Althea Johnson had a small cottage, a bulldog of sorts, greying hair, and a secret. The cottage was so old, no one was sure who had built it or when it had been built. It was made of logs and stone and various bits of this and that. The roof was covered with moss, and the whole house rambled along, looking like a cross between the house of the 7 Dwarves and Shrek's tree house. It had a lot of carving, both inside and out: faces, animals, flowers. Althea's cottage was located deep inside a spinney of larch trees, not far from a small creek.
The bulldog (of sorts) was named Otto. He was black & white, with a stubby tail and a mostly white face and a black spot right between his ears. He looked like a long-nosed Boston Terrier on steroids. A lot of ignorant people thought he was a pitbull, but he only weighed 27 pounds, and he wasn't really a pitbull at all.
The greying hair bothered Althea at first. She tried to cover it up with brown hair dye. The dye would look good for a few weeks, then it would fade and she would end up with brown roots, grey streaks, and reddish blond ends. She felt this looked even worse than the grey streaks. She also noticed that the last few times time she'd used the dye, she'd been itchy all over for several days. So Althea made the decision to stop dyeing her hair. The odd thing was that when it started growing out, the grey streaks turned almost white, and the rest of her hair started turning blond, at least on top. The underneath was still dark. So now she wasn't itchy anymore, but she still had tricolored hair. She took to wearing hats.
One day, while walking along the creek with Otto, a large salmon poked its head out of the water and said,
“Hey you. Yeah, you with the hat.”
Althea was somewhat taken aback at this, as she had never met a talking salmon, or indeed, a talking fish of any kind, before. She cautiously took a few steps closer to the water, and asked what the salmon wanted. The salmon, whose name happened to be Robert, told Althea that he really wasn't a salmon at all, but a man with a bewitchment upon him. He proceeded to recount his sad tale:
“I used to be a man. Don't look at me like that...I really was. I was handsome and athletic and a successful lawyer, and quite popular with the ladies. I had so many girlfriends, I had my secretary make up a flow chart to keep track of them all. I also had a wife. I was doing OK with this for quite a while. Then I started getting careless. One thing led to another, and the wife found out about the girlfriends, who found out about each other. All hell broke loose. They all got together and cast a spell on me, and changed me into a salmon. They said I could spawn all I wanted, but then I would die.”
Althea thought this over, and asked Robert what he wanted from her. He told her that he had heard some snails talking, and found out that the only way to reverse the spell was to find a woman who would take pity on him and take him home. Then, if she would love him with all her heart for one year, he would turn back into a man.
Althea agreed to this, and Robert jumped out of the water and into the basket she was carrying to collect berries. She ran home and put Robert in the sink. Then she built up a nice fire in the stove, threw some spuds in the oven and some butter in a pan. She took Robert out of the sink, hit him over the head with a mallet, cleaned him out, and fried him in the butter. She called her friend Sharon up and invited her over for dinner. As they were eating, Sharon said, “Althea, when are you going to give me this recipe? It's so delicious.” To which Althea replied, “Oh Sharon, you know it's a family secret!”