We got drunk and went to that twenty-four hour cafe by the flyover. Chris had chili con carne and I had quesadilla. I can’t remember what we were talking about, but after a while we realised we were next to that bathtub fishtank they’ve got there, and Chris suggested feeding the goldfish.
I asked him what with, we didn’t have anything goldfish-friendly, but he just pierced a kidney bean on his plate and said, how about one of these?
It was covered in meat and sauce, so he put it in his mouth, sucked it clean, and then put it back on the end of his fork.
I said, you’re kidding, but he shrugged, said, let’s see, and held the fork in the bathtub, until a fairly large orange and black goldfish took the bean in its mouth and swallowed it whole. Chris said it must’ve been peckish, and I laughed.
A second later it regurgitated the thing whole, and the bean sank to the bottom of the tub. It looked no different to how it had gone in.
I told Chris to do it again, and he did. The same thing happened. One swallow. One puke. We did it one more time. Ditto. We wondered whether it was just that fish that could puke beans whole, and were about to try it with another one when this waitress came over and told us to stop.
Chris said, stop what?
She looked at him like he was a moron, and said, stop feeding the goldfish.
Chris said, but it likes it, look, and before the waitress could do anything, he fed the fish again. It ate the bean, and then puked it up again.
The waitress said, clearly. That’s why it’s puking it up. Look, if you don’t stop, I’m going to have to ask you to leave.
Chris said, but I’m not hurting anyone.
The waitress folded her arms across her chest and said: you’re hurting the fish.
Chris said, no, he wasn’t, look at its face. It doesn’t feel a thing.
The waitress shook her head: and how would you know?
Chris speared another kidney bean, and said, watch. It wants to eat. It can’t. It pukes it up. But it wants to. And then it forgets and wants to eat again.
The waitress told him to put the kidney bean down, and said: and because it forgets that makes it okay?
The waitress went on: and I suppose if I said how’d you like it if I shoved something you couldn’t digest into your mouth, you’d say you wouldn’t, and it wouldn’t be okay because you’d remember it.
Chris smiled, exactly.
The waitress said, okay then, feed the fish, and, turning around, wound her way back to the kitchen.
Chris shrugged and put another bean in the bathtub. I looked over at the kitchen doors. They swung open and the waitress appeared again.
I said, Chris, and he followed my gaze.
The waitress had what looked like a Frisbee in her hand.
Thing is, she shouted. I don’t care if you remember it.
We didn’t stick around.