Friday, January 13, 2012

Cod's Honest Truth (A Fish Story)

Cod mislabeling in Ireland and casual prostitution in Wales were rampant. 
                                         - Harper’s Magazine, “Findings,” Jan. 12, 2012

I had caught the Heathrow-Shannon redeye that week on some serious business for the Crown. The Royal Fisheries Commission had fingered me to go to Galway and check out a counterfeiting operation - some mugs were selling hake for cod and I was smart enough to know that 'cod' doesn't start with an 'h'. But the pilot was high on dexedrine and Nyquil, which is how I came to be in Cardiff instead. Story of my life, as you may say.

So there I was, paddling along in one of the seedier bywaters when I spotted her sidling away from the wall she was holding up and oozing onto my section of the sidewalk. I was on a straight and narrow to the nearest boozer when she swam into view, right in midstream. She had hips like an eel and she was playing it casual, as you may say. I hove to and planted the old soles on the pavement.

Is that a cod in your codpiece, she purred, or are you glad to . . . .

Cod? I snorted. Kiddo, at my age that's just a fluke.

False advertising? she smiled. Let's see the wee lad. I know how to turn a prawn into a bishop, mind.

I gave her the fisheye. Lady, I'm nearly a croaker, I said. These days that old cod is a limpet. But how about you? Even for a hooker you're beating your drum in plain view. No mistaking you for the vicar's missus.

Oh, is it obvious? Am I too . . . am I rampant? Am I being too rampant? Is it the fishnets?

Rampant, I agreed. Maybe too rampant. Do I look like some blinking skate you can just pick up? What's your game, lass?

Blinking skate

Just out fishing, she murmured. Just looking for trout in trousers.

And that would be me? Just me and my haddock?

Could be you, she sulked. Maybe it's not a fluke after all.

I'd be lying if I told you it was a halibut, I admitted.

I appreciate that, she said. You seem like a gentleman. A girl can get her expectations up.

Lady, for all you know I'm just hired mussel, I said. I was warming to this dame and I couldn't figure it. I pulled out a fin and we went into the Prince of Wales. I ordered a pint, she ordered the fish and chips, but I can spot a tilapia when it flops down in front of me. That was no cod in among the fries. This bum cod ring had its tentacles all over the North Atlantic fish trade. There aren't very many ways to spell 'cod' and they were getting it all wrong.

The Prince of Wales (formerly Nunzio's)

Dive in, I told her. Fill yourself to the gills. She was hungry, so she clammed up and chowed down in the proper prepositional sequence. Sure, I coulda told you we found some flophouse and floundered around for an hour or two. But I'd be lying - I was heading for something fishy in Ireland and here I was, in the wrong town at the wrong time with some dame who had spent her entire working life trying to land some finnan haddie.

It wasn't going to be me. I had a date with some Irishmen with bad mullets who couldn't spell "c-o-d."

Truth in advertising

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