Fish Fetish got it’s share of strange customers over the years. From the typical moms-buying-the-kids-a-goldfish to Schools buying 200 goldfish for the carnival. We even had at least one heart doctor in town who thought that we needed business; he sent patients with high blood pressure to us with prescriptions for elaborate fish tanks. They where instructed to sit and watch the fish tank for 1 or 2 hours every day to lower their blood pressure. Insurance picked up the setup and maintenance fees. Sweet deal really, in order to make a tank interesting enough to watch for hours you have to go all out; amazon inspired plant takes with dozens of small fish and fresh water shrimp or coral reef tanks with all kinds of invertebrates. And at $50 to a $100 an hour for maintenance it’s a good long term cash cow. The doctor did get a discount for this service.
One of our more unusual customers showed up late one night while the three of us were unpacking a large shipment of fish and corals from just in from Jakarta. We all notices the woman who wondered into the freshwater section. She was a blond bombshell in jeans and a tee shirt with the local university logo. After a couple quick rounds of rock-paper-scissors J████ got to stop opening endless bags of livestock and headed over to help her.
“Good evening ma’am. Can I help you?”
“Yea, good evening.” She hardly glanced at J████, but then she pointed to one of the tanks and said, “I need 500 Zebra Danios, a 50 gallon tank, filter and food. Can you do that?”
“500 Zebra Danios? We’d have to order them.”
“That’s OK.” She said. “I also need to know if you can give me a quote so I can get a PO and have a check cut for you? How long will it take to get the fish?”
“I have to check with the suppliers as 500 is a larger order than we usually get, I can check tomorrow if you would like to leave a name and number so I can call you back.” Walking behind the counter and searching for the live stock lists J████ continued; “normally Zibra Danios are three for a dollar, but if you are going to get 500 I think we can get a deal. Can you leave your contact details here. I’ll get back to you as soon as possible.”
“I’ll need to pick up the quote a few days before I can get a check. Let me know what the price is and I’ll come by and pick up a quote.”
“No problem ma’am.” J████ smiled at her as she turned towards the door. “We’ll call you tomorrow. Thanks.”
J████ still had that dumb about to be clubbed baby seal look on his face when J███ and I came over to the counter. “Well then. Ms. W—- E—— of 405 Jordan Hall.” J████ was quickly scribbling down the list of items Ms. W—- has asked for so he didn’t forget.
“What the hell does she want 500 Zebra Danios for?” J████ asked.
“Maybe she has a god complex?”
“Beautiful goddess then,” was about the most intelligent thing I could think to say.
“Yea right. I bet she doesn’t need to act out her god complex on fish. She’s got men lining up to be abused.” J███ took out the latest live stock list from one of our suppliers. “We can do the Lillyponds order early this week. Danios are 10 cent each for less than 100, 7 cent for 100 to 400 and 5 cent for more. 20 for a buck? Think she’ll pay 200?”
“She’s not paying,” J████ said, “she said something about a PO.”
“Then charge her 100 for the fish, regular price on the tank and supplies.”
“I still don’t get it,” I said, “what does she need the 500 Danios for?”
“Who cares.” J████ said.
“Yea, you should ask her when she comes back.” J███ said. “What was she driving?”
“Old Volvo station wagon.”
“Hum… She looked like a college girl, maybe it’s for a carnival.”
The next day J████ made the call to tell Ms. W—- what it would cost for the setup and fish. When he was done he hung up the phone, turned to me and said, “the guy who answered the phone, said ‘Keck brain research facility.'”
“That sounds like a horror movie.”
“Infected with what?”
“Haha. But will she pay?”
A few days later the Lillyponds shipment included five extra bags of Danios. 100 fish per bag.
Ms. W—- showed up about 45 minutes later in her Volvo with a check from the university and some forms that had to be signed to make everything official.
While filling out the forms J████ asked “what are you going to do with 500 Danios?”
“Stick electrodes in their brains and see what makes them tick.”
Laughing J████ said “no really. what are they for?”
“No really, I’m going to stick wires in their brains for research.”
“Really?” J████ was not laughing anymore. In fact he was not slouching and filling out the papers anymore. He was standing up strait, all 6 foot 4 of him skinny as ever looking down at Ms. W—-. Who was about 5 foot 6. “I’m not sure I like that.
It should be noted at this point the everyone who worked at Fish Fetish was a vegetarian based on a shared ethical epiphany about the mistreatment of animals in the name of food and human chauvinism. None of us had been vegetarians or even ever given a second thought to meat prior to opening the store. It was a decision based on shared conversation after the store opened. This awakening would in the long run lead to the closing of Fish Fetish but that was still years away. At the time Ms. W—- showed up to purchase her 500 Zebra Danios for Frankenstein experiments J████ had only been a vegetarian for a few months. The idea of selling 500 fish to be poked and prodded for some thesis was not a happy thought.
“What do you mean you don’t like it?” Ms. W—- asked looking up to J████ and somehow making him look unimposing.
“That’s cruel. You’re going to experiment on 500 living things for some sick science experiment? Have you thought about the fish.”
“Yea I thought about the fish, I chose the Zebra Danios because they are well studied.”
“I don’t mean what type of fish to use,” J████ said “I mean how would you like it if someone stuck wires in your head and electrocuted you.”
“I’m not going to electrocute them…”
“Have you ever read Animal Liberation?”
“Yes. Have you?”
“Um. No. Actually, No.”
By this point J███ and I were laughing our asses off on the couch across the store. This little college girl with her blond pony tail was standing there with her hands on her hips yelling at J████ who should have been imposing towering over her. But instead he looked tired and confused looking down at her like an elephant scared of a mouse.
So Ms. W—- got her 500 Zebra Danios with no more lectures. Eventually she came back to buy a tank for home and some fish to take care of instead of to ‘take care off.’ She became one of our regulars and sometimes joined us for life outside of Fish Fetish. And her 500 Danios helped her get her PhD.
And J████ read Animal Liberation.
We all did.