Fried Fish…

Other Friends to Fry

 One time a small croaky house on an island quite far north was the home to a young woman. She was named Mëli. And she was quite a find.

Well, the island of which we speak was quite light and grey, and it did not have such a great many human inhabitants. Just a few. One of whom, of course was Mëli. Her small house was constructed out of very small square rocks of a silvery colour, all sandwiched together by the whitest cement adhesive. There were two square windows for eyes upon the front façade, and beneath them a little red door for the nose. A door underneath which Mëli had planted the most lovely plants and flowers able to withstand the rainy, grey climate that was common to the island. The flora collected and tangled either side of the red door like two sides of a shuffling caterpillar moustache. A moustache of Wild Bergamot, Queen of the Prairie, Bee Balm and, of course, the terribly mischievous Azure Pickerel in the most damp and boggy regions. Such a very small house did Mëli live in, but not so pathetic to crack and crumble under the constant drip drop of the grey, grey rain. And fortunately, Mëli was rather small herself and so fit quite snuggly into her little home. Thank goodness.

Well although the house was terribly grey, as you can gather, it was positively technicolour in comparison to the island that surrounded it. In fact, the blood red of the Bee Balm and the little cherry door must have been the brightest thing for many kilometres, excepting of course the fluorescent front window of the only restaurant upon the island. This restaurant was the Red Herring, and was not, if the truth be told, a veritable restaurant. Rather, the place was the island’s finest, and only, vendor of the most splendid and salty fish and chips you might ever eat. And it was also Mëli’s workplace.

Everyday she would walk from her square, grey house down the flat, grey street for around 19 or 20 minutes, until she reached the Red Herring, where she steadfastly served the island community with the tastiest deep fried sea treats: a necessitous role you understand. It was usually quite a pleasant way to pass the day, and of course it enabled Mëli to afford the electricity and gas needed to heat her grey abode. At the beginning, it must be said, she was a little apprehensive to watch the slippery sliver fish slide from her fingers, glassy flat eyes wide, wide open, plunging deep into the rich batter mix, but soon enough she became accustomed to fishing out the slithery creamy coated creatures by the tail, and then dropping them into the vat of hot yellow oil. She could see the transformation from silver, scaly friend to crispy, tempting morsel of gold right before her eyes, and after a while she no longer felt like an accessory to murder. Nevertheless, she continued to flinch just a little for each little fish.

These fish were mainly Kolja and Silvertorsk, native species that were extremely common to the area, but occasionally the great swarthy fisher people might trawl in a rarefied Hälleflundra, Rödspätta or Svärdfisk. Hälleflundra was Mëli’s most favourite fish for supper, so sweet and delicious it was, wrapped up in a crackling coat of paralysed fat and batter.

For many months, maybe years, Mëli had been working in the Red Herring, from ten in the morning to midnight everyday, save for Saturday, when she had the day for her own. It was quite a sure way to live, every week more or less the same pattern to follow, and as cherished piscatorial caretaker to all the island’s inhabitants, Mëli became acquainted with a great majority, if not all, of her neighbours.

How pleasant it was to get to know and also to provide for the folk of the island, to make the kiddies smile with snacks of golden crisp fishy friends, and to warm the cold bony folks’ insides. A terribly agreeable, if laborious way to pass the days. It must be noted that Mëli was not alone in the Red Herring. Fortunately she had the helping hands, as well as the unceasing requests, of the two young fellows who owned the place, to keep her from solitude. They worked along with her most of the days, one or the other, and so the daily tasks of gutting and descaling the fish, peeling and chopping the potatoes, and ensuring that the shop was spic and span, were shared and seemed a little less arduous. These two were brothers, perhaps twins, although they were quite different in countenance and character. The one was named Okän; he was surly and ireful, always with furrows cut into his forehead where his eyebrows were compressed in miserly grief. He wore royal blue trousers with a pattern of tiny white fish racing up and down them.

Then there was the other. He was named Yani. He was surly also, but wore red rather than blue trousers with the shapes of tiny white fish upon them. And very occasionally he might become just slightly less gruff and crack a good joke. Mëli found the two of them to be usually good colleagues, both very competent and hard working, if a little on the quiet side, and they were kind to invite her for a fish supper now and again in the room above the Red Herring, which was where the pair lived.

On a day in November, or perhaps it was October, Mëli had been invited to dine with the brothers, as was quite usual. This day was most especially rainy, the water just ran and ran down from the sky, then ran and ran off the pointed roofs upon all of the island’s buildings, then ran and ran down the grey roads and straight into the grey sea. Saturation really was the name of the game. Well all day had Mëli been working, gutting, filleting, scaling, slicing, frying, salting and packing up hot meals for her fellow islanders, because although the rain poured and poured, the people still flocked to the Red Herring. For it was, as previously mentioned, the only restaurant upon the island. On this particular day she had worked alongside Yani, for Okän was running an errand, but at midnight all three prepared to eat together around the small table upstairs, looking out through the grey lace curtains at the rain. Okän had offered to cook as he had not been in the kitchen all day, and the other two remained upstairs to prepare. Mëli fetched a jug of water, while Yani laid out the lousy, tinny cutlery. He was hungry now.

