I'll Have the Fish

Fiction

DENNIS AND MARIA WALKED THROUGH THE DOORWAY of the new trendy restaurant and found themselves face to face with an enormous glass tank. The maitre d greeted them with a bow and showed them to their table.

"May I—"

"Hon," Dennis began, looking agitated. Maria sharpened her eyebrows and gave him a little kick under the table. She hated it when he interrupted other people. The maitre d cocked his head.

"This is your first time with us, I see. Allow me to send over complimentary drinks." He turned and signaled the bartender. "Please enjoy your evening," he said, bowed again, and walked away.

"Was that what I think that was?" Dennis demanded.

"What, hon?" Maria glanced around at the sleek tables and long, polished bar where a few customers were perched, drinking cocktails with little parasols on top and munching on goldfish. She examined the paintings: a lone surfer astride his board waiting for a wave, a rich crimson sunset on the water—

Dennis gave a strangled cry. "The tank!"

"Probably lobster," she said. "Did you read about that huge tank they have at the festival in Rockport every summer? Thousands of people can order and—"

"Didn't you see them?"

Maria could see that her husband was upset. His voice had grown hoarse and just above the neat Half Windsor knot of his tie, his top shirt button threatened to explode. A waiter approached with their drinks. "Our signature cocktail," he said. "Blood orange, tequila, champagne, and finally—" He produced a fancy bottle with a silver pouring spout, "a shot of grenadine on the top." They watched as the sticky liquid seeped down the insides of each glass.

"Would you like to pick out your own shark this evening?" he inquired.

"No!" Dennis said quickly. "Thanks," he added, noticing the waiter's smile fade.

"But it is the custom here."

Dennis looked around. There were really very few other patrons aside from those at the bar.

"I think we made a mistake," he whispered, pushing back his chair. "Let's go, honey."

"What? After all the buzz about this place?"

"What kind of buzz did you—"

The waiter cleared his throat. Dennis pulled his chair up to the table again and sat up straight, determined to gain control.

"Hmm. Could we se a menu then?" he asked.

The waiter smiled a toothy smile. "We only have the one specialty," he said.

"Let's get out of here!" Dennis cried.

"I'm afraid that isn't possible, sir."

"What? Why not?" Dennis' voice had now risen to an alarming pitch. He choked, paused, and looked around the restaurant. Men in scuba gear had commandeered the doorways. They held spear guns at the ready.

"You'll have the spectacle, then, this evening?" he inquired, taking his pad from his belt and his pen from behind his ear.

"Ah—"

"You'll select for both you and the lovely lady? Let's see." The waiter sized Dennis up as easily as a tailor. "I'd say a 42 long. Bet on the side, Madam?"

"Ok, yes." she said. "Come on Dennis. Get into the spirit of the thing!"

Dennis had gone very pale. Maria smiled sweetly. "You remember my telling you about Helen and Bob?" she asked.

"Ah—"

"They came here." She paused. "You see, you really don't ever listen to me."

Dennis was led away by the aqua guards, who wrestled him into a wet suit. The remaining patrons cheered and raised their glasses. A few, Maria noticed, were outfitted with hooks. Some thumped artificial legs on the shiny wooden floor.

"You go, honey," Maria called, taking out a $50.

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