When my sixteenth birthday was approaching, my friends asked me what I wanted for a present.
"An axelotl," I remember replying definitively. I'm not sure where I got the idea to ask for a Mexican walking fish for my birthday, or why I was so insistent. I think I just thought it was a funny thing to ask for. I don't think that I honestly expected anyone to get me one. But, whenever one of my friends came back and asked me what I wanted, serious answers only this time, I insisted that I wanted an axelotl.
A bunch of my friends turned up at my party that year together, carrying what they had pooled together to get me. An axelotl, complete with a tank and a whole bunch of other accessories. As in, like, things to feed it, not like, tiny boots and hats and stuff. Although that would have been pretty cool too. The important thing is that they actually humoured me to the extent of buying me a freaking axelotl. I was over the moon. The look on my parents' faces when they saw the tank reminded me that I hadn't thought to inform them about the possibility of receiving a living creature as a gift, but too bad for them, I guess. I do remember getting a request from them before my seventeenth birthday, and then for a few more birthdays after that, to the tune of "Please don't ask for anything alive this year".
In the meantime though, I had Pablo, my axelotl. He was the best. He spent the entire day swimming around with a stupid fishy grin on his face, unintentionally teasing the cat and eating meal worms (the fact that I had to keep those in our fridge was another thing my mother loved, let me tell you that much).
But, when the summertime came, Pablo really started feeling the heat. He got pretty sick and spent most of his days sort of floating around miserably. He wouldn't eat his meal worms. I was concerned for his wellbeing.
The bad news eventually came when I was being picked up from a regional drama camp. I remember the conversation vividly.
Dr Dad: Smackie, I've got some good news and some bad news.
Smackie: Give it to me straight, doc.*
Dr Dad: The bad news is that Pablo died.
Smackie: Ok. I thought that might be it.
Dr Dad: The good news is we kept his body in the fridge for you.
Smackie: Th... thanks.
At first I thought it might be some kind of joke. You know how doctors always seem to develop morbid senses of humour. But no, when we arrived home there was a little foil package next to the marmalade that contained the deceased body of my pet. To this day, I have no idea what they expected me to do with it, or why they thought I would actually want them to do this. Maybe it was all just revenge for the meal worms. However, because I was so flabbergasted about the whole thing, I did what any rational person would.
I left it there. I pretended that the whole unfortunate incident had never happened, and that the little foil parcel contained nothing but some kind of mystery leftover.
After a good month or so, Dr Dad approached me and asked me if I minded if they disposed of Pablo's body. I told him a bit too quickly that I was ok with that.
*This isn't actually what I said. But then again, my name's not actually Smackie Onassis, either.