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The trip from Cape Cod was already very long, and with at least two more days to the Gulf, he took a chance by stopping in a freshwater inlet town. He’d never been there before. He didn’t know the name, although he thought he’d seen a sign while surfacing which read “Nixon.”

To his surprise, while the place was dim—murky—it was also teeming. He made his way through the crowd, easily marking a spot at the bar as the locals parted.

“Whiskey,” he said, falling exhausted atop the barstool. As he did, the others at the bar moved away. “Two fingers, please.”

“A long swim?” the bartender asked, gliding away toward a bottle of the cheaper stuff.

“Not the cheap stuff,” the guest said, waving a pectoral fin and motioning toward the top shelf. The barkeep stopped, rolled an eye in a glance, and then hovered upward.

“Too long,” he replied. Barely turning to look past his dorsal, he asked, “Where am I?”

“You’re in North Carolina. In the Nixon River.”

Nixon. He was right.

“We don’t get too many Great Whites around here,” the bartender continued, pouring a generous three fingers instead of two. “What’s your name, friend?”

“Gary,” he answered, inching the stool a little closer to the bar. “And you?”


“That’s funny,” Gary said, giving a toothy grin as the dram was set before him.

“Why’s that?”

“Because you’re a mackerel.”

“And ‘Gary’ isn’t funny?” Mack said, taking a chance with his new, and much larger, predatory patron. “Gary the Great White?”

“I’m named after my dad’s brother.”

“Was your uncle a sea snail?”

“No, why?”

“Never mind.”

Nodding toward his dram, “What is this?” Gary asked.

“Just know that the good stuff is hard to come by around these parts,” Mack said. “We only get what the drunks drop over the sides of the boats.”

“So, what is it?”

“It’s called The Knot,” Mack answered. “It’s Irish.”

Gary sniffed the mouth of the glass. “I made it to Ireland, once,” he said. “Too cold for my blood, though.” He sniffed again. “And I got into a fight with a giant squid while I was there.” Gary leaned across the bar top and turned to show Mack the side of his head. “He gave me this scar,” he said and pointed to a rather prominent scar that stretched from his right eye to his gills.

“That’s the Irish for ya,” Mack said nervously.

“Yeah,” Gary said, adjusting once again to his stool. “Although,” he added, “I was trying to eat him.” He took another sniff. “This doesn’t smell like whiskey. More like the caramel flavoring runoff from that candy factory up near Canada. I forget the name.” He sniffed again. “I’m a Great White. My olfactory bulb is the best in the biz. I can sense blood three miles away. This stuff is crap.”

“Give it a shot, Gary,” Mack said, slowly gliding backward toward his shelves. “It’s the best I have in the place right now. You might like it.”

Gary took a sip. His massive black eyes rolling backward over the whites, he savored.

“A couple of years back,” Gary started, “there was Canadian ship on its way to England. It was loaded with maple syrup. When that sucker went down, the syrup went everywhere. It was worse than an oil spill.”

He took another sip.

“I attacked a life raft in the middle of that mess, and I ate the only survivor. This tastes like an unbathed Canadian sailor covered in maple syrup and wrapped in a rubber raft.”

He took one final sip and swallowed. “The finish is—”

“Let me get you something else,” Mack interrupted.

“—sticky and long, like that time I tried to eat a hagfish.” Gary wiped a drop of the whiskey from his mouth. “Those things spray thick slime everywhere when you bite ‘em. And it’ll choke and kill you if it gets into your gills. This stuff is like hagfish slime—vanilla-flavored, cotton candy hagfish slime.”

“Never met a hagfish.”

“Nice guys,” Gary said, taking another swig and nodding to confirm his verdict. “Just don’t try to eat ‘em.”

“So,” Mack began, noticing that all of the other guests in the bar were beginning to file out the front door, “you didn’t like this stuff? Let me get you—”

“Honestly,” Gary answered, “I’m a little offended that you put this dross in front of me. It isn’t even whiskey. It’s flavored liqueur. It’s like giving me Drambuie. Or even worse—Southern Comfort.”

“Like I said, friend,” Mack gurgled in a pother of bubbles, “this is the best I have. I don’t get much here in Nixon. I only get what the drunks drop.”

“I have a long swim ahead of me, Mack.”

“I know, I know. Let me—”

“I’m going to need something,” Gary said, once again leaning over the bar, but this time with no intention of showing the mackerel any of his scars.

“Let me see what else I—”

“I’m going to have to eat you, now, Mack.”