Family and/or Autobiography

Eulogy for a Murderous Crustacean

We are gathered here today to remember my pet cleaner shrimp, Fosse.

Fosse 2015-2018

He joined the Allegra family in July 2015 as a supporting character in my son’s saltwater aquarium.

Audrey, a beautiful six-line wrasse, was the star of the show. Fosse’s job was to stay in the background hanging out with the snails waiting for Audrey to poop. When Audrey did poop, Fosse was to eat that poop. According to his September 2015 performance review, he did his work with “great enthusiasm and aplomb.”

Within two months of her arrival, however, Audrey crossed the Rainbow Bridge (the entrance of which can be accessed through my toilet).

Losing Audrey was a shattering blow for the Allegra family, but not quite shattering enough to purchase a new wrasse. Six-line wrasses cost a lot of money. And they die a lot. So we (and by “we” I mean “I”) decided it was time to give Fosse a chance to take center stage.

Fosse quickly rose to the occasion. He was a constant source of fascination for family and friends.

He was also a conversation starter. This was especially true when the snails began to suffer a series of “accidents.” Every morning, I would find them helplessly flailing around on their backs.

Fosse was the main suspect. Cleaner shrimp don’t kill their food, they scavenge for dead stuff. So instead of killing the snails outright, he flipped them onto their backs and waited for them to die; Fosse could then rationalize that the snails died of natural causes.

I would turn the snails right side up, of course, but I couldn’t protect them 24/7. It was only a matter of time before all three of them made a slime trail over the Rainbow Bridge.

Once they did, Fosse slurped them up like a Frenchman.

Starfish eggs hatched. Fosse took an immediate interest in the new neighbors. Then he started eating their legs.

Long story short, my eight-gallon tank was like a slasher film. Alex and Ellen wanted nothing to do with Fosse. Neither did I, really, but I take pet ownership seriously. I kept Fosse fed, cleaned his tank, and watched with growing alarm as his aggressiveness grew in direct proportion to his ever-molting body.

Though I was committed to giving Fosse a long and happy life, when Ellen told me that a cleaner shrimp could live up to ten years, I died a little inside.

One evening Ellen discovered a black spot on Fosse’s back. In the weeks that followed, the spot grew.

“Cancer?” I wondered aloud.

Ellen gave me “The Look.” Ellen always gives me The Look when she thinks I’m about to do something expensive and stupid. She gave me that look when I paid $400 to get my guinea pig a chest x-ray. She gave me The Look another time when I refused to release a wild mouse because “it was too cold outside for the little bugger.”

But this time Ellen had misjudged me.

“I’m not going to take the shrimp to an oncologist,” I said.

“Good,” she replied peering into the tank with trepidation. “Because if you gave that thing half a chance, it would eat your face off.”

This, I knew, was true.

Fosse died peacefully in his sleep on March 10. His was 2 ¾ years old. Which, in my view, is old enough. A private memorial service was held over the kitchen garbage can.

Thank you in advance for your thoughts and prayers.

In lieu of flowers, please send donations to the EscarNO Fund, a charitable organization dedicated to providing safe houses for edible snails.

Meet the new Allegra tank Alpha. Long may he reign!

59 thoughts on “Eulogy for a Murderous Crustacean”

  1. Ha—having owned a cleaner snail as a college answer to a pet within budgetary means, I relate to owner concerns. My snail, fortunately did not develop Hannibal Lecter tendencies, remaining interesting, not frightening. I can’t quite remember it’s demise.
    Guinea pig x-rays of $400!?! I thought I was extravagant with a $60 arthritis shot for one of our piggies.

    1. Those snails are pretty low maintenance. Before Fosse got all grabby, my tank had three.

      And, yeah, I tend to spare no medical expense on the little furry fellows. I even agreed to an operation for Lucy the Rat — and I wasn’t all that fond of Lucy.

  2. My most sincere condolences at the loss of your…………um………Fosse. May the love of friends and family comfort you during this difficult time. Memories of Fosse will become easier to bear as time heals all wounds. Will 3 cents be too much to send to EscarNo?

  3. After a lifetime of sharing my home with wonderful German Shepherds, their line came to end when I became the sole resident responsible for their care. Soon after making this wise decision, I became the recipient of a wedding centerpiece containing a lovely betta fish.

