Beneath the Murky Water

A True Comedy from the Archives of Stephanie- The Coolest Sister in the World

Many of you know Jessi as the strong, heartfelt blogging mama with flair. She looks inside of herself and is ever-willing to show us all that beauty lies within, illustrate how courage can empower us through the most challenging situations, and teach us that laughter fixes all the cracks in our souls. Sometimes, laughter can get us through the most challenging (and frightening) situations we ever face. But you know what? Even Mama gets scared sometimes, with or without all that flair.

Let us rewind to the good ole’ days also known as the 90’s. Jessi was roughly 17 years old at the time, which would have made me 11. It was our summer break, and like any normal teenager, she wanted to get out of the house for a little fun. She had asked our father for $15.00 to go to the movies with her friends that weekend. My father wouldn’t easily pay us favors that way. We had to work for every spare dollar that was not justified by extracurricular school activities. He really wanted to drive home that every “fun” thing we did came with a price, and we all had to earn it.

Dad pondered very briefly, and came up with the task she needed to complete. My father had a 20 gallon fish tank that he proudly displayed in our living room as his “hobby.” However, he rarely wanted to do the dirty work that it took to maintain his prize. He LOVED buying and feeding the fish and decorating the tank. Cleaning it, however, always found its way to the bottom of his to-do list. In fact, he had the thing for nearly 10 years and I only saw him clean it once. The dreaded words came out of my father’s mouth, “I will gladly give you the money if you clean that fish tank by Wednesday.”

Jessi looked mortified. She awkwardly fumbled through her series of excuses that hinted at, “Anything but that, Dad.”

Dad wouldn’t budge.

You could see the anxiety in Jessi’s eyes. She had several big issues with this task. In her defense, it was a laborious task and well worth $50, rather than 15.

I shall outline what this task looked like for those who are unaware of fish tank cleaning procedures.

1. Catch all of the fish
2. Bag each one of the fish to save them for later
3. Use a crazy siphoning hose to slowly drain the water out of the tank into large buckets
4. Haul each of the buckets to the bathroom to properly dispose of the putrid water
5. Pull out all the plants, rocks and other decorations
6. The pieces get their proper scum-scrubbing
7. Sponge scrub the scum off the tank itself, as well as the light fixtures
8. Change the filter
9. Put it all back together again
10. Haul gallon by gallon of fresh water across the living room to refill the tank
11. Add the chemicals to treat the new water
12. While waiting for the correct temperature and chemicals to evenly disperse, you clean ALL the spills of water throughout the living room
13. Catch and release each of the fish into the clean tank

This process took HOURS to complete. It was beyond horrible.

Though my sister never enjoyed cleaning the tank, that wasn’t her primary reason for wanting to dodge it. You see, my father is kind of a jester. His humor is similar to Bill Cosby when it comes to ways to screw around with his children for the sake of a laugh or two. Torture for the purpose of humor is a sign of love, right? While purchasing all of his recent fish, he bought one specific ‘fish’ just for my sister’s sheer delight.

His tank was pretty stocked. He had two of those awesome sucker fish to help clean the tank. He had a few red fin sharks, a couple angelfish, and two or three rainbow fish. None of those fish really bothered Jessi. She could handle all of those. But something else lurked in the depths of the tank. It was roughly eight inches long and maybe about a half an inch thick. It was black and seemed to lack eyes.

We called it the dreaded “Water Worm,” dad named it “Jessica.”

He plopped it in the tank with pride, and it would slither around the bottom of the tank and dig a nesting spot under the gravel. When Dad purchased the worm he was really out to get Jessi, because she happens to be terrified of snakes. He assumed she would hate that thing too.

And he was right.

She put off the task for as long as she could, but she really wanted the money. Wednesday came, and she began the job bright and early, so it would be finished by the time Dad returned from work.

She used the small net to catch each of the fish and bagged them. But whenever that worm would surface she would retreat from the tank and wait for it to settle. For the time being, she attempted to keep her composure. She skipped taking the worm out of the tank, and chose to start the process of draining the water out, but stopped when the tank was half empty. Yet again, she skipped taking the worm out of the tank. She began plucking all of the plants and decorations out that she could.

She hated the water worm, but she didn’t want to kill it. She knew she had to get the thing out of the tank before she could drain anymore water out. That’s where 11-year-old me came into the picture.

She turned to me with eyes full of hope.

“Hey, Stevie. I really need you to do me a favor,” she said quietly in a desperate voice.

“Depends on what it is,” I replied, barely turning my gaze from the TV.

She began to plead, and somehow managed to talk me into taking it on. My task was simply, “get the worm out of the tank.”

This in itself was not an easy task.

Why you ask?

1. The thing was EIGHT INCHES LONG… My net…well it was big enough to fit a goldfish in
2. The tank went up to my armpit. I had to hang my arm inside to try and scoop it
3. It was very fast
4. Wherever it went, it would kick up enough filth out of the water that it would be hidden in a disgusting , brown cloud
5. The reaction from the very “brave” Jessi, was rather distracting on a multitude of levels

I know you are thinking that all that is to come may be a little “exaggerated”. I was only 11, but I can swear it played out just like this. My sister is this much of a freak.

I darted my tiny net around the tank chasing the worm as it furiously swam. Jessi rushed towards the tank shrieking in my ears, pointing at it as if I didn’t know it was even in there. Her screams would occasionally fade into wild terrified laughter. The only way it could be written is, “AHHHH! AHHHHHHHHHHHhahahahaha!!!!!” I laughed right along with her. She totally lost all of her cool.

