Emperor Maximus the Disapproving has a buddy.
His name is Red (short for Big Red Spot), and despite Max’s tendency to dislike just about everything, Red has found his soft spot.
Apparently, it lies behind the gills.
In the wild, watchman gobies often find and pair up with a pistol or fire shrimp, to mutual benefit and advantage. The goby provides a cave or other secluded home and protects the shrimp from predators, and the shrimp keeps the goby free from parasites.
It took our fire shrimp, Red, about three months to convince Emperor Maximus that this arrangement had merit, but now the two are nearly inseparable. Max doesn’t let anyone else approach his cave, but Red can come and go without interference. Max doesn’t let any fish swim within reach, and gets furious when the cleaner shrimp come too close, but Red can actually grab Max by the fins, push him into the sand and clean him thoroughly.
The first time I saw a cleaning in progress, I thought poor Max had died. He was lying in the sand bed with Red’s claws buried in his gills. I grabbed a stepstool and prepared to retrieve my goby’s corpse before the shrimp could turn him into dinner – only to see Max wiggle contentedly and swim away.
Since then, I’ve seen the cleaning many times but it never ceases to amaze. The Fish That Cannot Stand Anyone has found himself a friend – and The Shrimp That’s Afraid of Everyone had the courage to make an ally of the most aggressive creature in the tank.
Curiouser and curiouser, indeed.*
It goes to prove an important point about relationships. No matter how cranky we seem from time to time, we all have special qualities that may benefit others in unexpected ways. Max isn’t exactly amicable to most creatures, but in Red Spot’s eyes he is an excellent friend.
The good that is in us isn’t always visible right away, but perseverance frequently offers great rewards. Hang in there, and you might just find a very special friend. Even if you don’t, it pays to remember that everyone is special to someone, whether or not we can see the reasons at first glance.
Just like Max and Red.