17  Thinking about fish

Bingley and I were talking, hanging over the back of the couch and looking outside.

“When fish swim,” Bingley asked, “do they feel like they’re flying?”

“I don’t know,” I answered.  “What do you think?”

He moved his paws in a few dog-paddle motions, then shuddered a little.

“I don’t think so,” he said.   “At least not exactly.  A little bit, maybe.”

“Some of them can swim pretty fast,” I offered, “and they float easily enough.”

“Birds always have the air, even when they’re sitting or walking, and fish always have the water–unless someone takes them out.”

He sighed and thought for a moment.

“You like to eat fish, don’t you?”

“Yes,” I said.

“Better than chicken,” he added.

“Yes.  But you don’t like fish as well, do you?”

“Take it or leave it,” Bingley said.  “I like chicken better.  Tuna’s good when you don’t get chicken.  Do you feel bad about taking the fish out of the water to eat them?”

That made me think.  “A little,” I said.  “Yes, a little.”

I didn’t want to ask him his feelings about eating chicken or fish, since by nature he must be a carnivore, while I have some choice.  But I could see his eyes moving back and forth, so I could tell he was thinking about it.  Then he looked at me out of the corner of his eye.

“I don’t feel bad about it when I’m hungry or eating, but it does cross my mind after.  I’d eat more plants if you’d let me.”

Sometimes Bingley will get into one of the plants, and he’ll eat so much of it that it will make him feel sick or clog his intestines–that’s more than you wanted to know, I’m sure.  We still get him catnip, which he nibbles, but seldom do we get the cat grass anymore, because he gorges on it.

“I know.  I’m sorry.  You get sick if you get too much.”

“‘Sokay.  I’m happier with the chicken anyway.”  He thought again for a bit.  “Can you swim like a fish?” he asked.

“I can swim a little, but not like a fish.”

He gave me his Mr. Spock “fascinating . . .” look.  “So a fish can do that, but you can’t.”

“Right.”  I didn’t mention that the very idea of getting soaked appalls him.  “They’ve evolved for swimming.  I’ve evolved for walking or running on the ground.  But I can row.”  Bingley understands rowing because I have a rower in the basement that I use for exercise.  I explained how it works on top of the water, how someone can row a kayak or canoe or rowboat.

“I see,” he said.  Then he gave me the sidelong glance again.

“What would you call a machine designed to move a kayak?” he asked.

I thought about that, and the answer hit me.

“A row-bot,” I said.

“Hss-hss-hss-ha-ha-hmmm.”  He nodded, and his belly shook as he laughed.

Then I could tell that his thoughts changed direction.

“Tuna?” he said.  “Getting hungry.  Time for mmao?”

“Not quite time yet, but I’ll see if we have some of your tuna.”

“Frank you,” he said, licking his lips.

Just then a couple goldfinches landed in the yard, bounced around after each other for a bit, then flew off.

“Or maybe chicken,” Bingley said.  “I can’t decide.”