Author : Sharon Molloy

“That’s the surprise, Daddy?”

A family of four stood in the restaurant lobby, watching unfamiliar shapes moving in a huge tank.

They’re staring at me!”

“No, they’re not. They don’t have eyelids.”

“They have too many legs.”

“Those aren’t legs, and they need all of them.”

“Well, they’re ugly.”

The maître d’robots led them into a marine blue dining room, its walls softly lit by track lighting and water reflections. They sat at pier-shaped chairs around a table resembling a wharf built around a glass touchscreen showing rippling water. Touching the screen floated four menus to the surface as if the table was a glass-bottomed boat.

The mother had chosen the seat facing a loopicture showing the ocean currents flowing around raised areas representing the continents. Warm currents were yellowish green, cold ones, deep navy.

“Remember our spring break in California? These days, that’s when they start coming up here to cool off. The forecast says it’ll be even warmer this year.”

“When the radiation decays, we’ll even be able to swim in the ocean again on spring breaks… in 300 years or so.”

A robot, shaped like a small dory on a three-wheeled leg, came ferrying their orders, dodging the other robot dories until it docked at the edge of their table. Once the parents had distributed the food, the dory drifted away.

“Why is it white? What’s wrong with it?”

“Nothing.” The mother calmly cut a piece and lifted it to her mouth.

“How do you eat this stuff? It keeps falling off my spork.”

“Scoop it up like we showed you.”

“It falls apart.”

“Well, it’s not tofu. It’s fillet.”

“I can’t fill it.”

“Mom’s is orange!”

“If you wanted trout you should’ve asked for trout.”

“What’s this black stuff?”

“Skin, sweetie. You can eat that too. It’s tasty!”

“You can’t like this stuff? It’s gross!”

“All new food is gross, son. Just keep eating, and it’ll stop being gross.”

“Ugh, gross!”

“Everybody… please stop saying that word.”

“Why? Because its… ‘gross’?”

The children began giggling.

“Mmmm… I haven’t tasted this in years! Where did you ever get such a great idea?”

“Oh… guy talk.”

“My grandfather used to fish, and even caught a few, but he never ate any. The river was already too polluted. So where did this come from?”

“They raise them in tanks, bigger than that one of course, built in underground caves, so they don’t need refrigeration,” the father explained. “Must be why it doesn’t cost a mint,” he muttered to himself.

“We gotta eat this new stuff all the time now??”

“It’s not new, it’s old. We used to eat it every week when we were your age, but it’s hard to get now.”

“Good. It’s yucky.”

“And it tastes all weird. I can’t eat this.”

“Well, try. Not all children get to go to a fish restaurant. They’re expensive.”

“Kids don’t appreciate that, dear. They will after they grow up. Anyway, I certainly enjoyed it. Thank you.”

“Happy birthday, honey.”

“I want dessert.”

“I’m still hungry.”

“No dessert. You both need protein.”

“I want a burger! Let’s stop at – ”

“That’s enough restaurants for one day. I’ll wifi the kitchen so something will be ready when we get home. What would you like?”

“3-S! 3-S!” they both shouted.

“Silkworms are just a snack, soy sauce or no. I’m adding locust patties.”

“And cricket-flour bread. I still want a burger.”

“Then chocolate-covered ants for dessert!”

“Honey, remember when you vowed no such thing would ever come home in our groceries?”

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