I rounded the corner and joined in with the gasps of the slew of elementary-aged children around me.
The fish was huge. I mean, massive. It totally warranted the gasps.
The sign indicated that this was a giant grouper (emphasis on the giant, apparently). He swam towards the front of the tank, slowly, methodically, as if he knew his heft was impressive. His deep blue scales contrasted with the muted colors of the coral reef behind him. He was majestic.
The children pressed their hands against the glass, eyes round with awe. The grouper swished his tail, the effort shooting bubbles off to the sides. Other fish circled behind him, background noise to his main overture. We were riveted.
Suddenly, the fish began to move quickly to the surface. Small splashes indicated it was feeding time. With all of the ferocity of a velociraptor, the fish nabbed their prey. The grouper went last, snagging his meal and swimming away. The head of the smaller fish hung out of one side of his mouth, blank eyes watching nothing. Maybe he was saving it for later.
The grouper swam towards his audience once more, this time with the fish dangling from his mouth like a stubby cigar, and with his prominent brow and menacing look, I suddenly saw him as a mob boss coming to collect...and we were the unfortunate saps who had dared to cross him.
Before he could confront us, the tank was filled with a blur of bubbles as another, slightly smaller fish darted to the side of Godfather Grouper and nabbed the rest of his lunch straight out of his mouth. No more stubby cigar.
We shrieked in delight at the impudence of this smaller fish, certain that the grouper would retaliate. But he just swam away with the sort of air that only comes along with being certain that you are big enough to get revenge...if you want to.
The tank calmed down again, and I moved on, but I still wonder if Godfather Grouper ever decided it was time for his food-stealing counterpart to...sleep with the fishes?