Tuesday, August 16, 2011
Legs: Part I
Jim always loved fish. Not eating them, but observing them From the age of 7 when his father first took him to an aquarium, he was hooked.
From that point on, Jim always had at least one pet fish at his home, and became a regular visitor of the aquarium in his area, while also convincing his parents to bring him to other aquariums in the state, and around the country as he and his family went on vacations. A trip to anywhere outside of his home town, he saw as another opportunity to learn more about marine life.
By the age of 16, there was no question in his mind about what his field of study was going to be once he went to school.
When he graduated from his university, he was 26, and had a phD in Marine Biology. Over the past year, while attending school, he had had many different opportunities to not only observe fish behind a sheet of glass, but also had opportunities to travel abroad and swim in the water with those same fish that he was learning about.
He seemed to have a way with the fish and they didn’t seem to shy away from him, but rather seemed interested in him. This always made his work more interesting for him. He felt that he could learn more about the behavior of marine animals far better than any other marine biologist, simply due to this innate skill.
Jim obtained a good job doing research that paid well, while also gaining grants to further his research. Jim was driven, and when he was not working on the research, he chose to not sit back, but rather to teach the next generation of future marine biologists and began to teach at a well known, distinguished university, the same university that he had received his degree at.
Due to his success in the field, and with all of these opportunities almost being thrown at him, he was able to buy his first house a year after he received his phD.
When looking for a house, he was looking for something very particular. He needed space. He needed a lot of space. He had heard the statement about not bringing your work home, but he didn’t understand it. His work was his life! His work was all that he ever seemed to care about. He found comfort and happiness in his work. This statement never had any truth with him.
The day he found the house, he didn’t wait to think about it. On the spot he told the realtor that this was his home and told her to put in whatever offers she needed to in order to ensure that it was his. A month later, he had moved into his new home and began to prepare.
The living room area was closer to being called a gallery. It was a large open space that could easily have been a show room, if Jim had been into sports cars or opening a grand art exhibit, but these things did not interest Jim. Jim cared about fish.
Over the next several weeks, Jim had all different types of construction workers in his house building structures that others would have though would take away from the grandeur of the space. And by the end of the second month, three enormous 3 inch thick tanks, standing over 15 feet high, filled the room. The skylights shined down from mere feet above into the crystal clear waters that filled them.
After another two weeks, the two smaller tanks had been decorated and filled with fish. The first was filled with all types of freshwater fish ranging anywhere from simple goldfish and crabs to pufferfish and a river shark. The second was much grander in appearance, filled with tropical saltwater fish. The colors of the tangs, clownfish and anemone shined along with the beauty of more difficult fish to believe he had in the tank like the venomous lion fish.
However, the third tank still sat vacant. Rocks and plants had started to appear, but there was no marine life lingering behind the thick glass. Regardless, this was the tank that Jim spent most of his time staring into. He would spend hours looking through the glass, seemingly simply looking across the tank to the other side of the room through the other side of the tank. He would stare as though he were watching the life that would be in the tank, and he found that life far more interesting that the all the life that was in the other two.
After four months, the tank finally welcomed its resident; a small, juvenile North Pacific Giant Octopus, which Jim so rightly called “Legs.”
Legs was young, and had been taken from the aquarium in Jim’s home town. It had been born at the aquarium and Jim had gone through the battle of his lifetime to obtain him. He convinced the people that were funding his research to fight with him, as his research focused primarily on the behavior of cephalopods; the Northern Pacific Great Octopus being the most extreme and interesting of species, in Jim’s opinion, to study. He convinced his funders, that he needed to have a subject to observe not only mere hours in a day at a lab where it would be living in a confined space, but he needed to watch it as much as possible and in a space that would give it a chance to be as free as possible for a captive-bred octopus. His funders agreed, and he truly brought his work home, and began to work primarily from his house, only usually leaving to teach classes.
Jim believed that the tank that he had constructed for this octopus was the largest tank built primarily for a single cephalopod. It was 16 feet tall, by 40 feet wide and 50 feet long. It was massive, and filled the majority of the lower floor of Jim’s house. He had torn down walls and ripped out living space and kitchen space to accommodate for this tank. There was very little wood on the tank to cause any types of blind spots, and it was almost entirely curved glass.
The first time Jim watched Legs go into his tank, his heart began to race. He had been working all this time to make the tank as perfect and natural feeling for an octopus of Legs’ breed. The water temperature, pH levels, everything, had been adjusted to perfectly fit him and even the plants were the same plants that would be found in Legs’ natural habitat.
Contrary to what Jim thought would happen, Legs did not come rushing to the side of the tank to see him, rather, Legs kept away from Jim no matter where he moved. This was the first time that Jim had experienced something like this with a marine animal and his heart sunk lower than he thought possible.
Months went by and no matter what Jim attempted, Legs refused to acknowledge or show Jim any type of love.