How about another round?

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How about another round?
In yesterday's post A fish story my Chinese distributor suckered me into eating a snake, something I would never have considered doing since I was a pescetarian at the time and didn't eat animals, only fish. His twist? The snake was from the sea. A sea snake and, while technically not a fish, close enough that my honor required me to eat him. After the live sea snake had been hauled out for inspection in a bucket, the waiter went back into the kitchen and a few minutes later that same snake came back out. This time instead of staring at me from inside a bucket, he was coiled around a big pineapple and his eyes had been replaced with two small red berries of some type, his mouth stuffed with another red something. He still looked threatening and awful. I reluctantly took a chopstick and picked through the skin to the snake's meat and swallowed a bite. Not bad actually. Everyone at the table clapped. They knew I wasn't eating anymore than my requisite bite. The snake was finished off by the other guests. Revenge for this would be sweet. I knew my distributor hardly drank alcohol at all, nor did the others at the table. In all the years I've known him I believe we've shared perhaps one beer; and then he only took a sip. But a sip is enough to not beg off a real drink and while the mood was still festive I asked the group if they would honor my request. "Ok, I ate the snake. Now it's my turn. I want to have a drink with all of you to celebrate." "But Mr. Paul, we don't drink." "Yes I know, but I don't eat snake. Let's order a round of drinks to keep me happy." They all looked at each other and, not wanting to offend their guest, agreed. The waiter was called over and he scurried off to fetch a round of drinks. My plan was simple. Since these guys didn't drink we'd get tall glasses of whatever this place had. I'd pull the customary "Kompai!" This requires everyone with a drink to down the entire drink in one gulp. I was sure this would get these guys back and revenge would be mine. "Mr. Paul, we order wine. It's ok?" "Sure, bring it on." I did drink wine and if this worked out, perhaps we'd just have to order a few more for my plan to really have an impact. The waiter returned and a large size glass of wine was placed in front of each guest. Without hesitating I grabbed my glass and said loudly "kompai!". The others reluctantly picked their glasses up and waited for me (the kompai'er) to drink first, and they would follow. They didn't look pleased. My plan was going to work. I am not sure if you've ever noticed but we humans have this built in mechanism where we automatically smell something just before drinking it. I never noticed this before but I sure noticed it that night. Just before drinking it down I took the automatic sniff. Good lord! This was the raunchiest, nastiest smelling foul liquid I could possibly imagine. No, wait. I could not imagine this, not in my wildest imagination. This was beyond bad. Stomach turning bad. But it was too late. The challenge had been made, we were on. So I closed my eyes, stopped smelling and downed the foul, oily wine. It was all I could do to not hurl. The others at the table followed suit and looked at me for a reaction. I mean, you have to picture this: my distributor and his four friends, mouths slightly open, brows furrowed, staring intently at me to see what my reaction would be. They knew. All of them knew the tables had been turned on me again. "What the hell kind of wine is that?" The same wily, sly grin crept over the face of my distributor. Clearly he had gotten me again. He got up from the table and motioned for me to do the same. We followed the waiter into the back room where there was some sort of bar setup. On the serving bar was a five gallon clear glass jar filled perhaps halfway with liquid. There was a big silver ladle sticking out of it. This, apparently, was the source of the wine. As I looked closer I noticed the surface of the wine had things floating on it. A closer examination showed the floaters were actually creatures: lizards of some type. These lizards had apparently been flattened, poured into this foul liquid and added for flavor. No doubt the oily taste of the wine came from these deceased fellows. I looked over at my distributor who was enjoying every minute of my discomfort. He had gotten the best of me both times. I was defeated. He raised one eyebrow and asked "You want another glass?"
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Paul McGowan

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