啤酒 (pi jiu) the Wonder Fish

bya Gabrielle at 11:00 AM

Once upon a time, we lived in 沈阳(Shenyang), and there we adopted a certain fish that we quickly named 啤酒(Pi Jiu). 啤酒 means beer in Chinese, by the way, and as long as the new Google Pinyin thing is working, those are the correct symbols. Yes, we named our gold fish, Beer. We’d been in our apartment for a few days before the other teacher sent to Shenyang with us, Christine, was given a temporary apartment of her own in the same building as ours. When she saw it though, she was very disappointed and refused to stay there. When she came to our apartment to complain about it, in tears, we asked if we could see it. It wasn’t that bad, it was clean, but it didn’t have a suitable bed as well as a few other essential things. The bed was just a bunch of sheets piled on top of each other on the floor. Phil and I probably could have stayed the few days there that they were asking her to, but Christine is much older than us, and getting in and out of the bed everyday would have been hard. I’m not quiet sure who, but by this point, one of us perked up and said, “Is someone living here?” Apparently, who ever had been living in the apartment had gone on vacation(perhaps permanently), and while they were gone, they(or perhaps the land lord) were allowing Christine to stay there until they could get the other apartment ready for her. When we asked Chris about the whole ordeal, he said that the hosts of the apartment had left very quickly and he had no idea where they had gone or if they would be returning. I’m still a little confused about the whole thing. Everything, including their bike, photograph albums, cookware and other personal things were still there. It was as if they had just vanished in the middle of the night and everything that they owned had been left behind. I don’t think I will ever really know what happened or if they came back to collect their stuff. Of all the valuable things still remaining in the room though, only one thing peeked my interest – the big glass bowl sitting next to the window overlooking the city of Shenyang. By the look of the bowl, he had already been there for several days without food or clean water. He kept swimming up to the top to get some air, and when I let my index finger barely touch the film on the water, he tried to eat my finger. Thankfully, gold fish really don’t have teeth, so it didn’t hurt. Me, being the animal lover that I am, I immediately turned to Chris and said, “Can I have the fish?” “You want the fish?” Chris asked with a look of bewilderment on his face. “Yeah, do you think the hosts will mind?” Chris kinda shrugged his shoulders, “I don’t think so.” It was quiet simple logic, really. It was either I take the fish, or he would undoubtedly die a slow, painful, suffocating death. I picked up the bowl, found it too heavy to carry myself, and handed it to Phil. As soon as we had him in our own apartment, we poured him in a temporary holding cell until we were able to clean out his bowl and refill it with clean water. I wasn’t sure if throwing him into new water without letting his body get used to the water temperature first would kill him, but we didn’t have anything we could put him in that could be placed in the water, so we threw him in and hoped for the best. Several hours later he was still swimming and breathing. I figured it was time to name him since it looked like he was going to make it after all. As I mentioned above, we ended up calling our new little gold fish 啤酒(Pi Jiu). I can’t really come up with a good reason why I picked that particular name out, except for the fact that my Chinese vocabulary is rather limited, and it seemed at the time to be both suitable and cute. How he became known as 啤酒 the Wonder Fish is another story. Keep reading. Just after we had gotten ourselves settled and used to our new surroundings, as you’ve read in previous posts, we got the call that we had to go back to Beijing to get a new health check in order for the government to issue us resident permits. We had been told that it would just be a day or so, we didn’t worry so much about our new found pet’s well being. I threw in a handful of bread, wished Pi Jiu well, and left hoping he wouldn’t be floating at the top of his bowl when we returned. Somehow, what was supposed to be a few days, turned into a week and three days. After the first three or so days, I gave up on the idea that we would return to Shenyang to find Pi Jiu swimming happily in his bowl. I had enough gold fish as a little girl to know what happened to fish that didn’t eat. I just didn’t want to have open the door and smell his death. It was bound to happen. We’d been gone too long. After we landed in Shenyang, there was no point rushing home in my eyes. I had even told Phil that he was going to be in charge of taking care of poor, dead Pi Jiu. I felt too guilty. Here I was thinking that I had saved him, just to kill him a few days later. When we finally got back to the apartment, I hesitated putting the key in the door. I didn’t want to have to see what was on the other side. (Yes, I was being a bit dramatic, but things like this really bother me. I can be such a girl sometimes.) When I finally summoned enough courage, I turned the handle and looked in the direction of the bowl which I had placed on my bedside table. To my surprise, I didn’t see a gold colored fish floating at the top. My first thought was that perhaps he had sunk to the bottom, but none of my previous pet fish had ever done that. In the center of the bowl, I could see a bit of gold reflecting off the curvature of the glass, but it wasn’t moving. I dropped my book bag next to the front door and started the awful 2.4 second walk to the table. The water was dirty, cloudy, and without a spec of food anywhere, but low and behold, it was Pi Jiu – and he was ALIVE. Barely, but alive. “Holy crap!” I screamed. “He’s alive. He’s really alive!” “Really?” Phil asked. “Yeah, he doesn’t look so good, but he’s very much alive.” Chris just sorta stood there looking curious as to why I was so happy that a stupid gold fish was still alive. As fast as I could, I returned Pi Jiu to a nice clean environment. I still didn’t have any fish flakes, so I threw in what bread and pieces of crackers I had. At first he didn’t seem very interested, but soon he started eating. The entire time that I was trying to make his home livable again, I knew that Phil and I would be leaving for Xiamen in less than a day, and this time we wouldn’t be coming back. I had no idea what to do with him or who to give him to. I asked Chris repeatedly if he wanted a pet fish. His answer was always no. He said that his home was too small and that he didn’t know what to do with a fish. I knew he had a girlfriend, so I tried convincing him to give it to her, but his excuse for her was the same as his. It seemed that I had reached a dead end. When it was time to leave the next day, I fed Pi Jiu one last time, and asked Chris again if he wanted him or knew someone who did. Chris assured me that the host of the apartment would come back and perhaps he/she would adopt it. It was my only real option, so I had to take it. With our luggage in hand, we closed our Shenyang apartment door for the last time and said goodbye to Pi Jiu the Wonder Fish for the last time. Just yesterday, Phil and I were walking along the streets of Xiamen when we saw a pet store full of colorful fish. It made me think of Pi Jiu and I wondered if perhaps he was still alive. I like to believe that the host of the apartment did come back and took a liking to the little fish sitting on the bedside table. Perhaps even now he is swimming in a nice big glass bowl staring at his seemingly never ending reflection. That is what I hope.

Post Footer