“This is so gross…”
I turned to look at Clara and found that her face was screwed up into a tight knot and she was holding both hands in front of her face like a fence with her eyes just barely peaking over.
“Is it really gross?” I asked quite seriously. I looked back at the screen where we were watching a chef explain how to properly clean and gut a puffer fish. ‘The skin is poisonous,’ he explained as he tore it off and tossed it aside. ‘and the entrails are also very poisonous,’ he said, reaching up inside and tearing them out in the same casual manner that you would expect from an expert Japanese Fugu chef. It was amazing really.
I heard Clara gag dramatically and turn to the side so she could only see what was happening out of one eye.
“Oh, don’t be like that. You are making me feel like a bad father. I can’t raise an Alaskan girl that gags at the sight of a fish being cleaned. And this is a rare insight into a different culture. You know, people die if this fish is not prepared properly before they eat it.”
“No,” she waved a hand at me and then brought it back up to shield her face. “I know, I know. It’s just. I don’t want to see them take him apart.”
I nodded. I understood. She had said “Him”. This fish was a thing to be eaten, it was just food, but to her, it was a “Him”. She had instantly projected any number of personality traits and history to this speckled puffer fish that was now being disassembled in front of her. this little girl, raised in a world of Disney cartoons and make-believe, saw a puffer fish as a possible friend. Maybe he had been the comic relief in a great adventure where the hero was a dolphin? And now he was being torn apart by a funny man in a paper hat. They probably had bought him in the toy aisle.
“Okay, okay,” I said. “But it’s a very normal thing to do you know. God wants us to eat them.”
“Uh huh,” she said tiredly. “Then why did God make him poisonous?”
I had clearly lost this particular argument. “Well, okay. But I mean, in general. But you are right. Let’s just compromise and agree to never eat a poisonous puffer fish.”
She was now holding her hands like goggles around her eyes, squinting through her fingers. “Yeah, alright. That’ll be easy.”