Lisa Marina

"Go ahead, taste it"

     My father goaded me. The fish's eyeball squirmed in my palm

looking up at me with the ever-pleading question "Why me?"

     Believing in fish heaven, I let my trust in my dad allow me to believe that Eskimo children really do eat fish eyes like candy like he said they did.

     In my mind I envisioned hurdles of smiling, rosy cheeked children popping into their mouths fish eyes, with the  same delectable flavor and warm-tummied comfort of circus peanuts. But something wasn't right about the slimy roundness and gray salty stench of this eyeball in my six year old palm.

     Something wasn't right about the wicked grin my father had under the mustache he calmly stroked too calmly, considering the anticipation tightly held behind his urge to laugh.

     I was nearly cross-eyed as I stared into the center of my hand, trying to muster up the courage and will power to pop this eyeball into my mouth, and chew the tender gooey ball. I was sure it would pop releasing a burst of liquids foreign to my innocent and too trusting tongue. It was like a right to passage, was I strong enough to do it? Brave enough to just put it into my mouth and let it roll from cheek to cheek?

     Over and over again, a hundred times in seconds I imagined placing it on the tip of my  tongue. I smelled it, said it couldn't be that bad, but I just couldn't do it. I believed that I had failed. 

     But, no matter how gullible I was, I listened to my heart of hearts and said, "No, I won't do it." Relieved I had come to a decison for myself, I stuck out my palm with the fish eye in the center and said "you eat it."

     I reveled in the look of disgust in my father's face as he pushed back my hand this time fighting the urge to gag. I got him. I had stood up for myself in the face of the conspiracy of my father's cruel sense of humor.   

     It's strange now,  twenty years later, to remember who it was that inspired my love for sushi: My dad. My mean, mean dad!