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Carlos

Cayde was well intended. He had done his research and had decided that Carlos should eat only flies since that’s what Carlos would otherwise eat in his natural environment. It was noble thinking on behalf of an ignoble but beautifully-finned fish and so today, Carlos,a Betta–a junk protein–which can otherwise live in oxygen deficient rice paddies, drainage ditches, and desktop bamboo vases—floated atop Cayde’s fishtank, thin in the sides, once splendorous tail accordion-folded like a shuttered fan.
“Did you feed him, Dude?”
“Well, kinduv. I gave him a fly yesterday.”
(And our house has been host to the usual Labor Day swarm of winged-things, buzzing stupid against the windowpanes; catching flies for Carlos has been a fun task for Cayden in some junior zookeeper fashion).
“Did you give him any of the flake food? Like I told you?” I’m not being accusatory.
Cayde starts to cry, simultaneously shaking his head ‘no’ while wiping tears on the thigh of my jeans. I’m holding a dripping fishnet and Carlos is brick-red now when he used to be a fairly handsome vermillion.
“I’m sorry, Monkey,” and Cayde cries jaggedly, and we make this into a lesson before Carlos—full name, Carlos Danger—swirls clockwise into the watery mausoleum that is the charge of the San Diego Water Authority. There are no words, no attendant priests.
Later at lunch, Cayde and I share a bowl of ramen, in which case we’re fighting over the oxtail dumplings and it’s explicitly communicated to the front of the house that we need TWO eggs lest the meal be somehow unequal. Finn’s not too enthused about his bao buns and Cayde nearly jabs me in the eye with his chopsticks while we lean over the bowl.
“Ramen!” Cayde noms. He asks, once the noodles are done, what is ramen exactly? And I’m kind by not mentioning how traditional broth is made with bonito flakes, the same stuff Carlos exactly wanted.
On the way home, we take the alleyway, which Cayde has expertly mapped over the past few months while spending further time outside the house: here is where the water puddles after a rain; here is where you can bunny-hop the broken concrete on your bike; here is the mini-ramp that loops around the row of apartment trash-cans and—incidentally—where there are discarded things, not exactly treasures, but chairs and faded couches left as offerings to whomever the taker.
Behind our house, a bougainvillea vine commingles with an overgrown ficus, just above the broken fence.
I flushed Carlos, and Cayden cried, but he turned off the aquarium light right away, also the filter, then he ran ahead in the alleyway and hoped that someone, one of his other friends, was perhaps home.

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