Saturday, September 09, 2006

Thanks for All the Fish (or, Why I Didn't Like My Neighbors)

The other day I was telling someone (was it you, Rich? Fred? Laura?) the story of my weird neighbors in DC. Since then it has been on my mind and since I have nothing else to write about today, I'll share.

But before I begin, there are three things you need to know about me in order to understand the full impact of this tale:
1. I don't like fish very much (to eat).
2. I especially don't like dead fish that still have all their eyes and scales and bones and shit. The site of such fish will certainly induce stomach-churning, mouth-covering nausea. Of the highest order.
3. I was broke most of the time I lived in DC* so every $20 in my pocket was pure gold, man.

Back in DC, Phillip and I had weird neighbors. The type of neighbors you didn't want to talk to unless you absolutely had to. We would run from the car on the street to the front door just to get inside before they would come outside to say hi (which, btw, they always did).

For me, the biggest problem was (in addition to them just being plain weird) that I couldn't understand what they said when they talked. On the one side was a low talker, the other a mumbler. They could be telling me about their dead pets and I like an idiot I would nod my head and say "Mmmm, yeah. Great" as I scrambled to unlock the door. "See you later!"

Constantly feeling bad about my behaviour, I tried to be a better neighbor. I saw an opportunity for this one night when my neighbor struck up a conversation with me one September evening as I walked home from work. He began telling me of his weekend plans, which consisted of him and his buddies renting a boat and going fishing in the Chesapeake to catch their favorite fish. Now I am not sure of which fish it was, but it was one I had never heard of (something like the Spot Tail Shiner or Atlantic Croaker or some shit like that). I could really not care less.

So being the friendly neighbor that I was trying to be, I asked more about it. "Oh they're delicious!" he gushed. "We bread and butter them and they're the best fish you've ever had!" Then he asks me, "Would you like me to bring you some?"

Again, being the friendly neighbor just trying to fit in say, "Yes that would be nice." Knowing full well I was not likely to eat any kind of breaded and buttered fish from the Chesapeake (you couldn't catch me dipping a toe into the Chesapeake, let along eating something that swam around in it) and besides he would probably forget about it come the weekend anyway.

Fast forward several evenings when my neighbor is knocking on the front door. I fight the urge to quickly turn off the tv, hit the lights, and dive onto the floor as to not be seen by whomever is knocking (this was our typical reaction when we would get a knock at the door -- trust me, ours was not one where friends would just "just stop by to say hi because they were in the neighborhood") so I answer and he's standing there with this big plastic bag. I then remember our conversation and think "O shit. He's brought over fish."

(This btw, is NOT a photo of my neighbor. Not even close. Especially not him catching
one of these fucking Atlantic Croakers.)

And indeed he did. He excitedly pushes me into the kitchen to show me the fish he's caught for me. He opens the bag and there I see a bunch of dead fish. Whole dead fish. Scales, eyes and everything. Instinctively, my hand comes up to cover my mouth. And just as I'm thinking "Please, God, don't put those carcasses onto my kitchen counter" he goes ahead and takes one out and lays it onto my kitchen counter. He explains that he's taken one out because he wants to show me how to de-scale and de-bone it.**

Or at least I think that's what he's saying. I wouldn't know exactly because there's a whooshing sound in my ears, my eyes are welling up and there's vomit somewhere near my uvula. (Phillip, I would find out later, was just up the stairs eavesdropping on the conversation, laughing his ass off. Sonuvabitch.)

He is going into detail about how to prepare the fish (pictured above). "Mm-hmm!" I'm saying with my hand over my mouth, trying to sound excited. And of course, these fish are "fresh from the boat" and have not been refrigerated in any way. There's a smell permeating the kitchen now that hasn't been present since the sewer backed up during that huge rainstorm in August. Even the dog has gone upstairs. The room is now officially rotating.

So after a few minutes he's done with his lesson and takes the fish off the counter and puts it back into the plastic bag with the others. He then mentions how fun it was, but how the boat was sure expensive.


