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Eel Soup

Marge Simon is a writer/poet/illustrator living in Ocala, FL, USA. A Grand Master Poet of the SF Poetry Association, her poems or stories appear in Asimov's, Daily Science Fiction, Bete Noire, Silver Blade, and anthologies such as Chiral Mad 4 and Tales from the Lake 5. www.margesimon.com.

So, the time has come. He can't stand watching her suffer any longer.
He prepares their last meal from scratch. He has procured the vegetables from the neighbor's garden. The onions are still good, as well, the carrots and potatoes. A can of stewed tomatoes, peppercorns and salt, these are in the cabinet. The most important ingredient of all--the eels, he has obtained at the docks early this morning. He is careful to add them with their blood as the soup cools. They are finely chopped and raw, camouflaged with cabbage leaves. A modified and deadly vichyssoise served in her shining silver tureen.
He wheels her chair to the table. She's so frail now, her skin almost transparent. The plague that sweeps the world hasn't touched him as yet. Perhaps he is one of the few that are resistant. He frowns at the irony. His own life isn't worth bothering with--but hers is another story. Such talents she has, so much to look forward to! Her paintings were selling well. She had begun composing music to accompany the presentations in galleries. She called it "bonding kinetic transitions." But no more--this strain of the virus knows no prejudice.
He picks up a photograph of them when they were young, remembers the smell of her wool coat, the way her mouth chokes back a laugh in the photo. She'd loved his jokes--even the lame ones. Then came a time when laughter stopped. Like the sound of her voice, a bare whisper now.
Once she'd said his dreams were all smashed up inside. "Gray on gray. Form without substance," she said. She was the artist. She had dreams for both of them. They are silent during dinner. He offers her another helping. To his surprise, she nods with a lopsided smile. She knows. He turns away to wipe his eyes. After dinner, he helps her out of the wheelchair, lays her gently on the bed. The muscle cramping will begin soon, ending the beating of her heart.
But instead of closing her eyes and lying back, she pushes herself up. "Hand me that novel you were reading to me last night, sweetheart. I am feeling so much better, I should like to find out how it ends myself." He is stunned. This is the first time she's said entire sentences in many days. And wanting to read? How can this be--could the eels have cured the virus? Her eyes are bright and her pulse steady. There's a healthy flush to her cheeks that wasn't there before dinner.
As he hands her the book, he feels a sharp pain in his stomach as the cramps begin. With a terrible chill, he remembers: it was to be their last meal.
The End
This story was first published on Wednesday, April 10th, 2019

Author Comments

The subject of Eel Soup came to life with a visual prompt. It was a silver tureen of some sort of sinister looking liquid. I immediately thought of the old folk song by Joan Baez, "Lord Randall" where the man comes to his mother after seeing his true love. He looks most unwell. She asks what he was given for supper and he says "Eels and eel broth, mother, make my bed soon/for I'm sick to the heart and I fain wad lie doon." The contents of the tureen would be eel broth. Raw eels and eel blood can be lethal. I checked on the subject and found there is an eel soup that is perfectly fine but you have to cook it well. After that, I had to have a story to involve why someone would serve their beloved the deadly version and why. From that point on, the story wrote itself.

- Marge Simon
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