You guys. Harriet Tubman is dead. I don’t mean Harriet Tubman like Underground Railroad, Union spy, women’s suffrage Harriet Tubman (although I’ve heard that she’s dead, too). I mean like the last of my dear goldfish, Harriet Tubman.
Let me back up. This story really begins my sophomore year of high school when, one night, a couple of friends rented a Chinese sci-fi movie called The One. Basically, it explains how there are 99 parallel universes (universies? universi?), and each one is populated by counterparts of everyone on our planet. There’s this guy who finds out about these parallels and discovers that there is one of his counterparts that is traveling to each of the other planets to kill “himself” so he can absorb their life-force and become the only, and therefore most powerful, him.
So, the guy spends the movie trying to stop his doppelganger from killing him (because apparently they are the only two left now, so whichever one lives will be so powerful he can take over all of everything in existence ever, which, I guess, is a bad thing). That’s all I really remember except for I can recall thinking the movie had far too many leather jackets for my taste and that the police had to have lost 116% of their squad cars in dramatic explosions. In the end, the bad him dies and the good him moves to another planet (which resembles the artistic love child of Willy Wonka and Dr. Suess) where he marries his dead wife’s counterpart.
This week I discovered that that movie is actually a true-to-life documentary and all the Harriet Tubmans are killing one another. But, like I said, not the famous Harriet Tubman. All of my goldfish which are named Harriet Tubman.
Last year, I inherited a goldfish named Rocky, but what kind of rock can swim?, so I renamed him/her Harriet Tubman (no one really remembers why, but I am pretty sure HT could probably swim so the name is appropriate enough). When my students got wind of this, they started bringing me more goldfish because a) I’m past my marriageable expiration date and they don’t want me to die alone, and b) I’m too poor for cats. All the the fish were named Harry of some sort (George Harrison, Harry Potter, Harrison Ford) but all loosely referred to as Harriet Tubmans (Harriets Tubman?).
For several days, I was thrilled about all my new fish, until they started dying off. Everyday there would be a little stiff Harry floating at the top of the bowl. I’m sure it had nothing to do with the fact that I was keeping seven fish in two very small bowls. No, they were bumping each other off in attempts to become The One. Soon, even the original Harriet died, leaving only Harriet Beecher Stowe, who eventually inherited the title Harriet Tubman, and there she swam for weeks and weeks, gloating in her glory as the reigning Harry.
On Friday evening, I was returning a phone call to my mom when my roommate, Heidi, came into my room and told me that the Friday concert series in downtown Provo was giving away t-shirts with Harriet Tubman on them and we needed to leave, STAT (which my mom understood was temporarily more important than her. Thanks, Mom). When we got to the concert, I ran to the front of the very long line and begged the man, in the name of abolition, to save me a shirt, which he did. Bless him.
When I got home, I took a picture of my Harriets together, happy that Fish Harriet didn’t have to be the lone Harry in our apartment anymore.
The next morning, I got up and went into the living room to feed Harriet. The thing was, she wasn’t in her bowl. I thought my friend had kidnapped her (because this friend always threatened to take her and make her the Snitch in a round of pool Quidditch).
Then I remembered a story my mom told me about her childhood, when she filled her fish’s bowl too high and the poor thing flopped out and died.
I looked around the shelf and on the floor nearest the bowl but there was nothing. Heidi came out and helped me move furniture and look for Harriet. I finally found her, under the TV stand, at least 3 feet from where she had to have landed, dry, shriveled, wrapped in hair and dust, and very much un-alive. I wrapped her in a paper towel, sang a verse of the Battle Hymn of the Republic, and flushed her over to the Great Fishtank in the Sky. Heidi said it was only appropriate that she should die in pursuit of her freedom.
But, I tell you, it’s no accident that Harriet Fish Tubman died on the very same night I brought home Harriet Shirt Tubman. Now that all the Harriets are dead, Harriet Shirt Tubman is going to be so powerful that she will take over all of everything in existence ever. Either that or marry her a Suessian husband.