I went to a fish boil in Wisconsin once. Take a cauldron, add fish and potatoes, bring to a boil, toss gasoline on the fire, the cauldron boils over, fish oil causes a flare up for a few seconds, then eat the fish and potatoes. I asked why not add a carrot or onion. Got cold Norwegian stares. Everyone ate in Lutheran silence, then went out to their cars and drove home. That was it? I thought we’d missed something. No, that was it. Oh. Silence. So how’d you like it? The fish was good, I said. It really was. And the potato was too. The Norwegians really know how to boil fish and potatoes. I liked when they threw the gas on the fire too. Yah, sure, he said, that was exciting.Silence.
How about some lutefisk? he asked. Some what? Lutefisk. Is that like a fish boil? Yeah, but without the excitement. And the water. It’s dried fish. Smoked? No, just dried. Kind of like fishy cardboard. Fishboard.
Fishboard? I imagined a room full of Lutherans, silently eating fishboard. I passed. You don’t know what you’re missing, he said.
They have fish boils out in California? Not anymore, I said. Why not? You can’t throw gasoline on an open fire in a restaurant in California. Why not? They’re afraid there’d be an explosion and a whole room full of Norwegians would be turned into fishboard. You mean peopleboard, he said. No, I mean lutefisk. Yeah, he said, like Soylent Green for Norwegians. Soylent grønt er lutefisk.
It’s a cookbook, I said.
Det er en kokebok, he translated.
Wow, I said, Norwegian science fiction references.
Yeah, he said, we’re hipper than you think we are.
Lutefisk is hip?
Yah, sure, the hippest.
You know we do eat carrots and onions in Norway, you know.
Of course. Just not in a fish boil.
Why do you ask so many questions?
There you go again.
Actually, I don’t like lutefisk either. Never did.
Then why offer it to me?
Just being polite.
It’s polite to offer somebody lutefisk?
It’s not polite to offer somebody lutefisk in California?
I don’t know.
We don’t have lutefisk in California.
Then what do you have?
We have Disneyland. And movie stars. And girls in bikinis.
Yes, just like Baywatch.
More silence. Thoughts of Pamela Anderson, probably.
I sure like that Pamela Andersen, he said.
She’s alright if you like that type, I said.
Yah. She’s Norsk, you know, blonde and tits like a Viking queen.
Yet more silence. Hints of writer’s block.
This dialog is going nowhere, he said. Nowhere at all. Du står fast. Frustrert. Hjernen er en tom flaske.
He was right.
And I don’t even know if Pamela Andersen is Norwegian or not. I felt like an idiot saying she is.
Big tits, though. Really big–
That’s enough, I said. You wrote that yourself.
Better than anything you’ve come up with. Du kan ikke engang snakke norsk.
I never said I could. All I know is Yah sure. And ten thousand Swedes ran into the weeds followed by one Norwegian. And lutefisk.
Ha! So you have eaten lutefisk?
No. But a Norwegian told me about it. A Norwegian from Chicago. A lawyer. My brother-in-law.
Your sister’s brother? I thought she was Sioux or something.
No my sister-in-law’s husband.
That’s not your brother-in-law.
Whatever. He told me about lutefisk. Said it tasted like fishy cardboard. He hated it.
The fish boil really happened too. Just like I said. But it only came to one lousy paragraph. So I added you.
Am I supposed to thank you?
Sure, feel free.
Don’t mention it.
How about I drop you off at the bar. You can go in and get drunk and forget all this ever happened. Find your self a skirt and have a time.
Uh oh. He was quoting Hail the Conquering Hero. Preston Sturges. We must be drifting into a vortex where stories combine. And that was a story from the future. I hadn’t even thought about writing a story about Hail the Conquering Hero. There must be a tear in the fabric of narrative space time. It was time to end this quick before the universe blew up and I’d have to delete the whole thing.
So I did.
Two weeks later I get a postcard:
Glad you enjoyed the fish boil. Men stupisest Det var historien du noen gang skrev.
Sigh… One of those got to have the last word guys. In Norwegian.
It’s no wonder I never write fiction.