NO MORE FISH HEADS…

Arnie Kappel was heads over heels in love. It had happened really fast. He had met Katie Shmisel through an old friend and the second they connected there was an undeniable bond. There was no question, they were meant for each other. He couldn’t stop thinking about Katie and all he wanted to do was spend as much time as possible with her. Katie proved time after time that she felt the same way.

Arnie and Katie had been dating for three months and he was ready to propose and spend his entire life with her. It was a huge commitment but he was ready to make it, Arnie knew Katie was ‘’the one.’’

Katie had met Arnie’s Mom and Dad and his Sister Brianne, and they had all gotten along very well. Katie’s Mother and Father had invited Arnie to join them for the Rosh Hashana dinner to commemorate the start of the Jewish New Year. It was going to the be the first time he was part of a ‘’family dinner.’’

Arnie went crazy trying to figure out the proper gift to take to dinner. He looked at flowers, chocolates, baskets with apples and honey, and an arrangement of edible fruit. He ended up selecting a very good bottle of vintage Kosher wine.

Alan picked Katie up at her condo and he couldn’t believe how beautiful she looked. He was totally in love. The Shmisel’s lived in a magnificent house that Mrs. Shmisel had spent two years completely renovating, it was classy yet comfortable.

Freddie Shmisel was an extremely successful Accountant. His firm was the third largest in Toronto and they were famous (in Accounting circles) for their interpretations of international tax law.

After a nice pre-drink and discussion about the cold front that had shown up out of nowhere, the family sat down for dinner. The men donned their Yarmulkes (head covering) and Mrs. Shmisel brought out the round Challahs, the apples and honey, and the head of a fish which she put right in front of Arnie. The fish's eyes seemed fixated on him.

Mr. Shmisel explained the apples in honey represented the sweetness of the New Year but Arnie wasn’t paying attention. The smell of the fish head was hitting him hard. He wanted to gag.

The blessing was made over the wine, the apples and honey. and the round Challahs. Everything was wonderful except for the fish head which was (for lack of a better term) spooky. It was the head of one big fish.

The meal was lovely but Arnie had a hard time keeping anything down, when the Gefilte fish was served he kept looking at the fish head and couldn’t stop wondering if he was eating the rest of the fish.

The smell seemed to be getting worse. All Arnie wanted to do was get through the meal. Katie jumped up from her seat and helped her Mom bring food back and forth from the kitchen. Arnie stood up to escape the fish odour and said he also wanted to help bring out the food but he was sent back to the table.

The menu was quite lovely, there was Chicken soup, Gefilte fish, Roasted Vegetables, Potato Kugel (Potato Pudding) Apple Kugel, Chicken Cutlets, Miami Ribs, and Apple Sauce. All Arnie wanted to do was not heave, the fish smell wouldn’t leave his nostrils. He wondered if he was the only one being affected in such a dramatic way. The food was beautiful, the fish head not so much.

Finally after the desert was brought out, he took a small piece of cake and chewed on it, plotting his escape from the stinky Shmisel table. When everyone seemed done, Arnie stood up ‘’Thank You for the wonderful meal. You are exceptional people and I enjoyed your company.’’

Mr. Shmisel looked over at Arnie and smiled. ‘’It was a tremendous pleasure having you here Arnie, we look forward to many more meals with you.’’

Somehow Arnie let his words blurt out ‘’I hope so, but without the fish head.’’ There was stunned silence. Arnie never felt so guilty for anything he had uttered before in his life.

‘’You didn’t like the Fish Head?’’ Mr. Shmisel looked somewhat downcast. ‘’’My wife had to go all over the place to find that ugly head. We only put it on the table because Katie told us your family was very traditional. It’s the first time we ever did anything like that. The smell from that thing was making me feel nauseous all night but I didn’t want to offend you by taking you away from your family traditions.’’

Arnie laughed ‘’I appreciate the gesture, we use Apple and Honey, and on occasion Pomegranates to symbolize the New Year but we’ve never had a fish head. We aren’t that religious, plus I think my Mom would throw up if she had to see it.’

There was loud guffaws from around the table and the Fish head was immediately removed, never to be seen again.

Arnie and Katie spent quality time with her parents for the next couple of hours. After the windows were opened the smell from the fish head dissipated. When it was time to leave Arnie felt like he was truly a member of the Shmisel family.

As they were walking to the car and their future, Katie looked at Arnie and smiled. ‘’It took balls for you to mention that stinky fish head, but I’m glad you did, I didn’t think I was going to make it through the meal, it’s why I jumped up to help my Mom, it was the only way I could escape. My parents had their hearts in the right place and really wanted to impress you, but in the end you impressed them, I just wish you would have spoken up sooner. I know we are going to have a long life together and we will always laugh when we talk about the night at my parent's house and the Fish Head so something really good did come out of that stinky situation.''

Alan Schwarz loves life. He is the founder of JAMS Productions, a television production company based in Toronto . His passion is writing.