Yani smiled at Mëli and let out a terribly clownish joke. Blundersome and familiar it was. Mëli and Yani grinned. Quite an awful joke. At this point Okän joined them but without any supper, a fact which aggravated Yani terribly. Okän said that he was in need of Mëli’s help downstairs, though she could not think why. Perhaps he had lost the condiments.

But then again, perhaps not. Downstairs, Okän shut the door that led to the room upstairs. Then he locked the door. He proceeded to grab a hold of Mëli’s hand and drag her towards the fish service counter, twisting her small wrists in his enormous callused grip. She very much wanted to shout out, but before she could, his other hand smacked upon her face, stopping any breaths or cries at once. For Okän was terribly strong and much too big for Mëli to challenge, especially in this instance, as she had been caught unawares. Oh dread and terror started to burn inside of Mëli and her heart was running so fast, she thought she would die. Her pores were sweating, her cheeks were on fire, and her ears were ringing as Okän tied a cloth around her face so as to gag her. Her tongue felt feathery as the cloth cut the sides of her mouth and saliva dribbled down her chin. Oh my, she really thought she was choking.

Okän slammed her down and her head began to bleed where it hit the surface. Her hands were taken and she was getting so tired out trying to scratch at the awful man, to punch him somehow. But his face was so terribly close, his hot breathing so disgusting and loathsome. With all her might, Mëli wriggled her knees up towards her chest and kicked out as hard as she could. She struck Okän a dreadful blow as she pushed up and kicked under his chin. Her laced up shoes were fortunately heeled and thus cut Okän’s face so that his chin began to bleed bright orange tomato juice. This blow threw the man from before Mëli, and she had again her arms at her disposal. She pushed him away and scampered to try to unlock the door, but Okän prevented her from escaping as he crashed across the small restaurant area, smashing glass in his trail. Little crystals and green gems of shattered glass sparkled over the tiles and the blood smeared over the metal counter top. It was a terribly revolting sight and so contrary to the smell of the battered Kolja that was sizzling away in the fryer. Mëli searched for some means of defence but it was in vain, so she tried again at the lock. Now her hands had become bloody too.

At this point, the door was opened and Yani, perhaps driven by hunger, or perhaps out of concern for his brother and colleague’s absence, came into the kitchen space. His eyes were very blue and beautiful like the ocean, and a little grey like the island rain. They darted around as he came to understand the mess before him. He pushed Mëli out of the kitchen before reaching, quick as a fox, for a great metal pan. Well, Yani was at this point so very angry, he had flames in his eyes, flames that at once blinded and illuminated his vision. And with this ire he hurt his brother very badly. The bashing and thrashing, gutting, cutting, pummelling, pommelling and battering that Yani had perfected so well with the silvery creatures of the sea that they served in the Red Herring, proved somewhat handy it seemed in this unfortunate and detestable scenario.

Mëli cried and cried behind the dirty door that was sullied with blood, then after a time, Yani opened the door, helped Mëli to her feet and walked with her through the back door out into the pouring rain. She was shaking, and Yani held her hand. They began to walk along the grey, grey road towards the sea, the rain washing the terrifically red blood from their skin and hair, cleaning their faces of sweat and tears. It was so dark, around one o’clock by now, and the cold, black sky was mellowed a little by the grey constant rain. Mëli and Yani stood beneath this sky for a time. Yani was no longer so hungry.

After this occasion, the Red Herring could no longer provide the community with the most wonderful of fish and chips. Mëli left. She fled the island in search of the sun. She did not return, and you can be certain that never again did she dine on a late fish supper.

 

 

For Sale!

Some of my prints are on sale for a limited time online at the  Ohh Deer Website Competition Shop!

If anyone might want to take a look, just click on the links below. The site is lovely and there is lots of illustration from new artists on there…

Island

Island

Jungle

Where the monkey bears live.

Where the monkey bears live.

River

Where the monsters live...

Where the monsters live…

 

The Sun Baby

A preface to the story of the Sun baby…

The Sun Baby

Prior to the story of the Sun Baby, the story of the mother of the Sun Baby must be told. This is how the Sun Baby was born.

Some years ago in the north part of the world, there was a family of a mother, a father and eight babies, though they were never babies all at the same time for the eldest was some twenty years older than the smallest one. There were four boys and four girls and they all had dark hair and pink noses. Well, one of these children, one of the girls, the one in the middle, was quite a silent creature. She had the blackest hair of them all and, though her round nose was blushing like a tomato, her skin was brown and dark. Well, she went from child to woman in the cold city, and was always good, never naughty. Such a hard worker she was, and so well behaved to the point of repression. There was just one thing that she couldn’t deny, though it is often in the nature of human kind to choke and deny that which resides within. But this one thing just wouldn’t rest inside, and it was a good thing really. Unfortunately, this thing made people quite angry. The people in the city did not want the girl to let this desire within creep out. No, they preferred repression and conformity. Some people were different, but they must have been too afraid to say so. For the powers that be could be terribly frightening, and the people would not want to incur their wrath. Instead, they embraced the girl and kept their empathy secret, underneath their dark eyelids. But the girl could see their kindness and she kept a note.

