The smells always made him cringe. He knew he had a job to do but this part of it always left him cold and nauseous. Poking through all the wet bits to see what special extracts he could glean from it all. Wasn’t pretty. Wasn’t fun. Was it worth it? That remained to be seen. History dictated that it would be well worth the effort.
John hated his last name. Whale. John Whale. The nicknames he’d had over the years were endless: Killer, Bigasa, Orca, Beluga, Humpback and the inevitable Sperm. Of course when his favourite band, The Tragically Hip, released the ‘Killer Whale Tank’ version of New Orleans Is Sinking, he never heard the end of it. His weight never helped in that department. He was never sure if it was his fault or his destiny to be fat. Okay, yes he knew. Just seemed easier to blame his namesake then himself.
Being in the middle of this blood-and-guts cesspool didn’t bring food to mind. Mostly he just focused on the task and tried to ignore the bubbling bile both around him and inside him. Sloshing and the sucking noises alone were disturbing. When he saw something in the goo that might be useful he had to stick his bare hand into the mire and try and grab what he ever-so-briefly saw in the swirl.
As he sealed the packets to keep their integrity intact, he climbed the ladder out of the hatch. As much as he hated it, he knew it had to be done. One of the reasons he was so good at his job was his willingness to go the extra yard, climb the extra height or dive into the murky depths, whatever was required. He showered of the rubber suit he wore and scrubbed his hands and face as best he could. He knew the smell would dissipate and being out of the depths of it helped him not smell it any more though he knew others would.
He threw on his coat and loaded those precious specimens into the trunk of his car. As he drove back, he thought, as he often did, about the history that led him here. ‘A fine tradition’, his father always called it. It started with his grandfather in the late 30’s. Generations of Whales, he thought and laughed. Well, you can’t help it either can you? His father was as decorated as they come. He had pictures with everyone from the mayor, to Presidents to celebrities. As he always said, they are all the public he served.
When John’s turn came around, he bucked it at first. But he knew he had natural ability on top of what his father taught him. Some things cannot be denied. At least he realized it quickly and didn’t waste too much of his life fighting fate.
As he pulled into the parking lot, his pride swelled looking at his own. It was his and his alone. He had broken the family tradition but not as much as he could have. As he looked up at the glowing new sign he felt a sense of history and profound satisfaction. Prince of Whales. Opening night for his freshest of the fresh restaurant. They’d all be here. His family. His friends. All his family’s long and loyal customers would come to see what he’d done.
He brushed a small tear of joy and pride and smelled the lingering stench of his work. Well worth it? Indeed. He hoped it didn’t linger too long. A short, nasal laugh and he went into the kitchen to make use of his latest finds.