The Fish Who Drew Her Own Diagram (story and recipe)

<em>Venn Diagram</em> by Fish

Venn Diagram by Fish

There is a troubled persistence that I feel which does not come from passing swimming lessons or lost phone numbers. I am afraid of Joanne. This courteous woman is known as the pet sitter of the small town where I live. This is the kind of voicemail she leaves: “Phonetag…you’re It!” followed by a soft-spoken chuckle. When I hire Joanne, I always return home to find the dog in a jolly state. What’s not to love when your pet will be safe?

The town pet sitter intends to take my life. She will kill me in the same way I’m going to steam that fish from Golden Rule Seafood Company. For $2.69, I have a Western Mullet with a clueless silver expression that tells no tale. Do you still need a second opinion about Joanne? Go ahead—flip the pages to ‘H’ for Homestead and run your fingers down to ‘V’ for Veterinarian. Call between the hours of seven in the morning and noon, but never between ten and ten-thirty because that’s when the doctor does not give advice. You’ll notice that there is nothing like the authority of a new voice on the line:

Dutiful Reader: Is it morning over there?

Dr. Olsen: What can I do you for?

Dutiful Reader: I need a pet sitter for one dog and two cats.

Dr. Olsen: Don’t you know about Joanne? They call her Dog Mother.

Dutiful Reader: She is highly recommended. So it’s true.

Dr. Olsen: People were made to disappear.
Don’t turn into a fish and draw your own diagram.

Dutiful Reader: But I’m a fish that doesn’t swim.

Dr. Olsen: Consider this. Consider losing your page and finding me again.
Why don’t you call later at the wrong time?

It’s terrifying to know the time of your own death. Weather forecasts feel the same, and this forbidden knowledge is everywhere. There is nothing more perverse than identifying cloud-cover or dots of sweat on your skin a week before it happens. Take for example, the flashing sign that shows the time and temperature on that building you’ve never entered. Has the display been wrong? The other day, I drove by that sign. It read 266 F. It made me want to die. You can travel through miles of microfiche and this headline will never appear: “Frozen Corpse of Local Weatherman Found Wearing No Mittens.”

With no intention to divert the focus back to myself, I can’t shake this acceptance about how it will all come together. It’s like that familiar nudge at the end of the month when bills become past behaviors that are displayed as current belongings that came in plastic bags. Last week, Joanne wanted to treat me to breakfast. The wind was knocked out of me and that New Year’s resolution to be more assertive diminished into a pitiful “that sounds fun.” When she draws my diagram, I will have no choice.

To leave this world with dignity, I wanted to find out all of the possibilities regarding my death. The intention was to ask an organized, detailed person how the pet sitter was going to kill me. My mother, the upright businesswoman, was the perfect candidate. The curious matter is how quickly she drew up the last moments of her daughter’s life. Below is the dialogue recorded as is:

Fish: How do I know that’s the diagram Joanne made?

Fish’s Mother: How do you think she is going to kill you?

Fish: With something I can’t comprehend. No knife, rifle, rope.

Fish’s Mother: That goes unsaid. Do you know how she is going to kill you, Fish?

Fish: With words?

Fish’s Mother: Words! How can that kill you!

Fish: Do you already know?

Fish’s Mother: When you tell me about her, I had a video in my head. Actually, I’m a very a graphical person. I think in pictures, and that’s why I’m very good at PowerPoint. She has three dogs, right?

Fish: No, two.

Fish’s Mother: Do you know how she is going to kill you, Fish? She is going to use the three dogs against you. She has two Bichons? She will turn your dog and the other two into Devils and hurt you. You want to know what she is going to do…?

She is going to make the three Devils running in circles at the outside of your house, and there is barking everywhere. You get so scared you start to close the door of every room in the house but you still hear the dogs barking and she is approaching. You will have nowhere to go, and you think to hide in the smallest room of the house, the little bathroom—that’s the safest place. You go into the bathroom and close the door. Suddenly, she breaks the glass windows, the dogs jump in, and she also jumps in, forcing you into the bathtub and filling it with hot water. You will drown.


Ingredients for marinade:
1 whole fish as wide as your pan; fatty white fish works best.
1 cup white cooking wine or 1 shot vodka
1” ginger, slice into thin discs
1.5 tsp. kosher salt

Ingredients for sauce (for 8” fish):
3 green onions, cut in thirds and julienned
4 cloves garlic, finely grated
2” piece of ginger, very thin julienne
1 cup sesame oil
1 cup soy sauce

Saucepan, tongs
Steamer OR deep wide frying pan w/ lid and ovenproof bowl & plate

Prepare the fish:
Gut, scale, and clean the fish.
In the direction from upper fins to stomach, at 45 degrees, make vertical slices every 2 inches on each side.
Insert a disc of ginger into each slice.
Place fish in shallow dish. Add wine and salt both sides. Cover and refrigerate 30 minutes on each side.


On high, heat saucepan with 1 Tbsp. of sesame oil.
Saute onions and ginger until soft. Add remainder of oil and soy sauce.
Reduce to medium, cook until sauce steams, but not boiling. Remove from burner, add garlic, and stir.


Fill steamer with water on high heat until rolling boil.
If you do not have a steamer, place bowl upside-down in deep pan.
Fill with water until the top of the bowl, cover pan, and bring to rolling boil.

Remove ginger discs from fish and place on ovenproof platter.
Place fish in the steamer/pan. Do not reduce heat.
Steam about 7 minutes, or until flesh can be pried off from the bone with flaky texture.
Remove fish carefully with the platter using pair of tongs.

Pour sauce over fish. Serve over white rice.

This entry was posted in ISSUE #2 SPRING/SUMMER 2007 Tagged: , . Bookmark the permalink. Post a comment or leave a trackback: Trackback URL.

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  1. [...] PWMTD was inspired by real events with my dog sitter’s ability to turn my dogs into devils:, Platypus came from the odd instrumentation of “The Meanwhile.”  I thought the strange [...]

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