Jake dragged himself up, amazed that rays of sunshine were already piercing through the heavy venetian blinds. The couch was no place to spend the night—he ached in joints he didn’t know he had. His good morning coincided with his uncle drawing the curtains back. Jake groaned and shaded his eyes. He might as well get set. He headed for the shower. For the rest of the day, he had no time to reflect on the dream which was more a replay of past events.
He looked across the hallway to her office: Rache. The mere thought of her did things to his system he could not describe. He realized then that what he had felt for Judy was infatuation. He’d never felt this protective of anyone or willing to go to the ends of the earth to keep them happy. In hindsight, all Judy had been was a crush that had been crushed under Red’s merciless heels.
Red and Judy got married right after High School. He’d also gone on to marry Basemath with whom he’d been friends since kindergarten. His connubial decisions broke his parents’ hearts. Truth was that he was making money from sports endorsements, had gone into large scale wild fur and bush-meat processing and could maintain a family. But their reservation was manifested when they called Jake to say, “Son do not marry one of the local women—do not compound our grief.” That took the veil off Red’s eyes. In his impetuous nature, he went to their uncle Ishy and married Mah’la his daughter. Their culture permitted, in fact promoted, such alliances.
Years later, in his forties, Jake was as alone as the Stars & Stripes on the moon. His mind returned to Rache. She was everything a man could want in a woman. Homely and kind to even the lowest staff, he’d never seen her angry. Beautiful too! Jake had seen beauties of all shapes and sizes. Rache stood out. She almost matched his 1.78m; was neither thin nor fat and had just the right amount of flesh in the right places. Whenever her 8-figure sashayed past, he always thought she was made for the runway. He sought out his uncle.
It was when word of the trust fund incident got out that it dawned on Red how much he’d goofed. In what clime was one meal equated to a future inheritance? That Jake stood by the transaction did not help matters. Their parents by their non-intervention ratified the contract. His father had worn a mournful look around the house for many days afterwards; his mother was uncharacteristically scarce. Red soldiered on—it was a monumental loss but not the end of life.
Though he did not forget the slight, he set it aside. He probably would have gotten over it in the long run had another event not taken place. If the initial occurrence was opportunistic, this was schemed.
Their father had become blind by reason of age—although he was not even a hundred. He called their family lawyer and dictated his will. He split his estate into three equal parts, two of which would go to Red, Jake would get one. However, there was a caveat: Red was to embark on a modern day quest.
The man had always wanted to eat Fugu—what better time than when you were close to the grave to try a potentially life endangering meal. Red would go to Fukuji, a restaurant in Tokyo with a state-licensed chef (the only people allowed to prepare the delicacy), and get it. Red quickly packed, got one of his staff to drop him off at the airport and in a matter of hours was airborne.
Jake was immersed in a page-turner when his mother walked into his room. His grunt was the only sign that he acknowledged her presence.
“Would you show some respect?!”
One look at her face and he was instantly contrite.
“You do not continue what you’re doing when a person requiring your attention walks in, it is insulting.
“Never repeat this—not even to your kids when you have them and not to your wife.
Jake hung his head thoroughly chastised. His mother had a way with words that always got to him. He focused on her, something was in the offing.
“Your father just made a will.
“Oh?” Jake could not see what that had to do with him.
“He’s giving almost everything to your brother.”
“Okay? Where’s Red? I need to congratulate him.”
“Fool. You talk as though I gave birth to an imbecile.”
“Your brother is on his way to Japan, to actualize your father’s request.”
“I still fail to see…”
“—Your father wants Fugu.”
“Japanese pufferfish—your father wants to eat it before passing on.”
Jake pulled out his phone and googled the fish. He looked at his mother for a long minute before speaking.
“Mother, do you want to kill him?”
It was his mother’s turn to be shocked.
‘The pufferfish is very toxic,’ Jake read out. ‘1200 times more poisonous than cyanide; the tetrodotoxin produced by its body causes suffocation, paralysis and death.’
His mom chuckled, a rich throaty sound that normally would draw a smile from him. This time, it failed.
“Relax son. I know a chef. As we speak, he is cutting up the fish and removing the toxic part.”
“You do know there is no antidote for its poison?”
“Nobody is poisoning anybody, Jake. I just want you to get what should be yours.”
“But he’s my elder…”
“—you’re more qualified.”
“Father will know and then he’ll cut me off.
“When did you begin to doubt so much, son?”
“I dunno mom, this is crazy…”
“Have I ever misled you?”
Jake shook his head.
“Then trust me.”
In less than three hours, a courier delivered the fish. The chef, he and Jake’s mom had trained together, had included the ingredients and specified how to prepare it. Jake and his mother got to work. By nightfall Sashimi was ready.
Jake’s mother got him to wear his brother’s longest long-sleeves and jeans. She doused him with Red’s cologne and made him wear artificial facial hair. Heart threatening to break free from his ribcage, Jake went in to his father. He roused him from sleep and presented the dish.
“Is that you, my son?”
“That was quick.”
“I changed my mind father and had it flown down instead.”
“Is that so? Bring it to me let me eat then.”
Jake opened the plate and guided his father’s hand. Meanwhile his father inhaled his scent and ‘accidentally’ brushed his chin and hand. The voice sounds like Jake but he feels like Red.
He settled down and ate. When he was done, he instructed Jake top bring some papers from the wall safe. He thumb-printed the necessary places—Jake steering his hands.
“Take those to my friend; he will attest that you are to get a lion share of all I have upon my death.”
The household was still asleep when Red returned at dawn.
“Father, I have brought that which your soul longs for.”