The lobsters were dead in a pile and no longer a danger to us. They were dead in a pile and their shells were not brown not red not blue, but the color of eyes, both yours and mine. We ate them to destroy them but a murmuring came, nevertheless, from their empty carapaces, uncracked. The lobsters with their soft, hissing voices and their words like air escaping a punctured tire. We ate them to destroy them all but suddenly we felt sad and empty and overly full. I turned to you and for the first time told you I was in love. The lobsters were dead in a pile and with a froth on their shells they waited and watched us undress each other. They no longer made the hostile lobster sounds, they no longer threatened us in tiny words with the destruction of our species but waited there dead with eyes that looked little different from the eyes of the living. There on the shore the sun glowed and our love was indestructible, though the sea washed up a strange red froth. The lobsters were in piles and they no longer moved, but some of them did and were alive still and in their movements within the pile they made the entire heap writhe like water boiling in a pot. We had eaten the lobsters to forestall our own destruction, but it became clear that nothing would. I resettled myself on the sand and leaned back against you, and I closed my eyes, stroking your leg and your large right claw, and I was at rest at last.
Holiday in Cape Cod. Lucy spreads the beach blanket on the hot sand, and I jump on to avoid burning the soles of my feet. Susan is slathering sunscreen on the exposed segments of her body, as the gulls circle over us all. We play paddleball and catch and the little red rubber sphere traces out a path among us three. I walk down to the seam of shore and sea and practice digging small holes with my feet, holes that fill immediately with water. Does water lurk everywhere, just below the surface, or only here?
I see you farther upshore, fully clothed, watching me carve hopeless marks in the sand. I see a giant lobster, the size of a beach blanket, stranded at the shoreline. It looks a tender pink. You see me seeing the lobster, but you do nothing. The lobster strokes desperately but it only digs itself farther in, its legs slap at the wet dark sand. A common misconception is that a lobster screams when boiled; actually the whistling sound is steam escaping the shell. I go over to the giant lobster, not wishing to touch it. But I take up a stick of driftwood and I will wedge it from the sand, roll it towards the water.
I go over and briefly it stops struggling and in this still moment I think it may be grateful, waiting to be helped. I am nudging the shard under and under its belly to lift and overhead the gulls go wild. Now the blood is gushing, blue blood, frothing all over the gulls that swoop in to eat from its belly, eat of its belly, it was too tender to move and it is emptying quick. My stick still sticks in it, the stick now blue the gulls blue my hands are blue, blue is everywhere I look except you. You are pale and clean, watching me from afar. You look queasy.
That sound: was it a whistle, a hiss, or a scream? From the ocean come thousands upon thousands of lobsters and they are not whistling or hissing or screaming but are whispering one word over and over again, over and over and over.
“I’ll have the Lobster in Cream Sauce,” Susan says, tilting her head this way and that at the menu. “But please make certain the seafood is of local origin: we have all traveled too far to dine on imported creatures.”
Plunge two lobsters each weighing two pounds each into the boiling water, quickly so they die at once; break off the large claws and set them in the center of a saucepan. Douse in white wine and water, add bay leaves, parsley, and onion and boil for 20 minutes, then pull apart the tails, strain the creamy innards, and fry the remainder in butter. Moisten with lobster stock and add shallots, cream, and brandy. Cut the bodies in slices and lay the shells at the sides, the heads facing up toward you, directly toward you, and pointed away from the sea.
Lucy licks her lips, studies the menu. “I’d like the Lobster à la Bordelaise. With extra wedges of lemon and some Tabasco, please.”
In white wine, with a broth based on lobster flesh, simmered with diced carrots, onions, and potatoes. The lobster must be fresh, unfrozen, caught from cold water that hardens the shell. A lobster is sweetest and full of the richest flesh right before a molt, when the shell is at its most protective. Before it has shed its sense of safety.
And for me? A cup of the corn chowder, with a small salad. Dressing on the side.
Susan looks at me with a combination of amusement and scorn. “Oh, Anne-Marie. Only you would attempt vegetarianism on the Cape, in the summer. Why not live a little, eat the best? After all, you are what you eat.”
But I am not.
What a beautiful day as thousands and thousands of lobsters skitter up from the water, whispering their single word over and over again as the sky blues brightly overhead. What a beautiful color staining the swollen breasts of the gulls as they argue over the last contents of the great lobster, nearly fainting from their own fullness. Susan and Lucy look over at me from a distance and they put down their red rubber ball, uncertain. We were to take a sunset stroll to the leeward side of the cove, hand in hand, as when we were children, but now a sound comes from the sea and I sense our plans must be reconsidered.
The sound rises like the whistling of a teakettle but breaks into a shriek, a single beautiful tone that pierces the sea breeze like a knife, cracks it like a mallet, and when it has gone on long enough I can begin to hear the word whispered beneath. By the time the lobsters have begun to kill us, I recognize it distinctly.
The lobsters take down a healthy athletic type, they take him behind the knees and he crumples like a doll. The lobsters with their clumsy claws are terrible in droves, the sun glistens off their backs and they are a wave, a tide, a drowning of speckled brown and red crawling over the faces of people. I look down at my hands covered in blue and tell myself this is not happening, but of course it is. They fight their way into the mouths and down the airways of vacationers of all ages, indiscriminate.
And you are running towards me while the lobsters are killing us all, your hair ruffled in the breeze and the sun glistening off your smooth shoulders, and you are mouthing something, shouting it, something I cannot hear over the screams of lobsters and of people. You reach me and then you whisper in my ear that we must kill them all. I nod slowly as you grab one of the largest in your hands and tear it in half. You hold one of the halves out to me, it drips blue on the warm, soft sand. I take it in my hands tentatively, like it could hurt me, and I bite down.
So full. Full of lobster meat and the sadness of the lobster meat. Full of the feeling of having cracked hundreds upon hundreds of precious shells. Full of the sound and the sight of destruction, the lobsters dead in a pile, some of them with lipstick marks on their empty husks. Their voices piled up on one another. I felt a whispering coming from deep within my belly, the voices not yet at rest, and they said in a tone sympathetic and unsympathetic at the same time, Next Next Next. Well, I said, what do we do next? Lobster dinner? he asked, chuckling a little as if I ought to be chuckling with him as well. And as he leaned in to kiss me, my eye saw his open mouth grow larger and larger until it seemed it could swallow me whole.