I\’ve been avoiding writing about this for a couple of weeks because the subject will require descriptive powers that may well be beyond me. But I cannot keep it to myself any longer: I have a fish, and his name is Salome!
Right away, your lightning-quick eye catches a glitch, an inconsistency, an error. Wasn\’t Salome the dancer who, with her seven veils, enticed Herod to decapitate John the Baptist? Obviously she was a woman, and clearly I shouldn\’t have named my male fish after her.
But the operant factor here is not gender, but the seven veils. Or maybe five. In the case of my Salome–a double-tailed, half-moon male Betta–it\’s hard to get an exact count of veils, or fins, or tails. What is certain is that his tiny, iridescent blue-green body trails a pleated corolla of barely-there yellow veined with random threads of brilliant blue and palest pink.
Like a bride hampered by a too-long train, Salome drags his veils behind while he swims inside the two-gallon vase that is his home. But when he slows down the veils flare up and he turns into a kind of flower. Sometimes, when he makes a quick turn, he runs into his outspread fins and tail, like a flamenco dancer turning into her trailing skirt.
How big is he? When he is in full display, he\’s about the size of a small potato chip. His eyes are the size of fly droppings. His mouth, though tiny, never fails to remind me of Angelina Jolie.
His scientific name is Betta splendens, and he is totally splendid and resplendent, as are the males of most animal species, except our own. But because in most species, including our own, the males are generally more aggressive, poor Salome cannot have a companion.
If the companion were male, they would batter each other to death. If female, they would mate and tend their nest and, as soon as the babies hatched, would eat every last one. So Salome lives in solitude.
But my online research tells me that Bettas are sociable little fish, who can be trained to follow one\’s finger and even jump through hoops, and who like variety in their environment. For exercise, one website recommends placing a mirror next to the bowl, but keeping it there for no longer than four minutes, lest the poor thing exhaust himself trying to kill his reflection.
I haven\’t tried the hoop or the mirror yet, but I keep Salome in the kitchen, where I tell him how gorgeous he is a dozen times a day as I trundle past with basketfuls of stuff from the (soon-to-be-dead, I hope) garden. And where the outside of his bowl periodically gets decorated with nose prints from Bisou.