Sunday, June 7, 2009

The Warehouse

The flourescent glare of the 4 am fish warehouse. Long sluices of dirty ice bearing the load of trawling nets slide down the industrial channels of highly polished steel. A man in black rubber gloves hoses beneath the chutes, barely missing the feet of the women in pink aprons who scatter the fish into many baskets.

The filing system of their fingers, the steady rhythm of their darting hands. They draw the fish glacé toward them with green spatulas with a long sweeping draw, followed by the thud of cold flesh on the conveyer belt.

White wellingtons dart about everywhere. Here a pair throws red baskets of herring toward a truck, while another pair waits to load it amongst the sardines and perch and grouper. Another pair of boots is weighing two large mackerels on a pal green scale, streaked with crusty streams of blood.

Water everywhere. Rinsing baskets, dousing sorting trays, the enormous mound of ice. And everywhere, carefully orchestrated, fish suffocating.

Broken chunks of ice sit like burgs against the garish reflection of neon light now swimming across the floor. The women stack while the men haul, baskets perpetually in motion.

The sun begins to pour in, between the tangle of halogen lights atop the trawler boats, which prematurely crafted dawn for the confused cephalopods who drifted calmly into their expectant nets. Those same bones now jumble the alley next door, where street dogs fight for a share of the clutter of cuttlefish. The halogen bulbs reflect the neon of the warehouse and everywhere the murky water catches the many lights.

Nobody is smiling. Crouched amongst many crates of cuttlefish, an old woman slices them open, scoops out their chalky bones from the translucent flesh, tosses the remains for her don to disembowl across the room. The heads of milky jellyfish bob in bubbling buckets of sea water, def by the full whirr of the motorcycle engine pumping from the ocean below. The floor vibrates from the hum of the motor, shaking the baskets of fish heads, peering out with glassy eyeballs, slapping against one another.

A cat sits by, anticipating earnestly the thud and the splatter of the next knife load of fish. The rare, poorly aimed fish tail hits the wooden floorboard and it pounces, scurries away. It barely misses the grimey wheels of the sardine laden dolly pushed by a pair of white wellingtons stained crimson on the heels.

Somewhere in the warehouse, a child is calmly singing, an unsettling sort of melody lain over the gutteral symphony of morning fish.

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