Black fish of the family

by Ben
(Eureka, CA)

It was June 7th and the annual family barbecue was underway. The table was brimming with coronary inducing dishes: my mother's bacon, cheese and squash casserole, my Aunt's deviled eggs and illicit potato salad; so decadent that it had to be illegal in 10 states, my grandmother's pork rub, so divine I'm convinced it has the touch of God, or at least one of His lesser seraphim, and of course there was always the newest bumbling creation of my sister-in-law. God bless her, she tried to keep up with the other women in the family, but she just didn't have the chops. Every year her dish would be a bust and the family would peck at it a bit just to make her feel better, but at the end of the barbecue, her recipe would always be the last standing on the table. This year she really went all out. She made trout stuffed with tomatoes and onions. That is just a little too fancy for this family, and we all know that fish is for seabirds. If it doesn’t sit in your colon for ten years, this family is going to turn our collective noses up at it. Real meat comes from cows and pigs. We all know that! So just like every year, this dish just sat and sat, flies buzzing, doing their reconnaissance and waiting for that moment they could flit in beneath the tinfoil. Those stupid fly brains should know that there is no need to risk the swatter. One way or another, that trout is going into the trash. Now, I have a daughter—one of those precocious types whose mouth is constantly running. I watched her eyeballing that fish all afternoon. I knew that she was up to no good but I was too distracted by my doddering great aunt to nip it in the bud. Come sundown, belts unbuckled, the air stale with the farts and belches of 3 generations, I looked at the picnic table to gauge the damage. Only crumbs remained. The funny thing was, even the trout was gone! I looked for my daughter and caught her eye across the lawn. She just smiled impishly. In that moment, our tomcat, 16 years old if he is a day, sprinted helter-skelter across the lawn and slammed into the table. He was carrying on like he had 5 years of hairballs stuck in his gullet. I ran over grabbed him by his haunches. I could see a fish tail hanging out his mouth. With his tubby body flailing about, I pried his mouth open and reached into his little cat rictus. I pulled out what looked like a third of a trout. He then squirmed out of my grasp and sprinted off and cowered under the toolshed. By that point the family had created a semicircle around the scene. I looked for my daughter. She shrugged. I glowered. My sister-in-law looked pleased as she picked up her empty dish off the table. At least someone was happy.

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