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A Wasabi Style Mayonnaise Drizzle

It started with a cupcake that proclaimed its appreciation of your good taste in having bought it. It gave you a small burst of inner warmth in a life which, was, admittedly, lacking in social interaction. You couldn’t eat it after that. You left it on your countertop where you could see it when you came down in the morning, until it turned hard and stale and you eventually threw it away but furtively kept the packaging by leaving it propped up like a Christmas card against the kitchen splashback as though you’d simply forgotten to put it in the recycling.

By the end of the affair you spent most evenings arranging and re-arranging a vast collection of what bloggers were calling wackaging, which you found insulting. Each trip to the supermarket provided an addition to your collection – a smoothie that asked you to stop looking at its bottom, a cereal bar that told you about its favourite film, a milkshake which congratulated you on your masculinity. Some of them told you stories, tales of invention and entrepreneurship, like the cashew nuts that came into chance contact with a spill of sweet chilli sauce birthing a new crack-like snack for the twenty-first century.

You sometimes tweeted your favourite brand of tortilla chips and it would tweet back. You found yourself happier than you’d been in a long time.

It ended with this fish.

A girl outside the tube station had been handing out free samples of a new brand of sauce – a wasabi-style mayonnaise drizzle, recommended with fish. You suddenly had a hankering for a fish supper. You realised you hadn’t cooked in months.

You bought the fish from the local fishmonger, run by two Hassidic guys who joked and swore in Yiddish at each other as one of them packaged up your mackerel.

You thought you’d pan fry it, simply, with a squeeze of the sauce, which told you in what you imagined was a friendly northern accent that it would add all natural ‘oo-er’ to any meal.

But as you unwrapped it you were sure that you felt the fish shift under your fingers. And then it was full on flapping, slapping its little wet body around on your counter top - a violent kind of movement that startled you, that more than startled you - you scurried to the other side of the room and grabbed a rolling pin from the drawer to wack the thing into oblivion. Those two chancers had sold you a live fish, what a joke.

And then the fish spoke. It flipped its head round with a slap, Big Mouth Billy Bass style, and its little mouth opened and shut, and as clear as day, it spoke.

Tzarich Shmira

The fish said

Tzarich Shmira

ha-sof ba

You looked at the fish in fear and awe, and also bewilderment, because the language that the fish was speaking made no sense to you.

The fish carried on, with what seemed to be a long anecdote or perhaps a parable. It sounded sort of portentous. When it finished it turned its glassy eye to you and looked at you keenly, obviously expecting a reaction.

You shrugged apologetically, before collecting yourself and remembering that you had been listening to a fish speak for several minutes, and that you were clutching a rolling pin, and that you were undoubtedly losing your mind. You advanced towards the fish, which you now thought looked somewhat fearful, and raised the rolling pin, but were unable to develop the fatal blow because the fish was mouthing at you again, but this time its voice sounded quite shakey and pathetic, and just really un-killable.

You wrapped it up quickly in its soggy paper wrapper, which immediately ceased its flapping, stuck it in a plastic bag, and marched it back to the fishmongers where the two brothers were arguing over a large carp in the back of the shop.

You cleared your throat

This fish is alive

You said.

The older fishmonger turned his head and raised a quizzical eyebrow.

You slapped the paper wrapped fish down on the counter and unrolled it where it lolled, quite dead.

The Hassid raised his eyebrow again and stared at you for a moment. He turned back to the carp.

It was alive.

You said

I wouldn’t make this up, what do you think I am, crazy

As you said it, you remembered that you might well be just that.

The younger fishmonger made a shoo-ing motion at you, like you were a stray cat in the midst of all this fish and muttered something in Yiddish to his brother, possibly a comment on your mental health.

You slunk out, leaving the fish behind you. As the shop door pinged your exit you finally realised the language that the fish had been speaking in.

When you got home you looked up the two phrases that the fish had repeated the most effusively. You posted them on an online translation forum under the guise that you had overheard someone shouting Hebrew on the underground and had been wondering what they had meant. Tzarich Shmira meant vigilance is needed. Ha-sof ba meant the end is coming. Someone posted jokingly that you must have encountered a prophet.1

End Notes

Go to footnote reference 1.

Certain Hasidic sects believe that righteous people can be reincarnated as fish. In January 2003, the final, apocalypse-announcing words of a large carp were witnessed by two fish cutters in New York City’s New Square Fish Market. Hasid Zalman Rosen and his colleague Luis Nivelo were about to turn said carp into gefilte fish. The carp proclaimed itself to the two men as the troubled soul of a recently departed community elder, and quickly became the talk of the local Skver Hasidic community, the wider Hasidic community, and the international press. See Corey Kilgannon, 'Fish Talks Town Buzzes'

Niamh Riordan

Niamh Riordan is an artist and writer who lives and works in Liverpool. She completed an MA in Sculpture at the Slade School of Fine Art in 2013. She is currently interested in incorporating six years of experience working as a cheesemonger into a sculpture practice that centres around material experimentation, and is researching the potential of domestically made bio-plastics as a use for food surpluses whilst attempting to develop a range of milk plastic cutlery.