June 25

National Catfish Day (U.S.)

 

Whiskers.

They were such ugly fish, but the whiskers added a disturbingly human touch to their appearance.  Even when a catfish was gutted and breaded and fried, you found it unappealing.  The taste wasn’t bad, but you could never forget the way the fish used to look when it was alive.

It was one of those foods you’d never willingly ordered in a restaurant.  Perhaps you might have tasted some at a buffet, or as part of a seafood sampler tray.

After the Great Contamination, the whole country’s menu dwindled to a scant few items.  No beef or poultry, no dairy, no vegetables or lettuce.

No crab, shrimp, or oysters… and none of the appetizing fish were on the approved list.  But people insisted that catfish were safe to eat.

At a local restaurant whose hours were almost as limited as the menu, you spent a fortune for a few pieces of fried catfish.  No sides.  The taste was okay, as long as you tried not to think of what the fish would have looked like.

Because you’d seen a few in the tank at the front of the restaurant, displayed so the customers could know the product was fresh.  You stared into round eyes, each with a dark black pupil in the center; at the stringy growths that fell from the corners of the wide mouth; and at the white bristles that jutted from the fish’s chin.

One face was enough, but there were a dozen fish in the tank.  A dozen fish meant almost thirty faces, since most of the catfish had grown extra heads.

Whiskers at the end of the world.