Every time I would get close to netting the worm, she would run circles around the room, arms flailing, screaming and laughing like a maniac. I almost got it from its back end, and the thing disturbingly stood straight up out of the water much like Nessie, the Lockness wonder. Jessi responded promply by running and hiding behind the recliner. It was rocking feverishly fast, animated as if it were the one screaming like a banshee.

That courageous sister of mine, six years my elder, would quiet down while she was crouching in the fetal position behind the recliner. Every 10 seconds she would erupt in shrills of terror when poking her head out and catching a glimpse of it.

And then, things went from bad to worse. I had netted the creature and was pulling it out of the tank. Just as I was lifting it over, the water worm, in a last ditch effort at self-preservation (apparently he didn’t get the memo I was trying to help), pushed itself OUT of the net and fell to the floor. Instead of flopping around like a fish out of water, it started slithering away like a bat out of hell.

Straight at Jessi.

She, as luck would have it, had just poked her head out to check my progress and saw the thing heading in her direction. She leaped to her feet, threw her hands in the air, and running for the kitchen (two rooms away), screamed, “AHHHH…I TOLD YOU! AHHHH…IT’S EVIL! AHHHH…ITS TRYING TO GET ME! AHHHHHHHHHH!”

While she hid “courageously” in the kitchen, I trapped the thing and plopped it into the closest option for storing it, a spare bucket full of filthy tank water. Jessi thought it was safe to come out from the kitchen, relieved the worst was over. But the water worm wouldn’t give up without one last scare. Like a legendary killer from an 80’s slasher film, it sprang up one more time standing inches out of the bucket, just to keep Jessi on her toes.

She slapped a plate on the top of the bucket to seal that sucker shut and ran screaming back to her comfort spot. She waited behind the recliner until I assured her it was safe to come out.

My head ached from all of my sister’s screaming and the vivacious laughter that couldn’t stop rolling out of my own throat. It was far too funny to see my know-it-all big sister in her most ridiculous moment of unnecessary weakness.

By the time Dad got home, the tank had been put back together. I believe I declined putting the worm back in, but the details on that are hazy. When Dad inspected the tank he determined she should get paid. That is when I piped up that I deserved at least 5 dollars myself.

The tale was shared over our dinner that evening. My dad was howling with laughter.

As for the worm, it lived a happy life, mocking Jessi, for almost 3 years.


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  1. What a story 🙂 We had a rather large tank and I despised cleaning it. We had mostly angel fish and some others I couldn’t identify now if my life depended on it. All of the fish didn’t really put up much hassle when they saw me coming for them with the net, all except this 1 fish. It was black and white and mean. It would bite at the other fish sometimes. Once it jumped out the net to the floor when I went to put it in the bowl and I said “stupid fish you’re gonna kill yourself” Next morning it was belly up in the tank. I refused to clean the tank anymore after that, I was a fish killer. My step brother said I should go in the sushi business *eye roll*

  2. I agree with pam!! She deserves a night out to the movies, Jessi!

    Funny, funny! Maybe I should write about the time I made my brother get stitches or why mom calls us Charlie Brown and Lucy. ROTFL!

  3. What a hoot!

  4. hehehe! I love that it lived so long!

  5. Oh my goodness! This is too funny! Thanks for the laughs.

  6. Thanks for the laughs, but I have to admit that I have those same fears. Good to know that I’m not alone.

    • I am not quite fond of snakes either, however I do not have as much fear as Jessi does. She used to bound off the lawnmower and run into the house screaming bloody murder if she happened to see one. She would then refuse to finish mowing our ditch if she caught a glimpse of them, or managed to hit one. Oh the joys of growing up in the country!

  7. oh my gosh, my eyes are watering that is so funny! i can just see you two doing that, like a lucy and ethel moment! you are one brave bunch. i would’ve skipped the movie.

  8. Ok, that story is all kinds of awesome!

  9. That is the most hilariously disgusting story ever! 🙂

  10. Bahaha! That’s a hilarious story! I used to have a fish or two and I hated cleaning the tank, too. However, I didn’t have a collection of fish and it was a small tank. Plus, I was a little girl. Anyways, a great story. Thanks for sharing.

  11. ROFLMAO! Ok, I am one of the friends Jessi may have been going out to the movies with…and let me tell you, this is all true, Stevie did a great job od recounting it in laugh inducing detail! Their dad really was that funny/mean, and Jessi really was that squeamish about certain things…..and it all made for some really hilarious times! Remember when we “released” the baby raccoons “into the wild” and they tried to kill us as we had to Dukes of Hazzard it back into the cab of my huge white truck?!?!

    Good Times!

    • You know, I still think about that fateful raccoon freeing mission. We never did see where the thing went. It’s probably still hanging from the bottom of the great white whale. ~Jessi

    • avatar Stephanie- Coolest Sister in the World says:

      Thanks for serving as verification that this is a true “Jessi’s a Dork” story. 🙂

  12. avatar MusingsfromMe/Jill says:

    I have two questions: (1) did you get paid? and (2) did Jessi have fun at the movie…in other words was it worth it??? This post is hilarious. My dad would torture us with pulling weeds. Not nearly as scary and horrid as fish tank detail!

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