“Hey Lilja would you pay 9,200 kronur for a gas camping cooker?”
Linda’s grandpa was excited to see us. He had hand picked some of the finest rotten shark meat in the country. To my understanding, normally they let the shark meat rot, not for a couple of days. No, no, where is the flavor there? Try three months. Well ends up, as a special treat, gramps had found festering shark meat that had been left to rot for 6 months. Thanks gramps.
As I waited in grandpa's living room, I knew when he had retrieved the shark meat--I could smell the rotten treat as he appeared from the kitchen. I guess the crowd could sense my instinctual hesitation, but Gramps assured me,
“Look at me, I am old and strong, shark meat--shark meat I tell you.”
Linda pulled me aside,
“You do not have to eat it. They would understand.”
Chicken out now? No way, I swore that I would try it, damn it.
Okay, Gramps ate his piece first. He did not keel over and die. He was actually smiling. He then announced,
“Big and strong, mmm, shark meat.”
Of course, he was also spurting out flakes of shark meat as he spoke. Maybe it was actually good. I mean, rotten berry juice is wine and that is quite popular. This shark stuff might actually be good. Pass that over gramps!
Okay, you know when you burn yourself, how your hand pulls itself away from the heat source involuntarily before you sense the pain? My whole body did just that as it sensed, before I did, how strong and pungent the shark meat actually was. Out of some insane politeness, I kept my body from jerking back. What was I thinking? This “delicatessen” was strong. All my neurons and nerve endings were trying to override my decision of putting this decaying shark flesh in my mouth. The same thing your body would do if you were to try and put, say something like, poop in your mouth.
Soda? Ready. Camera? Check. I brought the shark corpse closer to my mouth. My soul had left my body.
Even before it was in my mouth, my eyes had glazed over with fluid. Linda, Hans, Lilja, grandma, gramps and two cameras were all watching. Why gramps, he was even leaning in with my bite, watching wide-eyed, as if I were about to taste some new recipe of his. Against all survival messages in my brain, slap, I shoved the rancid shark nugget into my mouth.
How was the taste? The shark meat did not classify as a taste, more of a sense. In high school, if you have ever dissected pigs, rats, fish or even shark, then you know the sense. It was straight formaldehyde with a chase of ammonia. So, there the decomposing shark meat sat burning through my tongue and my throat. My throat muscles were rippling to launch back the shark meat back to the sea where it belonged--not in my mouth!
I had seen pictures of protesting Buddhist monks that pour gas over themselves and then ignite it. The Buddhist monks did not budge a single follicle as their flesh melts away. Not that I am a Zen master, but some how I managed to look at gramps, while chewing mind you, and actually say,
“Ah, not bad…”
There, right there at that point in time folks, I should have earned some international “good guy” award from my U.S./Iceland ambassador. Okay, now, I was wondering how long I had to live; an hour, two hours, 24 hours?
Here comes the part where, looking back now, I know for a fact that I went momentarily insane. Instead of saying thank you, please visit me sometime in the states and leaving, I put my toothpick back in the serving bowl and skewered another piece. Yes, I skewered another piece of the delicacy. To look at it? You ask. No, not to look at, no. I…put another piece in my mouth. Yes, cabin fever, lost marbles, seasonal affliction, under the weather, call it what you will, but I was for that instant, INSANE. Why? I just don’t know.
Gramps was so happy. He was so proud that he even said that I was now half Icelandic. Yeah, that is right buddy, you better believe it!
Linda was eager to leave. So, soon after that trauma, we left. God, all I wanted to do was brush my teeth with Drano, but instead I chewed ten Certs breath mints to combat the shark taste in my mouth. I was afraid to move my tongue, lest I stir up remnants of shark residue. Now off to get supplies for a week of camping.