    Betta fish are quite beautiful, but live a lonely life. They are also known as Siamese fighting fish, and cannot share their bowl unless one of them has a suicide wish. Elmo (my current red betta) lives on my kitchen table, causing several guests to be startled by his sudden moves. He’s no match for a dog, but he doesn’t have to be walked or brushed and only gets fed every two weeks!

  4. I actually remember when Fosse joined the Allegra clan, and I’m sorry to see the little murderous, cannibal-wannabe scuttle over the Rainbow Bridge into the trashcan. Poor critter. The new little Alpha is a beauty. What a star!

  5. I noticed Fosse didn’t get to go over the Rainbow Bridge. As a regular traveller on the Rainbow Bridge (the one that crosses between Niagara Falls, Ontario (Canada) and Niagara Falls, New York (US), I think he really missed out on the glory of the “Mighty Thunder” (Niagara Falls) being his final resting place.

  6. OMG, “Silence of the Lambs” in a New Jersey fish tank. Who knew? Ellen’s “face off” line sent coffee spewing from my nose. You clearly need a new bumper sticker: Just say “NO” to Escargot. Although “EcarNO” is a fabulous foundation name. You’ve seen the Night Gallery episode where the guy flushes a spider down the drain, right? It didn’t end well. Leads to my question: What if Fosse was only playing dead and ends up at the dump, eating everyone’s detritus and growing into a B-movie horror?? Do you realize what you’ve done? Put New Jersey and the entire East Coast at risk of having their faces eaten off!!! Do you think Fosse might have a hankering for things with orange hair? You could buy him a bus ticket to DC. But then, I suppose, he’d start snacking on Chesapeake crabs like potato chips. I suppose it could have been worse. You could have composted him into tiny pieces that would then regenerate into hundreds of face-eating Fosses. I’m starting to horrify myself. Must be time to get back to work…..thanks for coming back with a bang of hilarity!

  7. Who knew aquatic life could be so dramatic? We tried a fish tank for our youngest son, but accidentally fried some fish with a light. That was the end of that stint.
    My entertainment is watching the birds at the 3 feeders we keep filled for them. And the “tree rats” (squirrels) who eat from them too. No cages to clean, no litterboxes, perfect pet for me.
    I have to say, I look forward to the comments on your blog almost as much as the blog itself. 🙂
    RIP Fosse.

    1. As you may know, Jude, I am a big fan of those tree rats. I much prefer them to the birds, for they are cuter, spunkier, funnier and more playful. Also, they never poop on my car.

      And I so love the comments, too. I don’t know how it happened, but this silly little blog has managed to attract some of the wittiest and most pleasant commenters in the Blogiverse — present company included, of course.

  8. This entire post is hilarious but my favorite line is “Fosse slurped them up like a Frenchman.” He went on quite the killing spree, didn’t he. You have to give him credit for being clever, though, he found a good loophole. In a court of law, his attorney would definitely say, “Your honor, my client didn’t kill anyone. He may have ‘accidentally’ shoved those snails on their backs but that’s not murder.”

    Also, I too would have paid $400 for a guinea pig x-ray and let the mouse stay indoors. Guinea pigs are awesome, and wild mice shouldn’t be forced out into the cold, that’s just mean.

    1. I know you would’ve paid the $400 for a piggy x-ray. And I know you would’ve kept a wild mouse in your house until the winter thaw. You have more than established your pro rodent (prodent) sensibilities when you rushed that injured squirrel to Bernie Goetz.

      You, Weebles, are good people. Period.

  9. I used to eat shrimp. Now I realize I have no idea who/what they tortured and killed in the high seas. I am forevermore shrimp-less. Fosse – you left a trail of sorrow behind you. But then again, you were only doing what you were born to do.

  10. I wonder if Fosse thought you were the chef always giving him a new friend to eat or where you like the scooby gang always foiling his snail eating plans. Sorry, he and his poo eating entertainment is gone.

  11. Oh my goodness Mike!! A cleaner shrimp can be so..so.. so.. well destructive! Why in the world would you keep something that ate your your “pets”?? *sigh* Please tell me (and Ellen) you aren’t going to get another one!!

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