And then comes the kicker:

Neighbor: "So why don't you give me twenty and we'll call it even..."
Me: "Mm-hmm!" (clearly not paying attention to what he's saying since at this point all I can think about is what an idiot I am for not turning off the tv and diving onto the floor)
Neighbor: "...'Cuz that's about $50 worth of fish you got there."
Me: "Sorry, what?"
Neighbor: "Well, between the cost of the boat we rented and the amount of fish I've caught for you, let's just call it an even twenty."
Me: "OH!"
Neighbor: "..."
Me: "Oh, I see. You need me to give you $20!"
Neighbor: "If you don't mind."
Me (to myself): You motherfucker!
Me: "Sure, no problem. Ummm, I actually don't have $20 on me at the moment. But here's $5 and I'll come by tomorrow to give you the rest."

So to add insult to injury, the next day I had to go over there to give him the remaining $15 (which could have gone to food I might actually eat. Or alcohol) for this pile of fucking scaley, boney, nasty-ass Chesapeake Bay fish carcasses with their eyes bugging out that I didn't even want in the first place but said yes to because I was trying to be a nice neighbor.

The fish layed in their plastic bag of a tomb in the back of our freezer for months, because I was afraid he'd catch me throwing them out, or that one day he'd walk past the garbage cans, smell something fishy, open our garbage cans (which happened all the time on our street) and see them laying there and he'd come after me.

And for weeks after when he'd see me he would always ask "How you like those Atlantic Croakers, huh? Pretty good, huh?" "Oh, yeah. Totally! Yum!" (rubbing my tummy for full effect, before quickly trying to open the door to the house.)

And still a few weeks later he offered to cook me a rabbit for Thanksgiving. Which surprisingly I declined. But that is another story....

* this is due mostly to a soul-sucking mortgage that, I once calculated, seemed to account for the first 30 hours of my 40-hour work week. By about Thursday at 4pm each week, I was "in the black" and that money I made for the remainder of that day and Friday could go for food, parking tickets, and alcohol - the three other things I spent my money on when I lived there. But I digress...

** Is there a more vile word in the English language than de-bone?? I think not, especially when it has to do with performing said act on your kitchen counter.


darci ann said...

holy crap, that is the best story I have heard in a long long time. lol. thanks for the saturday afternoon laugh.

Sizzler Sister said...

I'm peeing my pants at the coffeeshop this is so funny. Love the "The room is officially rotating" comment. I could never go fishing for the same reasons you describe.

Gooj said...

I have only one thing to say about this post, Cherry:
Holy Fucking Hilarious Shit.

Anonymous said...

Ahh, your neighbours in one does miss them! Like having them rambling on to me as I am ripping up the front lawn in 100deg heat, sweat soaked and dirty, wondering why I am not striking up a conversation with them! 'I will tell Will you said hello, and no I am not Phillip! Put your glasses on, freak!!
Love it when you go all storyteller on us, my morning chuckle taken care of! Cheers babe!

classyandfancy said...

Man, that neighbor was a serious douchebag! I'm all for being friendly, but c'mon? I'm suprised that while charging you his "finder's" fee (or rather sitting on his ass & drinking beer with a pole in the water fee) he didn't add in the cost of gas & wear and tear on the vehicle that he took to the Bay, and then adjust for inflation.

Dop said...

1. And you say that I write long blogs?

2. I am with you on the DC neighbor thing. Hated mine - every set of them - whoever they were.

3. I would have said, "Hell No!" to the neighbor so fast his hair would have turned white.

4. Funny story though!

Matt said...

A great story, and I can sympathise with you; although I like fish (and this story has prompted me to make some for lunch!), we had to gut & bone some on a survival course last year, and it's definatly up there with the most disgusting things I've had to do!

Andre said...

LOl, just what i needed on a cold wet monday morning. thanks kiddo

Anonymous said...

Everytime I look at this posts title, I start singing that very song from 'Hitchhiker's Guide'!

PJS said...

This is why, in the olden days, we had moats.

Julie_Gong said...

I almost didn't read that whole thing but I'm glad I did. Totally worth my while...

$20 bucks... you are a sucker. I would've just handed the fish back to him.

Jason said...

No it TOTALLY makes sense why they were asking me about fish when I stayed in your house... I had no idea what they were talking about...

NAME: Dr. Kenneth Noisewater said...

Great post! De-boning a fish has to be a gross procedure, and sure to make any man "de-bone," if you know what I mean. That is to say unless said man REALLY liked fish, like your neighbor perhaps.