The glow of the fish tanks was the only real light in front of the restaurant. A bored looking sturgeon watched the pedestrians pass by, its prehistoric eyes revealing nothing of its inner life. Of all the tanks filled with various aquatic life, only the sturgeon was not on death row. The others were merely displayed out in the open so that discerning customers could choose that night’s fare. The sturgeon, though, was not for sale.
Staring at its black eyes I wondered if it was even edible. It was the only fish I could really stare at though. The others just depressed me. Something as beautiful as a squid or as intelligent as an octopus just waiting to be ordered off a menu. I’m no vegetarian, and I’ve eaten both squid and octopus, but seeing them there just waiting was unnerving. The sturgeon, on the other hand, brought me no melancholy.
I heard from a friend who had eaten there that it was the boss’s pet of sorts. Perhaps not a pet per say, but a good luck charm. The owner loved caviar and had bought it hoping it would lay some everyday- a sort of high class chicken. It, however, never laid a single egg. The owner never figured out if it wasn’t the right kind of sturgeon- or even if it was female. But business had really turned up around the time he bought it, so reading the proverbial tea leaves he decided the odd looking creature had brought good luck, if not fancy snacks.
I was trying to map out its odd exoskeleton-like exterior when she walked up. She startled me and asked if I was making friends. “Sure” I shrugged noncommittally, honestly not really understanding what she meant until my brain spun up to speed a few moments later.
“Sorry I’m late.” She smiled, knowing I wouldn’t really care, beyond that she probably knew that I had no idea what time it was and didn’t even realize she was late at all. “Your friend keeping you good company.” She nodded at the black fish.
“This guy. Yeah, I guess, he’s a bit quiet, but fucking facinating.” I couldn’t tell if she knew I was high, but I guessed the whole ‘staring at a sturgeon’ probably gave it away. She was originally against my occasional toking of the devil’s lettuce, but had moved enough towards apathy that I could get away with it from time to time.
“I brought you a beer.” She said happily, fishing a can out of her bag. I was grateful, suddenly aware of a powerful thirst. I cracked it and it sprayed, having been given a thorough shake in her bag on the way over here. Some foam even landed on the glass window in front of the sturgeon tank.
“Trying to share some with your friend?” She laughed.
“I guess. So what’s the plan? Other than chilling outside of a seafood restaurant and splitting a single can of beer.”
“Splitting? Na, you can have that warm can all to yourself. I thought we could go to a bar I know down by the riverside. It’s nice, they have cheap pints and the weather’s nice tonight.”
I looked up at the sky, having not considered the weather even in the slightest. She laughed at my sudden awareness of climatic conditions. “It is really nice tonight. I didn’t notice. “
“Too engrossed in conversation with the fish?”
“Something like that. “
She sighed. “You’re cute. But let’s move, I’m craving an ice cold pint. They even have frosty mugs. I’ve been jonesing for one all goddamn day.”
I heard myself say ‘right’ as I spun towards the river. I caught one last look at the sturgeon staring silently out at me. It moved its fins ever so slightly to maintain its place in the center of its tank- otherwise it showed no emotion. It just continued to gaze out at the passersby.