It is high summer when he receives the call from an angling store. They have a stuffed Jewfish, taken as part of clearance stock from a store in Buffalo. If he’s still interested he’d better get there quick; three other collectors want to buy it. He takes the subway down after he finishes work.
The Jewfish is beautiful. It is three feet six inches long. Its skin is striped and mottled green-brown and yellow. Its body is wide, barely tapering at all until the graceful split tail. Along the top of its back runs a ridge of fin, like close-cropped hair. Two large, oval fins dangle down from the middle of its body, with a smaller, sleeker one toward the back. Its mouth gapes open, dark pink within. Its power is evident in its size, in its thick muscles, in the position of its mounting: head slightly tilted, tail curled to one side, ready to strike.
In the store, six or seven men are simply standing, looking at the fish. One mutters: “but how was it done? Not a trace of grease,” and falls silent again. Another raises his hand to touch the fish’s skin. The other men watch him as he approaches, ready to touch, but he is unable to complete the motion. His arm falls limply back to his side. The men look.
He does not stare so long or so hard as these men do. He knows there will be time to look later, in private. He asks the price of the clerk behind the desk. The men gasp, and then nod, when they hear the figure. He is unsurprised by it. He has brought the money, in cash. The men stare at him and then back at the Jewfish. He arranges a date for delivery, giving his address in a loud, clear voice. The Jewfish gazes ahead, its eyes black.
To be continued…