Alan “Lindy” Linda

Freelance Writer

Fresh lutefisk found its way into the local grocery store. I paused in front of the meat case where it lay, so innocent, so unable to at least in appearance, live up to its hideous reputation.

Look at that whiteness. That unique texture. I reached down and grabbed it, put it in my cart. I looked both ways kind of sneakily, to see if anyone saw me take it. I handed it back to the meat guy, said: “Better double wrap it.”

I am a lutefisk junkie. I cannot help myself. I have it double wrapped because some people think it smells. Although to be truthful, it has me so firmly in its grasp that I no longer even notice its unusual aroma.

I hid it under my other groceries. I don’t think anyone saw me. I know I shouldn’t worry; most of whom would see me are Lutherans, and along with being kind to their fellow man, half of them are lutefisk junkies too. They don’t tell anyone. We’re talking here about fellow men whose list of vices stops at three spoons of sugar in their coffee. 

I guiltily rolled down the dairy aisle toward the checkout counter, headed for certain community exposure at the hand of checkout lady Mable the Grapevine, who would tell on me, for sure.

I passed between two young  ladies and their half-full carts. They simultaneously raised their noses into the air and began to sniff. The one with the diapered baby riding backwards in her car reached down, pulled the diaper open, and suspiciously checked him. Gave him a whack, just for good measure. It caught the baby by surprise, that diaper pull. Then he began trying to get in his diaper  too.

The other lady stumbled on toward the produce section, muttering about ill winds that blow no good. Thank goodness it was double wrapped; at least innocent civilians wouldn’t get hurt.

Lutefisk has always gotten a lot of bad press. That process they use on it to stave off decomposition is a lot better than it used to be. Not nearly as smelly. So imagine it in the old days.

Mable the Grapevine looked at me in the line, looked up toward heaven, and said: Either they’re burning the sewage lagoon south of town, or someone has lutefisk hidden in their cart! She focused on me with her one good eye; the other kind of wandered aimlessly. 

Once I got outside, I realized that I was now a man without a home. No way the family would let me in the door with this fish. The last time I brought it home, The Old Girl described in graphic terms what the Tribe of Girls would do with the checking account should I do it again.

As I walked to my car, two strange dogs began following me. I drove them off with some strategic kicking and some salty language. Must be a garbage strike on, way they were running around.

I once took my lutefisk over to my Norwegian Aunt Hilda to prepare it. Uncle Hugh, who was 92 and not a Norwegian, and had been feeling poorly ever since the democrats got into office, sat up in bed while it was cooking and shouted: “Bring me my shotgun! Those damn skunks have gotten under the porch again.”

Less than two days later, he was up and about again. Aunt HIlda said it was a miracle. But I know the real reason: The healing properties of lutefisk.

Some Mexican Americans who lived next door to them came over while we were cooking it, and asked if we knew if the sewage lagoons were burning, or what?

After I left, Uncle Hugh threw the lutefisk scraps undr the front porch, which he said drove the skunks away. What it did do was attracted all of Aunt HIlda’s Norwegian relatives, who came from hundreds of miles away, in Nord Dakoda.

Uncle Hugh said he should send some lutefisk to Washington, D.C. Drive those politicians out. I hope he thinks that through.

  Only trouble with that, we’d never get the Norwegians out of there.

(Other fishy stories are in The Prairie Spy: Who Shot the Dryer, on Amazon.)