The afternoon heat rolled in. Most of the townspeople had taken shelter in their huts. Uub’s belly was rumbling, so he decided it was time to hunt marlin. At the age of eight, he had already developed into quite the terror of the seas. Thousands of fish had died by his hand, and that was not bound to end anytime soon. His lung capacity was far beyond what was typical for his age, as was his stamina. He did not know why he had been blessed with these attributes, for he had never worked harder than anyone else his age. Nonetheless, his father would send him out to fish instead of going himself, for he never failed to bring back food.
He dove in, the cool tropical sea relieving him from that damn sun. Schools of shimmering fish fluttered around him; a pale octopus crawled across the sandy floor, scavenging for treats. The water was especially clear this day. He would be able to see a shark coming from a long ways off. Not that he was worried. The boy could swim faster than they could.
He wanted a good, proper marlin, a big, fighting marlin that would be able to feed not only his family, but at least one to two other members of the tribe (who would be chosen at random). However, there were none around. Being that they were pelagic fish, that was not unexpected. That just meant that he would have to swim a long way from shore to find them.
The day wore on. Dinnertime was fast approaching. Uub’s skin had become wrinkly; he was starting to grow weary with hunger. He had swam over thirty miles out from his island and found no sign of any marlin. It was a crying shame. He would have to settle for many smaller fish, which would be much more tedious to catch and carry home.
Before returning home, he decided to stop by Kaluka Island, as its papaya forest was rivaled only by the one on Papaya Island (allegedly). Shaking the water from his hair, the boy scampered up one of the thorny trees and picked himself out the orangest papaya he could find before sliding back down and ripping the skin on his palms to shreds. He’d feel that on the swim back.
Uub stood on the shore, his toes squirming in the sand, eating his papaya and observing the sunset reflecting over the water. He thought he could see a fishing boat far off. A chill, not brought on by the evening trade winds, oscillated through his body. The waves lapped at his ankles, relentless and gentle.
Finishing his snack, he threw the rind aside for the seagulls. Almost as if on cue, out from the forest behind him stepped a tall and yet rather chubby man whose brow was sweaty, his curly purple hair sticking to his forehead in places. He looked a right mess.
“Oh, dear me, please forgive me, forgive me, young master,” the man said in a very quick style of speech that caught Uub off-guard. “You look like skin and bones, oh dear.”
“I’m alright, just going to catch some fish.”
“At this time of day? Oh, good heavens, there’s no need, young master.”
“My name’s Uub,” the boy said politely.
“Young Master Uub, there is no need at all for you to jump into that hellish water. Now listen here. It’s a pleasure to make your acquaintance. My name is Dr. Sergio 'Surge Protector’ Kunteguero. And, perchance if I’m right, if I’m sharp, if my intuition is correct, as it usually is, I think I may have what you’re looking for.”
“Oh yeah, baby, check this out!” He whipped open his pinstripe coat, revealing what looked like fried chicken (something Uub had only seen once on a billboard in Karuka City) hanging on hooks, though each of the two dozen or so pieces were larger than any chicken. Despite the meat being in the man’s coat, his mouth watered. He wanted to feel sickened, but he was too hungry.
“That, young master, is what we call fried alligator, straight from South Island. Mhm, caught them myself yesterday. You better believe it.”
“I live on South Island…”
“Oh you’re one of them, eh? Shame, that. Real shame. What a pity. Damn, just my luck!” He adjusted his collar, composing himself. “Heh, I’d be surprised if you had any money to spend. It’s a thousand zeni per piece. You got enough for them, Master Uub?”
“I don’t have much money, sir. Our village is poor.”
“Ah, that’s a crying shame. A damn shame. But maybe we can make a deal. How much do you have on you right now? Don’t be shy.”
He shifted his feet uncomfortably. “It’s, um, um… none of your business.”
The man smiled warmly. “Oh, Master Uub, what’s a little gossip between friends? Come now, I’m sure it’s nothing to be ashamed about. Besides, I won’t tell anyone. I swear on my step-mother’s life.”
“I only have a single Ƶ500 coin.”
Dr. Kunteguero raised an elbow to his face, closing his eyes. The consummate professional, he composed himself once more. “That’s mighty fine, Master Uub. Look now, I can give you the insider discount. How’s that sound? This right here is alligator oil,” he said, holding up a jar of yellow liquid. “You could use it in a stir fry–would give it a strong flavor, and a healthy one at that.”
Trying to be respectful, he asked, “How much for a jar?”
“Why, I’d be hard-pressed to give these away for less than two fifty a pop.”
The boy blushed; he had only wanted to catch some fish for his family. He couldn’t waste what little money he had on oil. His father would never forgive him if he did. It wasn’t even food. “I-I-I’m sorry, I can’t today. Thank you, but I have to go.” He bowed and started walking into the water.
The man grabbed him by the shoulder and spun him around. “You know, young master, alligator oil will lengthen your lifespan. It will make you feel more vigorous and content. Why not buy a bottle or two? What harm could it do? You’ll be thanking me by sun-up, I swear to you. Come on, boy, give me that coin. You know you want to. You’ll never find another deal as good as this as long as you live.”
An indescribable heat rose from his cheeks to his forehead. His vision wavered. His lip trembled. He pulled away from the man and felt once more the urgency and tug of those fingertips on his shoulder. Dr. Kunteguero was grinning broadly, his yellow teeth shining.
“Sorry, I can’t… I have to go.”
“You can’t catch fish with your bare hands, young Master Uub. Don’t be a fool. I’m trying to help you. Spend your money well.”
Suddenly, his fist was flying towards the man, and he heard a sound–a sound like a hollow retch–and then nothing. Shuddering, he braced for the man to slap him back. He felt something dripping from his knuckle and opened his eyes. The salesman was lying on his back, his throat caved in, his eyes wide and white, a trail of blood leaking down the corner of his lip. He looked down at his fist, feeling numb. The wave of guilt passed through him like a breeze through leaves. His stomach rumbled again. Uub washed off his hand in the ocean, blinking the salt from his eyes. Once he was done, he pulled the man’s coat off and left.
That night, his village feasted upon alligator and fish alike, and the oil wasn’t half bad either.