The weather changed and they hauled in a big catch. A piss off commented that he might try putting a jellyfish on bread and eat it, but Tari was already gazing out Eastwards. She was so exactly across the world from where she first washed ashore as an infant that she was just as far from home anyway she looked (discounting the polar flattening of the earth of course). She shook reminisence out of her eyes and asked the writhing fish to join her for dinner. They all seemed to jump out the container as she apologises "I have place for just one in my oven". She picked up a fish and put him in her pocket. Head sticking out, he looked to the heavens and fish-mouthed a thank you and turned on his headlights to face the tunnel.
She smiled as she added haldi and laal mirch to the lacerations she had made in this fish flank. In indian cooking, the wait between the frying pan and the fire was a long one. One smile down and three more to go. She no longer enjoyed smiling and felt a sense of betrayal as fishermen made offerings at temples dedicated to her. Here she was smiling among gizmos and central heating while the tide turned on Konkani fishermen and fish alike.
The day her menstual cycles kicked in, there was a storm. Aetheist fishermen were swept away and swallowed whole by the sea destined to reincarnation as sole fish floundering around at the bottom of the sea with an eyes atop to testify that they had finally seen the light. From that day on, the tides changed each time she smiled.
Bashkako the blind Malabari had fished her out of the shallow reefs when groping around for sea slugs as he was known to do on the exposed reefs of Ratnagiri. He ran home ecstatic to his barren wife catch in hand. Dada - as she now called him professed that he had learned to see with his hands since the first time he held Tari - but that he also saw pain and vowed not to fish again. He still enjoyed the essence of rawas in his par boiled rice but massacred only vegetables from that day on.
She had laughed in the monsoon rains and turned tides to chaos. Big men from small countries took measuremnts and gave fancy names to her mood swings. El nino, La nina, ENSO phalana phalana. When dada died, aai followed his ashes out to sea. They were reborn as plankton - drifting, rising, falling, eating and being eaten. Tari was adopted by a stray anthropologist who took her across the sea to keep her smile away from the eyes of prdatory men. The one story they didnt tell her was of Issa bhai and his penile disfunction ever since the day he insisted on offering her place on his lap in the local bus.
Neap tides came with every period and spring tide with ovulation. She bled every new moon and meteriologists held on to their beleifs a month longer.
She had felt it coming and was only half surpised to note the absence of a surge in tides the last time she made love. "Tsunami Baby number 636 adopted by Konkan family" read a newspaper column. The sea was suspicious of her and seemed almost disillusioned by the predictability with which she had taken to smiling thes last 10 years. For Tari, it gave her reason to live life burdened by gravity on land. She was due a thousand reincarnations high on the food chain but resisted the temptation to drown herself. Her job, thermal underwear and passion for quiltmaking were only ways to mark time. Real joy happened when she smiled.
She savoured every bite of the fish this morning, adding salt as indulgence. Sea godesses binge on salt. She sat down and listed 3 reasons why she might smile today were she to need them. She took a deep breath and prepared herself for the test. Whatever the outcome, she could not afford to show emotion this way or that lest the wives of fishermen loose faith or appreciation for her work.
Her urine sparkled in the glass vial as she swirled it round in anticipation of the colour developer. The first drop was tentative. The second questioning. The third spelt out motherhood.
Walking back to the fishing pier, she sensed a young girls confidence in the tide. It was no longer her. Baby 636 had take over. She asked a Chinese deck hand and joked about whether he could drop her off at India."If you can pay" he said grinning at her breasts. She shook her head and walked on towars the seaward end of the pier. "I'd rater swim" she said and jumped off the end. The deck hand ran to the edge and waited for something to surface too busy to see a manta ray barrel roll away in its new found freedom. It was a short flight from here to India and the catering was good all the way through.