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Don't cast aspersions on my asparagus.
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Kizi always enjoyed the seafood at Cheryl's a bit too much.

Yes, she knew about the whole seafood incident. She'd followed that incident with a mixture of fear and disgust, to know such a trusted local institution could fall to such a fundamental failure of simple catering, to follow such simple health and safety guidelines. That hit kind of close to home, and made her mother's paranoia about food a bit more understandable. She'd probably avoided catching something nasty by pure luck herself - had not quite had enough money one day while the ex-chef was sneezing, or something.

But they'd made the reforms, hired a new head chef, and she thought reluctance to eat the place's seafood, from those who otherwise enjoyed seafood, was unfair, unnecessary. It was leaving a popular local institution in the lurch, it was punishing it for the now rectified failings of its past. Her own mother was one of them, and while normally Kizi was thankful for her mother's protective and cautious manner and emulated it in her behaviour, she couldn't pull that sort of thing on Cheryl's.

Heck, they were probably now more cautious about that sort of thing than ever before. From what she gathered from casual conversations with the owners as they served her, the whole seafood poisoning thing had been both a wake-up call for higher standards and the closest business scare in years. The poor economic climate at the time hadn't helped either, she knew that much.

Actually, all that justification and deep insight she'd just made up on the spot. Or had pulled from her subconscious or something during a moment of idle pondering. Probably the latter. She couldn't have made up such intricate nonsense on the spot, she realised with a slow nod of realisation.

She just loved the damn seafood risotto. It was her favourite meal, and every other week, if she'd been productive and the like, she treated herself to one.

She was eagerly slurping up the oysters, then ate a shrimp whole.

Did she take the tail thing off before? She couldn't remember. Added more flavour. More protein, probably.

Then, just as eagerly, she scooped up some rice, with a little octopus-squid-thing conveniently perched on top. She loved them. She didn't even know what species they were, or what sort of seafood they were, and nothing about their nutritional value or production process. At this point it was too late to ask.

Just that she loved them.

A few seats down from her, she heard coughing, and almost instinctively jumped to her feet. Her mind raced - get water, Heimlich maneuver, call 911, strong slaps on the back - she only knew three out of these three things well enough to be able to rely on them, but shit, this could be serious. She couldn't be slow, she couldn't hesitate, choking was a major-

By the time she had gotten to her feet and taken a couple of steps to the source of the coughing, Alice - hey, she knew that girl from school, they got on pretty well, Kizi thought! - had resolved the situation on her own, as normally happens. Still, it was better to embarrass yourself than risk standing by while someone suffers and you could have prevented it.

But best not to admit that.

With only a few seconds of quiet blustering and hesitation as her mind shifted from emergency mode into social-emergency mode, she coolly resumed her initial posture, looked into Alice's eyes, and said "hey, Alice! Heard you cho-coughing, and saw you over here. How ya been?"

Nice save, brain.
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Not Quite the Zeitgeist · Cheryl's