Situation Normal. Atmosphere Breathable. Brainstem Injected. Dialogue Engaged.
Monday, July 18, 2005

Fish Hook Sword

This is the second story about sudden death. While this one is not an intentional suicide like Rodney Ginter's, I think think the two tales go together nicely. I think I'll do a series of stories and call them collectively, "Suicide For Beginners."

No stolen pictures today, for a good reason. Any picture I could add to this story would be too damn ugly to look at. So you see, I have a notion of mercy, albeit vague.

Oh, and I haven't forgotten your letters. All in good time.

Tank never ate fish. His tastes were safely landlocked. Staples like sirloin burgers, ribeye steaks, chicken drumsticks, and pork tenderloins often graced the surface of his charcoal grill. "Meat should be red or white, not see-through. It should sit in your belly like a rock, not a feather."

When Tank was invited to a barbeque at a downtown Chicago highrise apartment with a spectacular balcony view, he quickly accepted the invitation. The barbeque was a social event of the finest kind. It presented an opportunity for Tank to dazzle the palates of his coworker's rich girlfriend. And her fancy frou frou friends. He'd show those folks a thing or two. Always a cooking crusader, Tank relished every opportunity to educate heathens unschooled in the art of cooking range animals. He considered himself a charcoal maestro, and would often arrange briquets in varying patterns to carefully distribute heat. Under his watchful eye, precise temperatures seared meat and boiled blood for exacting savory effects.

He arrived on the 16th floor with a bag of Kingsford and several stryofoam platters of meat. As he set himself to marinating and spicing, he looked around the expensive apartment. His quick survey yielded surprises: polished wood trim and tables, walls painted in subdued blues and reds, "Bless This Home" needlepoints, and the occasional antique farming implement hung from he walls. Rustic. Very American colonial. The home decor was unusually domestic suburban for such a posh location. This reassured Tank. His kind of people.

Tank stood at the counter inserting whole peppercorns into a pork tenderloin when the hostess approached.

"Hi! I'm Kathy Appletine. Welcome to my little suaree! You're Gary's friend from work, right?

"Yep! Tank Fenton, pleased ta meetcha. Gary talks about you all the time. Nice things, believe it or not. Thanks for having me over. I've been boasting to Gary all summer long about my grilling acumen. Finally I get to show it off. I consider myself an expert on the grill."

"I'm glad you decided to come."

"I like your place. It's pretty down to earth. I gotta admit, I didn't expect that."

"Why thank you! Make yourself at home. I see Gary already showed you to the kitchen. The bathroom is right over there, and the balcony is right through there."

"Duly noted. I brought some skirts steaks, peppers, cheese, and torillas for some tacos. I also got some tenderloins here. I figure I'll chunk 'em and stab 'em with toothpicks. Make a nice starter."

"Sounds delicious. Gary and I are doing fish. We've got salmon, swordfish, and tuna. I'm also doing red pepper bowls filled with smoked salmon and smoked gouda. They're fabulous. There's plenty of wine, too, so go ahead and pour yourself a glass."

Tank hated fish. Kathy's menu gave him pause. To his tastebuds, fish tasted like congealed latrine overflow. Despite his disdain, he decided he would nibble on the minimum polite portion. Maybe he could use some hot peppers to drown the tastes of mud and kelp. Then, of course, return to his taco gobbling marathon. Tacos laden with good old-fashioned red meat rendered from animals that blink and scream.

So he lied. "I heard swordfish is great with a glass of white wine. I can't wait!"

"We're all out on the balcony, come on out as soon as you're ready, Tank."

"Will do."

- - - - -

Tank leaned back in his deck chair and patted his stomach. His food had been well received by the gathered party. Gary had given him the thumbs up while chewing a mouthful of taco. If he couldn't wait to swallow before doling out the compliments, Tank must've succeeded. As he sipped from a glass of wine and enjoyed the murmur of conversation, Kathy walked up to him with a small plate.

"Everything was just delicious, Tank. Color me impressed. I see you haven't tasted my swordfish yet. So I brought you a little bit. Any advice on improving it would be very, very welcome."

Kathy stood expectantly beside Tank. Cringing inwardly, he accepted the dish and cut a portion of the pale meat with his fork. As he lifted it to his mouth, the pungeant briney aroma raped his nose, sending his stomach into churning dismay. With resigned determination, he shovelled the first bite into his maw and chewed.

Tank was in trouble. He felt as though fish were fucking and pooping on his tongue at the same time while flailing and hemmoraghing their wet stinky little guts. The swordfish tasted like thrice used denture cleanser mixed with garlic afterbirth.

He swallowed, unable to muffle the slight gag reflex. Kathy look alarmed, insulted, and horrified all at once.

"It's ehm, hurk, khaa,.. excuse me. Pretty damn good, I must say. I just -whew- swallowed down the wrong pipe. Hate when that happens. Gimme a sec to recover."

"You poor dear, here, let me fill your wine."

