thay wuznt no doubt bout brownie bein the big fish. he made it thru a nuther move, witch ye caint hardly keep yer fish alive whenever ye half to move yer tank, but i always try to keep a cuple of my faverts ifn i move (i dun moved that tank four times now).

brownie wuz the big fish in that thar tank fer years. after i had moved to a better apartment over on 56th twixt park n lexington, i gut a catfish name of felix, witch i still have felix after over nine years.

but cichlids dont live so long. i gut to whar fer a treat, i wood git freeze dried tubifex wurms to put in the tank n them cichlids luved em. they cum in lil cubes, witch ye stick em on the side of the tank n them fish peck at it till them wurms gits hydrated n sumtimes they even cum back to life n start a'squirmin round, making them fish near crazy to eat em.

but them same tubifex wurms wuz brownies downfall. i put a cube of em on the side one time n rite away brownie wuz takin the furst swipes at it. but this time, in sted of knockin sum of em out into the water, he gut that hole cube into his mouth n then couldnt spit it out. twuz sad how almos the instunt he wuz in that cundishun, a nuther fish name of yallertail gut to pickin on im till brownie went n hid. twuz the furst time i had seen power change in the tank. i dint know it then, but in almos all cases, whenever the big fish loses his spot, he dont live much longer. twuz so fer brownie also. them wurms gut to whar they had burrowed rite thru the side of his bidy till he couldnt keep nun of them other fish off im n he wuz a'dyin. i tride to save im, but twuz too late. after near four years, brownie finely floated dead to the top of the tank.

i dint real eyes at the time whut a good big fish he wuz. yallertail wuznt never half as good, a mean tyrant that kep a minny fish as possibull with stubby tails. he wood git his in the long run.

brownie wuz lack one of them care ackters in a greek drama. he wuz the king of the tank, but he had a greedy streak that finely dun im in.

ye kin larn lots of thangs frum watchin yer tank.

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