Ollie the betta fish is dead. She was the resident fish at the Ada Public Library for just a week. There will be no new one to take her place.
"I'm done with fish," my boss said. Ollie was the third fish in six months to make the white porcelain-lined journey to that Great Tank in the Sky, and the second one since I started working here. That was just a month ago.
Clearly, the WikiHow boast that betta fish can live for four years is a far-fetched claim for us librarians.
Ollie was preceded in death by another betta who caught the Big Wave after one of his fins fell off. Guess that meant he wasn't feeling tip-top. Ollie died of constipation. My boss diagnosed her condition after Googling, "Help, my betta fish is upside down in the bottom of her bowl!"
One of my colleagues suggested the library go for a different kind of sea critter, a hermit crab. She reminisced about the three hermit crabs her family brought back to Ada from a vacation in Florida.
"One's claw dropped off!" she said. He later died. "Another kept his claws, but he lost some of his back legs." And the third one? "He fell completely out of his shell!"
"What were you feeding him?" I asked.
"Grapes and Cheerios," she said cheerfully. Just like in nature!
I can see how hermit crabs might be a problem for us, too.
I'm thinking something one sentient level below hermit crabs. I'm thinking moss. I was inspired to create a few moss terrariums after interviewing Katy Maslow and Michelle Inciaranno of Twig in Brooklyn. I love these gals' sense of humor. They create little macabre worlds, including crime scenes, cemeteries and doctor's examination rooms. Just the thing for young, impressionable minds.
"Hey, boss, how about moss?" I ventured.
Her mood did not brighten. "Not unless you set it up and take responsibility for it," she said.
There was something in the way she said it that made me do a quick inventory of my commitment to this idea. Hadn't I just ordered a DIY Kit from Twig? Hadn't I just spent a happy hour assembling several terrariums, placing little plastic cows and people in their mossy mini-hills and dells?
But wait. Wasn't it because my terrariums, the ones I had made in Brooklyn in the afterglow of my Twig interview, had turned from little green worlds to little brown ones from neglect?
And today, I discover white fuzz growing in them, because I had dipped the moss's dry underbellies in a little yogurt goo, remembering some Internet post that said that that was the way to encourage moss growth on tree trunks and garden walls. My sister later told me this idea was folly. "It doesn't promote moss, it promotes mold."
Okay, so maybe the boss has a point. We're done. No more botany and biology experiments at the Ada Public Library. My colleague's unwashed, neglected coffee travel mug doesn't count.