Well, as she had refused to deny her wishes and desires, the thing inside, the girl saw she had but one option. That was to leave her country and people and move far from where she had come. Otherwise, the immortals would punish her to almost certain death.

So she ran far from the north and made a new home on a beautiful island whose sea was blue and sparkling like jewels and whose sand was white and soft like clouds. Here, the trees were strong and fruitful, with a light and soft bark, the insects gorged themselves on the sweet, sticky gold that the wood produced until they were dark and hard and shiny and sang so loudly that the birds in the sky could hear. The hot hard mud and sands were peppered with black and green tangy fruits that loved so much to grow on the island, and when the warmest months came and the sun rose so high, high up in the indigo blue sky, the ground was scattered too with the drying discarded skins of the singing insects, as they burst out with new, youthful bodies, blacker and shinier than ever.

Well the girl came to live here and she became a woman, and soon enough she found a lover and started to allow a little more happiness. No longer did she contend with the displeasure of her people, nor the consternation of the great watching eye above. Of course the immortals did not cease to see her upon her island, no, but they were contented to turn a blind eye. For it was not the woman herself who angered them, but rather the disquiet that she could not help but bring to her people with her unsuppressed desires.

Soon the woman desired to have a child, and her lover agreed. She had a small baby boy and though up until now the powers above had let her live in peace, as the cries of the newborn son rang through the golden heavens, some of the immortals became angry once more. There was a rift among the gods, most of whom did not want to punish the woman further, but some of whom thought that exile was not enough. As they argued above, the skies turned deep black and blue and roared with thunder. The rains began and lightening struck down upon the land and seas below. The clouds collected purple and the sun was hidden by the noise of the heavenly battle.

One immortal, Tondra, the most vengeful and angry of all, was impatient and arrogant and wanted to take matters into his own hands. He was aggravated at the tumult that one mortal woman could cause, and he just could not control his ire. Whilst the conflicts between the gods burned on and the rains continued to pour down on the lands, Tondra concealed himself behind the clouds and reached down to the island, snatching away the glowing baby boy. He wrenched him from the woman’s mothering arms and held him tightly in his powerful grip. Though the woman’s lover tried to comfort her in her despair, there was nothing to dampen the pain that had been caused by the severing of her child from her breast. Her sorrows were unceasing and Tondra took her son and drowned him in the river of her tears. The woman and her love were sent into a period of great mourning and sadness for the loss of a child is the worst of tragedies. The woman was very strong though, and some years later she had another child, a baby girl. Yet, Tondra retained his hold and drowned each and every child that the woman bore. They were all drowned in her salty, blue tears.

By now the thunders in the ciel had subsided and most of the immortals had forgotten the story of the woman on the island. Yet one remembered. It was Ouro, goddess of fertility and spring. She was extremely angry with Tondra. So terribly angry. And so she castrated him and made known to all the immortals his devious and cruel acts.

Ouro was very beautiful. Her skin and hair were golden like the sun, glittering and warm. She wore armour made from the jewels and shells of fruits de mer at the bottom of the ocean, and around her neck she wore a necklace made from warriors’ teeth and fish tails. She was so strong and beautiful; her eyes were like amber and her hair like silk. And she was extremely strong. Resolute and courageous-a strength that could surpass, without question, armies of Titans. Well Ouro was angry and felt so terribly sorrowful for the woman. She decided to intervene and bent down through the fluffy clouds to reach the small island where the two women were living. She spoke to the exiled woman in the night. She kissed her on the lips and promised that the next baby to be born was to be protected.

The night was hot and sweet and the woman woke up from her sleep, crying, with tears all upon her stinging rousse cheeks. The tears dripped and dripped onto her clothes until she was wet through. The sun was beginning to show itself at this time. He was starting to burn the ants on the grasses and sands below, and to tickle the surface of the seas. The woman rose from her bed and went to bathe in the sea and washed away the tears and salt from her skin. Then she lay with the water stroking her hairs and skin, the green and blue coolly touching and walking over her body as Ouro ascended back to the skies and harnessed the sun to warm the woman’s bones.

After times, the woman grew so big in her belly and every night her lover rubbed crushed geraniums on her stomach. And there was no sign of Tondra or his hostilities.

When the spring came, the baby was born. She was a girl and she was the Sun baby. When she was small and new, she cried so loudly that the heavens above could hear, and Tondra was angry and confused. He burst through the clouds and tried to snatch the baby away, but he did not succeed for as he grabbed a hold of the baby girl, he was blinded by her shining, golden skin. His head split and he dropped the Sun baby from his tight fist, letting her float down towards the ocean. Ouro observed these events and took him away from the earth, catching the falling child as she did, so as the Sun baby would be protected and saved from drowning. The Sun baby was at once rescued from death at sea, and stolen from her mother as Ouro took the child in her arms. The woman on the island was mournful once more, watching the goddess disappearing to heaven, taking with her the child. Yet she was grateful that her little girl was saved. And grateful too that the Sun baby lived.