Its ribs are ceiling beams. Its guts are carpeting.

August 21, 2010 at 7:41 pm (fishmongering, natural and unnatural history)

The freshest squid I’ve ever seen was brought to me, not to be sold, but in the belly of a fish. (It feels terribly rude, but I cannot recall what kind of fish that may have been.) I have a small assortment of fish hooks of several sizes at home, and a larger collection stuck into every spare piece of wood near my cutting block at work. We tend to find them still caught in snapper gills, but I’ve also found a hook as long as the palm of my hand in a mahi’s mouth. And a fishmonger friend of mine swears that a friend of his caught a bluefish off the coast of New Jersey, and found a tied off used condom in its stomach.

I was cutting a mahi mahi today, and nearly tossed the head and the attached viscera without checking the contents of the belly. I noticed at the last minute, however, how firm the organs were, and paused to admire the fresh texture of the roe sack, a cheerful yellow in colour like sunflower petals. I noticed something hard in the stomach, still nearly aiming it at my rubbish bin on the other side of the room, anticipating the pleasing thunk sound of a hit, or the more enjoyable splatter and streak of blood if I miss and it slides down the wall behind it. But I paused for curiosity. I took the point of my knife to the veined membrane and split the stomach, squeezing out the contents onto my cutting board. I was expecting squid. Instead, when I washed off the slime and stomach acid I found two baby sea turtles. They were perfect; I expected them to pull themselves about my butcher block on their little fins. They were a little smaller than the largest fishhook in my collection, and their shells hadn’t yet fully hardened. Their eyes had faded, but beyond that one never would guess that they’d been swallowed. The mahi must have caught them and then been caught itself immediately.

I pulled everyone I knew into my cooler to look at them. One by one every cashier, cheesemonger, and coffee buyer heard the rumour and stole away from their work for long enough to step daintily through the puddles that comprise the floor of my workroom, into my back room, and waited while I pried open the plastic container in which I was keeping them. Some thought it strange or sad. Few thought it disgusting, which is the more usual reaction to such things. Everyone asked if they were still alive, and most asked what I’d do with them.

They’re in a glass jar now with a better than ninety percent solution of isopropyl alcohol on my desk, next to a labradorite sphere, and a painted lady butterfly and a Japanese beetle I still have to pin and mount.

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1 Comment

  1. Chronographia said,

    Hm, I’d always assumed that line went, “Its ribs, our ceiling beams, its guts, our carpeting.” Perhaps not.

    Tiny perfect sea turtles! They are amazing.

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