Short story based on an actual incident
|It wasn’t until we went to the sushi bar that I realized my wife and her boss were trying to kill me.
Oh, they acted like nothing was wrong, and that we were all just out having some good clean fun, but the terrible truth was revealed all too soon.
It started out innocently enough earlier that day. I was at work when the phone rang.
“Hi honey, do you want to join Dave and I for some drinks after work?” My wife asked coyly. “We’re going to the Oak Tavern with Sherry and Dina and we’d love it if you and the other husbands would come along.”
“Sounds great,” I said. “I’ve had kind of a stressful day and could use the R and R.”
When I arrived at the Oak after work, I discovered that the only ones that had made it for drinks were my wife and Dave, her boss. I should have suspected something then, but I gullibly accepted the lame explanation that Dina and Sherry had needed to go home after work because they were “tired.” Too tired for drinks? Dina “Party Til You’re Dead” Kramer was legendary for drinking most men under the table, and Sherry “The Sieve” Johnson was legendary for keeping up with her. Dina and Sherry being too tired for drinks was like the tides being too tired to go out.
Still, I blissfully went ahead and joined in the festivities as if no major upheaval in the very fabric of existence had just occurred.
We drank. We laughed. We got hungry.
I don’t know whose idea it was to go to the sushi bar, but I greeted the suggestion with an enthusiasm that I usually reserved for rectal itch. I tried to tactfully sway them toward something that was actually intended to be eaten by human beings, but they wouldn’t budge.
“Come on,” My wife urged mockingly. “You might even decide you like it.”
“Do I look like a very large fish?” I asked desperately. “Because that’s the only thing that is supposed to eat fish raw. Except maybe bears and a few desperate Japanese. But they have been brainwashed since birth into believing that it’s perfectly natural to skip critical seafood preparation steps.”
My wife wouldn’t let up. I finally relented when her barbs about my reluctance to swallow raw fish started to carry the inference that I was somehow lacking in masculinity.
We entered the place and my hopes shot skyward. It was packed with people who seemed to actually be enjoying what they were doing. Maybe they weren’t looking at what they were putting in their mouths. Anyway, there was no obvious open tables.
“Well, it looks like we’re out of luck,” I almost shouted. “Better head for those golden arches.”
My wife shot me a look that almost caused chromosome damage. I knew that I had lost several points with my choice of alternate eateries, especially in front of her boss. Just then a smiling hostess saved my marriage, but put my life back in danger.
“Table for three?” She asked as if that was her job.
My wife and her boss spoke in unison. “Yes, that would be great.”
They exchanged a look that made a little red flag start to slowly unfurl in my self preservation instinct headquarters. What did that look mean? Why were they nervously glancing in my direction?
A table suddenly appeared from nowhere as if it had been pushed up through the floor by demons. While the waitress was seating us and handing out menus, my feelings of unease grew. Before I could get too deeply into the depths of paranoia, the sake arrived.
I saw the mysterious pale container full of mysterious pale liquid as the answer to my dilemma regarding the raw fish. If I drank enough of this before the meal arrived, I could eat a plate of live eels. I shoved aside the little foo foo glass that came with the rice wine and began to drink straight from the bottle. Once again I caught my wife and her boss giving me a funny look. They quickly turned away and ordered another bottle of sake. What was going on here, and how was I supposed to know that those stupid little bottles weren’t individual servings?
The sake began to have it’s desired effect and I started to warm to what we were doing. I opened the menu and tried to decide what to have for dinner. It wasn’t easy because none of the words on the menu had any meaning whatsoever. They looked like an insect genetics experiment that had gone horribly awry and had then been hidden inside the menu. The words were as inscrutable as our hovering waitress. Dave pulled me out of this particular dilemma. “Just let me order,” he said. “I guarantee you’ll like it.”
I foolishly took him at his word and ordered another bottle of sake. I was cleverly able to do that by holding up the empty bottle, grinning idiotically and slurring “More.”
The waitress turned her attention to Dave and began to smile and nod as he pointed to various items on that sinister menu. I felt a pressure that told me I was going to have to find the restroom. I started to worry that the doors would have Japanese characters on them instead of the familiar American designations. This would force me to wait outside the bathroom until somebody else had to go. My fear was unfounded. The restrooms had no doors at all. I reasoned that this was so the patrons would have a clear shot at the toilets when the fish refused to stay down.
When I returned to the table, I saw that our first course had arrived. My wife and her boss were chewing, or pretending to chew, vigorously. They both looked up and then pointed approvingly at the repast before them. I sat down and studied what had been served to us. It appeared to have only recently stopped moving. The fish strips had been rolled and stuffed with various items that were supposed to pass for food, but looked more like what native Africans quickly grind together and slap on a fresh wound.
I bravely popped one of the rolls of fish into my mouth and, much to my surprise, found that I actually liked it. It was soft and chewy, although somewhat salty, and it had a pleasant flavor that only mildly suggested fish. I began to eat the rest with gusto.
I grabbed the last item on the plate, which didn’t resemble the fish rolls at all and popped it into my mouth. I then reached for the newly arrived bottle of wine. Once again Dave was staring at me, but this time he made no attempt to disguise his horror and astonishment. This was the last straw, I was about to chastise him for this whether he was my wife’s boss or not, but he beat me to the punch.
He could barely talk but was able to say “You’re not supposed to eat that!”
Knowing that Dave liked to joke around, and that I was probably being set up, I forced myself to smile and continued to chew. I wasn’t going to take the bait.
“No, I’m serious. Nobody eats that, it’s not edible!” Dave was beside himself.
I felt the stirring of panic. Dave’s performance took on an earnestness that an accomplished actor would have trouble mustering. Also, the flavor of the stuff in my mouth had worked it’s way through my sake sodden taste buds big time. I had once accidently gotten a Handi-Wipe in my mouth and the taste was very similar, only magnified twenty times. I thought the flesh was going to start sliding off my face.
It all became crystal clear at that moment. My wife and her boss had lured me here to cleverly kill me and make it look like an innocent accident. Dina and Sherry had never really been invited, my wife said that to allay my suspicions. They hadn’t wanted any witnesses to my “accidental” demise. The decision to go to the sushi bar had been made far in advance of this evening, and they must have had an accomplice in the kitchen who prepared the deadly mix I’d just tossed down. The toxic wad in my mouth was probably worse than the stuff that comes out of a blowfish if you clean it wrong. Many Japanese gourmets have joined their ancestors because of that stuff. The room began to sway, and then disappeared altogether.
Suddenly I was in a long tunnel. At the end of the tunnel was a brilliant light. There was music playing somewhere. I was drawn to the light and moved toward it as if by magic. As I got closer I could make out a being standing in the entrance to the tunnel. The being seemed to be made of light. I could sense that he was filled with unconditional love and forgiveness. He also seemed to be somewhat annoyed.
As I got closer to him he said, “Go back to the restaurant. You’re not dying and nobody is trying to kill you. You just ate a big glob of ginger.”
Instantaneously, I was back in the sushi bar. I opened my eyes and everyone in the suddenly silent room was staring at me. None of them could believe I had just eaten the ginger. Dave and my wife were completely mortified.
We hurriedly paid our bill and left.
A couple of years have passed, but we have never been back to that restaurant.
My wife seems to like her new job, but we never socialize with co-workers.
I’ve heard from various sources that there has been an addition to the sushi bar. A small sign on each table that reads “Don’t Eat The Ginger.”