I'm keeping my future husband in a five gallon aquarium. Actually, he started out in a jar. Then he graduated to the fish bowl. This is the end of a five year long process. When he metaphorphosizes, he'll turn into a human. Or, I'll get to turn him into a human.
I'm about to turn eighteen. When I was thirteen, I was at the lake in the back of our house, looking at dragonflies. I loved to play by the lake on a warm summer day in Atascadero and watch all the creatures hanging around. I would catch miniature trout and little invertebrates in a jar. I loved the frogs, the turtles, the sunsets, the birds.
One day a fairy flew up to me. She said, "Yes darling, I'm a fairy. I know it's the twenty-first century, but we still exist. Close your mouth, you'll get a fly in it." She wore a green blouse and blue skirt and had gorgeous lacy green wings. She had an unforgettable face. Blond hair. Green eyes. She was about a hand long, a hand with long fingernails.
"Well sweetie, we're reaching the end of society as we know it." She said as she looped around my head, doing back flips.
"What are you talking about?" I said, trying to take a picture. She wouldn't let me.
"There's gonna be a big flu epidemic spread by pigs. Most of the males of your species will either die or become sterile. So if you want to get married and have kids, you and I'd better talk about it now."
"How is this going to happen?" I wondered aloud.
"I don't know. Something about the lack of resistance from the y chromosome. Give me a break. This may be the twenty-first century, and I have magic, but I'm no scientist." Her melodious voice sounded slightly peeved.
"So, honey, if you want a husband, here's what you have to do. See those big green and blue dragonflies, the Green Darners? Go catch one of their nymphs and feed it for five years. They can last that long. Then you'll be eighteen and ready to mate. As soon as it becomes an adult, pull off his wings, and you'll have a strapping fertile man."
"What? Just like that? I stammered.
"Well I don't have all day". However, I can answer one or two questions.
"How will I know if it's the right nymph? Can I see what he looks like first?"
"Teenagers." she muttered. "Don't worry, you'll find the right nymph. Green Darners are very common, and frankly, this is magic. As for inspecting the merchandise before making a commitment, just put him under a black light. You do know what that is, right?"
I nodded stupidly, my next question on my lips as she flew away. "What do I feed him?"
"Well," I thought. "That fairy certainly seems to be in a hurry!"
Dragonfly nymphs are the ugliest, most predatory insect sharks in the lake. Probably in the world. After my little blue green fairy flew away I took my jar and scooped up a tubular brown animal the length of a centimeter. It had a wormlike body, huge eyes, and as I was to learn, a distendable jaw or prementum. I was to spend the next five years of my life collecting insect larvae and little wiggles to feed him. I watched, first in horror, then in disgusted fascination as my ancient trilobite with water jets used his spiky jaws to grab, dismantle shell, tear flesh, suck, bite and gulp his way to large dragonfly size. Not exactly a romantic dating period. I threw in everything alive and he ate it all. He did not hesitate to eat small fish. Or tadpoles. He did not hesitate to eat other nymphs either, the cannibal.
As my boyfriend got larger and fatter, I needed a bigger space for him, so he ended up in a five gallon aquarium.
So it's just about time. My creature has climbs out of the aquarium and sits on the rim. It's sunset in springtime. We did have a swine plague. There are still some boys and men left, but not too many. Of course there were never too many in this Podunk town of Atascadero. The light is coming in from the curtains to the west. I watch in silence while Mr. Darner dries off, splits his skin and starts to pump blood into his wings. This, unlike muscle flexing, is not at all sexy, but fascinating in a weird way. By morning I am stunned by an insect of incredible beauty, with huge green eyes, green thorax and blue thin abdomen. So, I get the black light. Yes, I have one. I had five years to buy the thing. I hold it up to him. He's, wow, he's human. Not bad looking at all. Green shirt, blue pants, big green eyes, blond hair. A little thin, but has a big chest. Genius sized head. His clothes look like those of Gainsborough's Blue Boy. Maybe this ancient creature does not know how to dress for the twenty- first century. Now that I think about it, he looks like that darned fairy.
So this is it. I have my scalpel in hand. I get ready to go for his wings.
Something stops me. Maybe it's the time of morning which softens the edges. Maybe it's the fact I was up all night and am a little fuzzy. Maybe it's his eating habits. Maybe I just want to stay single.
I carry him to the front of the house and toss him into the air. I watch him do a couple of loops and back flips around my head. Then he is gone beyond the oranges and purples of the sunrise of my eighteenth birthday.