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DALL·E 2023-12-17 20.06.49 - Frail elderly woman face forward bent over walking crouching down a wharf towards a fisherman in a boat in Steveston BC.png
DALL·E 2023-12-17 20.44.46 - Several fresh shrimp inside a stylish purse.png

You never know when you'll need and insulated bag

“I don’ know why the fish and chips taste as if they come from a box in the freezer,” Liz said apologetically. The fish was cut in the shape of isosceles triangles and coated with a bland dredge. The fries lay limply on their plates, victims of freezer burn and rancid oil.

            Their trip to the fishing port of Steveston was turning out to be a bust.


            “The sign said, ‘the best fresh fish in Steveston,’” added Ben, her husband.


            “Hmpph” Her mother’s response said it all. Wendy was from the Maritimes and knew her fish.


            Liz perked up. ”Wait a minute. Didn’t the presenter for On the Coast say that spot prawns are in season? She described them as a British Columbian delicacy. She said they’re only available for a few weeks a year and the fishermen harvest them by hand.”


            “They sound expensive,” said Ben.


            “We can afford to get a pound of them, as a special treat to celebrate Mom’s visit. We’ll prepare them at home.”


            Her mom nodded in agreement.


            “Let’s go down to the wharf to see if we can find a fisherman who has some for sale,” said Liz.


            They crossed the street, walking around the restaurants. Ben ran ahead, stopping at their car.


            “What! A bad meal and a parking ticket!” He looked in disbelief at the $200 fine. During the time they had been in the restaurant, someone had moved the “Parking Permitted” sign so that their vehicle was now parked illegally.


            “Let’s not forget the prawns,” said Liz. “You can write to City Hall later. For now, let’s head to the wharf.”


            They left the ticket attached to the windshield and walked down a wooden runway to the pier. About a dozen fishing boats were tied up to the jetty.


            “There’s no one here. I guess they’ve sold all the fish they caught. Let’s go home,” said Ben.


            Wendy shook her head. ”Not without the spot prawns. Let me show you how it’s done.”

            She swaggered across the metal pier, her confident crouching walk at odds with her small, frail, aging body. ”Spot prawns, spot prawns,” she barked in a voice husky from a half-century of smoking cigarettes.


            A head poked out from the belly of one boat. The fisherman moved slowly and carefully. He raised a red hand weathered by the water and gestured for her to come toward the prow. They made eye contact.


            Her daughter and son-in-law watched in surprise as she pulled an insulated grocery bag from her purse. Liz was about to ask her mother why she had a plastic bag in her purse, but Kathleen could see that her mother had eyes only for the fisherman. When her mother smiled at him, he smiled back, revealing gold molars. She handed him the plastic bag with a flourish. He filled it with four scoops of ice. Then he gently used his hand to scoop out a pound of the red shrimp with distinct white sports on their tells.


            Wendy closed her eyes and sniffed the sweet-scented shrimp. She was in heaven. “This is what I call fresh fish!"


         "Are you going to put the bag back in your purse?" asked Liz.


           Wendy laughed at her. "Why would you think that?"

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