“And so you know what I said then? You know what? I said, ‘I quit! I will find another fish cleaning station to work for that cares enough about its workers to provide proper Accidental Ingestion Insurance! Best day of my life!” The wrasse finished his exclamation and looked almost convinced.
“Here’s to your stealth!” Marvin said, downing his third crab cocktail. He was careful to wrap his inactive tentacles tightly around his barstool in order to send the message that he was not currently hunting for food. Otherwise, the bar would’ve cleared out. “There still is a place for proper etiquette,” Marvin thought smugly to himself.
Susie was busy observing the clientele of The Seady Bar, looking for barracuda. The downed airplane really did have a nice atmosphere, she thought. She liked how the wheels of the upside-down plane spun when the tidal current was from the north, creating a low humming noise in the background. Nice touch. “I don’t see him,” she said.
“Neither do I,” said Marvin, savoring the last bits of shell. Despite his zest for eating, he had been slowly scoping out the place the entire time. Only the most astute observer would have noticed the subtle color changes in his mantle as he scanned the room, his body automatically mimicking his surroundings.
“Can I get you another one?” asked the Moray eel running the bar.
“No, Manny, I think I’m good,” said Marvin, sweeping back a tentacle to pat his belly. “Maybe you can help me out with something, though. I am looking for a barracuda named Gustav. Have you seen him?”
“Gustav? Yes, he’s in the back corner there. That’s his regular spot.”
Manny extended his long head in the direction of a shady corner by the rudders. A barracuda was hovering in the shadows, seemingly oblivious to the attention.
“No problem, Marvin. Should I start a tab?”
“That would be advisable,” Susie answered for him, as she preferred to do when business is discussed. “We might be in Portitingi for a while.”
Marvin and Susie approached Gustav slowly, as barracuda are known for being a bit skittish. On the way there, they heard him speaking with a thick Caspian Sea accent:
“Polly: ‘But I am just a humble sea cucumber, happy with my lunch of dirt!’ Gilbert: ‘Oh, you are so much more than that! Your spots, your flexibility, your squishiness…’ No, no! He would never say that out loud! Think, Gustav. What would Gilbert say?”
“Ahem,” Marvin said, from a respectful distance.
Gustav raised his eyes from some papers and bolted into the light, fangs glinting. “Who are you?” he demanded, “Did Raam send you?”
“No, Raam didn’t send me,” Marvin said. “My name is Marvin. We are just passing through.” He pulled out an interviewing trick he learned from medicine: start with an open-ended question. “What I heard was intriguing, though. Tell me more about it.”
Gustav closed his jaws a bit and his fangs looked less menacing. “Well, I happen to be writing a play.”
“A play? How exciting!” said Marvin. “So you’re a writer!”
“No, not exactly. This is my first attempt at playwriting. I am an actor!” Gustav posed in a well-practiced way so that the light hit his good fangs. “Well, usually, anyway…” He suddenly looked sad.
“Acting business slow these days?” Marvin prodded.
“No, but I was cut from auditions for Raam’s musical recently. It’s the first time in three years I haven’t made the cast.”
“So Raam isn’t on your good side, then?” Susie encouraged.
Marvin felt his front tentacles attempting to form points and realized that Gustav was almost imperceptibly baring his fangs whenever they mentioned Raam’s name. “No!” Gustav said, “But it’s not because of that. You see, just after I was cut, the crustard poured salt in my wounds and ran off with my girlfriend!”
There was a pause and Gustav appeared to be collecting himself. Just then, Susie saw a sea cucumber sidle up to the bar. She focused her attention there.
“Hey, Pip!” she heard Manny say. “The usual?”
“For the last time, I AM NOT PIP!” groaned the cucumber in a feminine but explosive voice, obviously frustrated. The entire bar, including Marvin, stared at her. “It’s me, Poppy, ya dumb eel! Manny, have you seen my bow?”
Marvin felt his chromatophores close up as Gustav turned pale, gathered up his papers and said, “Uh, I have to go hunt now. See you,” and darted out of the bar.