Kathy filled his glass and went back to sit next to Gary, her cheeks flushed and eyes cast down. Tank was a poor actor. The other guests looked at the hyperventilating, neck-squeezing Tank. Some held hostile expressions.

He thought the offending critter must've been pregnant with eggs when it was cooked. He was almost positive there'd been litte black peas of something speckled within the white carcass. Tank kept breathing, one careful and deep breath at a time. His stomach had not forgiven him, and soon the stabbing pains began attacking his organs.

"Tank?" It was Gary. "You don't look too hot. I think you might be having an allergic reaction."

Crimson splotches and bumps nudged Tank's skin from underneath, protruding and swelling with alarming rapidity. The population of swordfish pox quickly multiplied, polka dotting Tank from head to toe. His ears rung. His eyes dried. His stomach lurched. Torrents of bile lapped at the bottom of his esophagus.

"I... I... Excuse me."

Tank stood from his chair and stumbled towards the railing. He reached it, and up from his stomach exploded a wave barely-digested sludge. Through his mouth and nose the foamy chowder spurted as Tank cried and vomited. Shreds of wet tortilla and steak went over the railing, pinwheeling in the breeze on their way down to the sidewalk. Cheesey pepper followed, punctuated by fine wine. For three minutes Tank chucked. After the food, glistening strings of percolated bile flung out, splashing his sandalled toes when they didn't clear the porch edge. Even when he was completely empty, the heaves continued. He grew weaker. Finally the reflexive jolts subsided.

The other guests' reactions were as mixed as the stew emitted from Tank's gobble. Several had gone inside, hoping to prevent the spectacle from sparking a contagious puke party. Some stayed outside, not too close to Tank, but close enough to whisper words of encouragement. "Easy, Tank, just breathe."

Gary took the initiative and walked up behind Tank, patting and rubbing his back, speaking soothing repetetive encouragements.

Tank stopped. He would be okay. He clumsily fell back from the railing, barely maintaining his balance as he wobbled back.

"Huh. Glurk. I. Aaah. Okay. Mm okay."

"I'll get you some water, Tank. Just have a seat."

Tank sat hyperventilating, pawing at the slime around his mouth, continuing to break out in hives. He lasted there for about a minute.

"--nnnh! Oh!"

Tank's biology was back, and it was still angry. He cradled his stomach with both arms. Invisible skewers pierced his digestive tract once again. He lurched back to the railing. Clutching his stomach, he leaned hard on the rail as he heaved another blank. The momentum of the empty vomiting folded him in half over the top of the railing. At the same time, his sandals slipped in a patch of vomit that had caught the edge of the porch. Tank lost his traction. He went over the railing, following his spoiled dinner sixteen floors to the cement, where he added a few more ingredients to the tummy puddle.

Grill that up.
2:57 PM - Bottle Rocket Fire Alarm


July 18, 2005 2:52 PM, Blogger Kerouaced said...

Perhaps the hosts then grilled Tank. I assume he was a large meat individual and might have made a fine dessert.

How you keep coming up with these interesting stories is beyond me. Good work once again...

July 18, 2005 5:49 PM, Blogger OldHorsetailSnake said...

Lying there on the sidewalk, amid "the tastes of mud and kelp." An out-loud cackle from me, Rocket. This is beautiful, with many many wondrous lines.

July 18, 2005 7:54 PM, Blogger Anonysis said...

I laughed and then almost cried. Poor guy.

July 18, 2005 11:05 PM, Blogger Bottle Rocket Fire Alarm said...

Steve, I guess the flower of my imagination is named Cruelty. Certainly seems so lately.

Thanks Hoss!

Sis, don't feel bad. His allergic reaction would've been a far longer and more painful death. You wouldn't want a saltwater aquarium in your torso, would you?

July 19, 2005 2:57 AM, Blogger Latigo Flint said...

The brothers Frank and Joe Hardy had a father named Fenton, but this is not the only reason I enjoyed the story.

July 19, 2005 5:08 AM, Blogger Satisfied '75 said...

you publish ? great stuff here

July 19, 2005 6:19 AM, Blogger hijacked frequencies said...

that was so descriptive that i almost felt woozy myself...good stuff.

July 19, 2005 9:44 AM, Blogger Floyd said...

Death via contemplating my death and how it would eventually come, I have been indecisive. But I think this fits me quite nicely. Thanks!

July 19, 2005 9:57 AM, Blogger Dave Morris said...

You had me at "congealed latrine overflow."

Another way-good piece of work.

July 19, 2005 9:59 AM, Blogger Dave Morris said...

PS - I know of your "love" for dogs, so that must make it all the harder for you to accept that dogfriendly-dot-com named Chicago America's most dog-friendly city. It has nothing to do with this post, but the irony didn't escape me.

Hmm... was it irony, or merely coincidence? Hmmm.

July 19, 2005 10:11 AM, Anonymous sarcastrix said...


July 20, 2005 7:43 AM, Blogger Mishka said...

Congrats on another excellent are quite talented.


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