By Que Tubby McWaddles Tubatron III
Picture by Eric Molina Flikr
My name is Tubby, and I’m a toe-sucking fish. Well, not by choice anyway; it’s not like I especially want to eat dead skin off humans’ crusty feet. I was forced into this revolting line of work after I was kidnapped from my home in the Turkish water basins and shipped to a “trendy” day spa in the UK. For whatever reason, exploiting my ancient, honorable species of Garra rufa and forcing us to have an exclusive diet of toe jam is the hottest new craze in Britain. Oh well, I guess “cute fish pedicures” for pretentious, fat cat, spa-goers are more important than the health and well-being of thousands of my friends and family members.
Do I wish I was back in my homeland? Yes. Do I wish I could eat delicious algae salads again instead of flaky feet? Absolutely! But, what is a little, wimpy fish supposed to do? Grow wings and fly back to Turkey? I don’t think so. Thus, I learned to suck it up—no pun intended—and accept my destiny of staying in a funky foot tank forever. This was until…a special someone came along.
It was the average day for a pedicure worker: long hours of getting stomped over, thrashed around, and choked on nail polish and spray tan. But, suddenly, my world got flipped upside down when, across from my client’s hairy left heel, I saw her. Her fins glistened under the fluorescent lights as she nibbled on a big toe. So graceful, so majestic! From that first glance, I knew we were solemates. Mustering up all the courage in my tiny fish body, I swam over to her side of the tank. Goodness, more sweat was probably pouring through my scales than that man’s chunky feet! As I reached the big toe, the moment of truth was upon us.
“Hello! Cod I ta-talk to you for a sec? I think you are fintastic and was wondering if you would want to watch Finding Nemo with me on the spa T.V. later? Just mullet over and let minnow,” I mumbled, anticipating rejection.
She blushed so much, her cheeks turned redder than the raw toes we’ve been munching on the past half hour! “I would love to; Finding Nemo is my favorite! My name is Ruby by the way,” she responded in a voice as sweet as swedish fish.
“It’s ofishal then! Sea you at ate—” I said with a very apparent voice crack. The red on her cheeks brightened again; I then realized why they called her Ruby.
Our connection soon blossomed after watching the movie that surreal night. During the excruciatingly traumatic scene where Nemo was captured by fisherman, Ruby told me all about how she was taken from her mother in the Tigris River, and how she plots to escape the spa one day and find her way back to her family.
“I cannot keep living like this Tubby, literally kissing the feet of an unjust ruler!” She shed a tear as we held each other in a warm embrace. I understood her frustration, nothing is worse than the feet of man, destroying the world the more steps they take. Humans had to pay for making my dear Ruby cry; there was only one thing to do. We had to start a garra rufa rebellion.
Then on, Ruby and I spent our days gathering support and plotting our justice together, hand in hand—whale actually, fin in fin. From opening to closing time, we whispered about the rebellion. From sunrise to sunset, we cuddled under the toes and dreamed about our future life and family outside of the spa. It was a love sparked by injustice and hope. It was a love greater than any known.
“Let’s just eat all the humans!” She would exclaim—only semi-joking. I thought she was always so cute when in a murderous rage. The risk of standing up to the humans was well worth it for her–my Ruby, my jewel.
One night we had planned to meet up near the south side of the tank to analyze Finding Nemo for the twentieth time and brainstorm ideas to escape. I hadn’t seen her all day, so my excitement for our date was through the water. Although, an hour passed and she had not arrived. Then two. Then three. Maybe her shift lasted longer today? Maybe someone had some very calloused feet? Looking across the spa, I could not spot her. Panic started to set in.
Finally, in the tank across from me, I noticed her silhouette. I let out a sigh of relief; she was sleeping at the bottom of the tank. But wait, I remembered, fish don’t sleep on their backs. Her tail was so still, so lifeless. Her ruby red cheeks looked a sickly gray color. She was dead.
I couldn’t help but scream, banging my fins against the glass separating us. She was so close, but so far. Curse those jails of tanks that kept me from holding my love.
The worst part, however, is that I knew exactly what happened. The reason why my species eat dead skin in the first place is due to our innate survival mechanism; whenever there is limited food in our natural habitats, we resort to eating dead scales. Therefore, in order for guests to have the smoothest feet, spas starve us in between pedicures. Ruby had starved to death.
My fellow, rebellious Garra rufa surrounded me. I lifted my fins away from the glass; I knew what we had to do.
“Hello buoys and gills. I regret to say that Ruby, the jewel of my life, was murdered in cold blood today by the feat of men; a beautiful life was taken from us. And for what? So humans can have soft toes and be pampered? When was the last time someone pampered us, huh? Never! It’s complete bull carp! But, we must trudge on; this is not the time to scale back the rebellion, especially since one of our own was krilled. Ruby would have dolphinately wanted us to keep fighting and use this oppor-tuna-ty to our advantage. We’ve made a lot of progress so far folks, but we cod do better, we must do better—for Ruby. I know it won’t be easy, yet any-fin is possible if we stick together and fight with great strength and porpoise!”
The crowd bubbled and glubbed with excitement. I wished my love could have been there to see the passion and determination she sparked inside everyone.
The rest of the Garra rufa and I decided to go on a hunger strike in honor of Ruby. We refused to nibble on that flaky, dry toe skin we had endured for years and years; it felt invigorating. During each and every one of our shifts, we played dead, laying still on the bottom of the tank—like Ruby was in her final moments. Our plan was obviously risky, but we had nothing to lose.
As expected, the spa owners thought we had all contracted some strange illness. After their failed attempts to force us to be the obedient toe suckers we once were, one of the owners finally flushed us all down the spa toilet. We were free!
Soon after, I ended up in my current home, a big lake along the English coastline. The lake was exactly what Ruby and I pictured for our new life; it was beautiful with plentiful algae for all of the Garra rufa to enjoy. At first, seeing all the fish around me starting to settle down and have kids made my world seem pretty grim, but after realizing that I made Ruby proud and got the revenge she so desired, I could never be happier.
-Sincerely, Tubby, the no longer toe-sucking fish
For more information on how to stop the abuse of Garra rufa, visit https://onekindplanet.org/global-campaigns/ban-fish-pedicures/