Tuesday 06 Dec 2016

Swordfish on the Wall
AJ Robinson

It's funny the things that we can associate together. Back when I was a little kid, say, about four or five years old, my grandfather was fond of wearing hats. He didn't wear a hat all the time, mostly in summer, to protect his forehead from the sun. Back then, he had a bit of a receding hairline, and he had to protect it.

Playing cards and wearing hats are the two things I remember most about grandfather.

Then, one evening, rather early in the summer, before the crowds descended on Martha's Vineyard, my grandparents took us, my parents and me, to Menemsha for dinner. This was a special affair, Menemsha was where the "Home Port" restaurant was, it was the posh, fancy eating-place. I loved going there for one thing and one thing only: swordfish! It was, without a doubt, my single favorite fish to eat, and the "Home Port" served it up great; a nice, thick slab of it, at least an inch thick, all covered in a creamy butter sauce. It was so tender and moist; I could cut it with a fork.

As it was early in the season, the place wasn't crowded, and they seated us quickly. On top of that, they gave us a great table down by the big picture window overlooking the harbor. If you've ever seen the movie "Jaws," you know the harbour to which I refer. Bathed in the glow of sunset, it is quite picturesque.

Well, my grandfather, walking toward our table, looked for a place to hang his hat. As it happened, there was this big stuffed swordfish hanging on the wall. My grandfather, ever the dry wit, tossed his hat up on the fish's tail, and then took his seat.

As it turned out, the staff was not amused. I think they were more worried about the fish getting damaged or other people following his lead. At any rate, they took the hat down and gave it to the women who served us. Dinner was pleasant, if a little boring for me, after all, at four or five, I wasn't much for polite dinner conversation. This was in the days before restaurants provided kids with colouring placemats, crayons, and so on.

Yes, it was a boring meal, other than the great swordfish.

Anyway, the years rolled by, and our visits to the "Home Port" weren't exactly numerous. Hey, when you're a working class family, dinners at the fancy and expensive restaurant aren't frequent. Besides, Menemsha was quite the drive from little old Oak Bluffs. We had to have a special occasion to go all the way up there just for dinner. On top of that, the price of swordfish went up, way up, over the years. Buying swordfish was an even rarer occasion.

Yet, we did manage to get up there a few times. On each visit, I saw that swordfish hanging on the wall and I smiled. One look at that old thing, and I saw that hat hanging its tail, and I thought of grandfather; strange how the mind strings things together, huh?

A lot of years rolled by, and grandmother and grandfather finally left us. I don't remember how many more years it was before we made it back to the restaurant, and it had changed quite a bit, but there was at least one thing unchanged.

That old swordfish was still hanging on the wall.

Yeah, I smiled when I saw it; strange the things we remember, eh?

Combining the gimlet-eye, of Philip Roth, with the precisive mind of Lionel Trilling, AJ Robinson writes about what goes bump in the mind, of 21st century adults. Raised in Boston, with summers on Martha's Vineyard, AJ now lives in Florida. Most of the time he writes, but sometimes he works at Disney World to renew his fantasies and get a few dollars more. AJ writes, with insight and passion, about his family and his dog. His liberal, note the small "l," sensibilities often lead to bouts of righteous indignation, well focused and true.

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