It’s Friday night and the Bramble family have invited their neighbours, the Whites, for dinner. Their guests marvel at the scrumptious display of raw fish. Mr. White is especially taken with the salmon tartare, his favourite, and comments:
“Imported salmon! Your teeth sharpening business must be doing very well, Charlene. I’ve never seen a salmon this big in these waters.”
Charlene Bramble smiles uncomfortably and is just about to talk when her husband slips over for a kiss. “The salmon isn’t the only good catch in this shipwreck you know.”
Mrs. Bramble blushes and leads her hubby to the kitchen to help with the shellfish while their kids entertain the Whites with fish impressions.
Once in the kitchen Charlene speaks her mind. “They have a right to know what they are eating, Skip.”
“Net, Charlene, WE don’t even know what we’re eating.”
Charlene scowls at him.
He counters: “What? You want me to tell them that we’ve been paying Ching Lee protection money? That we’re so stuck that all we can afford now is some Poseidon knows what human engineered salmon from a high security testing facility in Peru? And in front of the kids to fin?”
Skip starts stacking the crab legs on a coral platter while Charlene responds.
“Well no, Angelfish. But if he finds out…He’s a lawyer you know.”
Charlene starts filling an acropora platter but the weight of the crab cracks the coral. She swears under her gills: “Spawning human induced CO2!”
Skip hands her a galaxea platter and frowns disapprovingly at her cussing.
“Regardless, we have a family to feed and protect.”
Charlene swims in close and whispers: “We could move to Fiji. I’ve seen pictures. It’s so beautiful. Coral teaming with life. And food everywhere! It’s a Reef of Eden. It’s the water of the free, Skip. We can have a new life. Cleaner. Peaceful. For us and the kids.”
She leans into him and curls her tail around his, dreamy-eyed.
Skip is skeptical. They have had this conversation before and he is still circling the issue.
“Sounds too goo to be true, Minnow. If it’s one thing these shark teeth have taught me Charlene is that the reason humans taste so bad is because they’re rotten from the inside out. I don’t trust them one bite.”
“But what if—“
“—That’s what we pay Ching Lee for.” He adds. “And besides, not everyone in the refugee tanks make it their alive. We’d be a fin fest out there in the open sea.”
Charlene recalls the gruesome images in the New Ocean Times of finless sharks spiralling to their death and left to be pecked at by crabs and shudders at the realization of what she is serving tonight.
“You’re right, but the whole situation just bites!”
Skip hands the heaping platter to a sullen Charlene, then rubs her dorsal fin and nuzzles in. Charlene sighs. Laughter flowing from the dining room perks up her spirits and the couple join their little clown fish at the table.
Mrs. White struggles to speak through her incessant chortling. “Your kids really should start a comedy channel on ChewTube. My brother up the coast can set them up.”
Charlene and Skip look over at their pups and beam. Their little ones mean the ocean to them.
While Charlene serves a slice of dogfish paté to the Whites, she spies her son Joey trying to eat a crab leg by sliding it across the table towards his mouth and scolds him, mortified:
“Joey Bramble! Where are your manners? We use BOTH fins at the table, young shark. Sit up straight and put your right fin above the table this instant!“
Joey just sits there frozen. His little sister Katie sticks her head under the table and squeals.
“Mommy, mommy his fin!”
Charlene’s eyes grow wide, Skip drops his crab leg on the deck, and the Whites look on in horror as Joey slowly sits up straight revealing a severed fin.
Charlene rushes to her son with tears in her eyes: “Who did this to you?”
Joey tries to speak but he is too afraid. “I can’t. They’ll hurt Katie.”
Charlene continues: “And what about when they take the next fin, and the next? Joey, please! You have to speak up! Who was it?”
Joey twitches his tail sheepishly under the table and slouches again. “Tang Lee.”
Skip falls off his chair. Charlene gasps. Her eyes go blank: “Ching Lee’s son?”
Mr. White listens intently as Joey continues. “He called you a guppy, Mom. So I said his dad had teeth envy. That he was just a thug with small teeth. Then he and his buddies pushed me up to the surface and held me there while“ Joey starts sobbing and holding his mangled fin.
Charlene is furious. She swims circles around the bow of the wreck until their dinner gets swept into her slip stream.
Mr. White seizes the opportunity: “We can press charges. Even Ching Lee isn’t above the natural law. Triads have no place in the deep.”
Charlene calms down, stops right in front of her guests and announces. “No. We pack tonight. We’re going to Fiji.”
Mrs. White’s fin reaches for Mr. White’s. “My brother’s not just a talent scout. Meet him tomorrow at high tide. But don’t be late. They don’t wait for stragglers.”
…to be continued in Fiji Bound.