Take Me to The River

posted 29 Sep 2002, 1PM

On Friday I had my first meal in Dallas (since February of last year, at least) at a southern / cajun seafood restaurant called The Flying Fish. It made for just the right kind of casual lunch spot, with its extra tall glasses of lemonade, oars and nettting hung from the ceiling, 40 years worth of fishing trip photographs hanging above clumsy wooden tables, and one rickety screen door. When they called our number I scooted to the counter to pick up four baskets of fried catfish, shrimp and potatoes. Our table, like every table, offerd all kinds of bottled sauces on a small, tin tray.

At the top of the restaraunt's rear wall, a large block lettered sign read, "THE ADOPT A BIG MOUTH BILLY-BASS WALL." About a dozen Billy Bass plaques hung below this sign in an arbitrary configuration, each beside a label scrawled in Sharpie onto the raw wall paint. The labels included the name of each parent and the Date of Adoption; apparently anyone who donates one of the plastic fish to the wall earns a free plate of catfish. Catherine's mother explained that from time to time the counter help will run by and quickly press the button on every Billy-Bass, causing all of the toys to turn their heads and simulatneously sing out towards the patrons of the restaurant.

The wall stayed silent through the duration of our meal. I felt too timid to start the Billys singing myself; perhaps the employees were too busy or were not in the mood for noisy fish. Lunch was comfortable and delicious. But as I listened to stories and snacked on my fries, I couldn't help but imagine the wall suddenly ringing out in a mounted sea of staggering songs, all the people around us watching and giggling at the one small adopted school of dissonance.

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