Saturday, August 11, 2012

Bubble, Bubble, Toil and Trouble

Murder most foul... or crustacean, in this case
It’s been a difficult few months.  My husband suffered the brunt of what has happened. I’ve only been support.  So, when my birthday arrived, my husband gave me a look of exhaustion and futility.

“No worries,” I assured him. 

Even so, having a birthday is a perfect excuse for a celebration, an invitation to luxuriate in happiness with those around us.  And we needed to celebrate, not for me, but to remind ourselves that life goes on.

“Hey, I have a crazy idea,” I said, calling him from the downtown parking lot.

 “Uh-huh,” he replied warily, knowing few of my ideas aren’t crazy.

“What if we have lobster for dinner?”

“Lobster?” There’s a hint of despair in his voice and I suspect he’s checking his wallet.

“Not going out,” I assure him.  “What if we cook it?  The live ones at the Asian market weren’t that expensive ….”

There’s a long pause from both of us.  It’s understood.

“O.k.,” he says, tacitly agreeing to the unspeakable.

I go to the market.  The tank is over-crowded, stress inducing, intolerable.  I finger which lobsters will be “freed.”    I carry them to the car and debate whether I should put them in the trunk or the cabin with me.  I opt for the cabin since it has air conditioning but as I drive home, I imagine them tearing their way out, charging me, claws snapping as I swerve into oncoming traffic.

 “Where are they?” my husband asks, lowering his voice and looking around the kitchen after I arrive.

“In the fridge,” I say.

We exchange looks. 

If it were done when t’is done, then ‘twere well it were done quickly.

I hurry to my computer to look up how to cook lobster.  I know they should be boiled or steamed.  But, what I’m really looking for isn’t cooking time, but dying time.  When I was a child, my mother bought live crabs from the wharf, thinking it would be cheaper to cook them at home.  I remember the horror of hearing the crabs hit the top of the pot, the lid popping off as they tried to climb out, my mother panicking as my dad cursed and grabbed the crabs, throwing them back into the pot and holding the lid down as they shrieked.  He assured me it was just steam escaping their shells.

The Lobster Institute must encounter many people similar to me, although their responses are a bit elusive.  When asked “Do lobsters feel pain?” they equate their neurological system to that of insects.  A crafty move.  I don’t consider pain when I squash invading spiders or fleas.  But when asked specifically about the “movement of lobsters in a boiling pot,” they say that it is “a reflex action to any sudden stimulus.”   A reflex which continues for over a minute?  While a lobster can’t “process pain,” it can feel it and its reflex action is to get the #$%^ out of the situation.

Boiling appears to be the “fastest” death, although what is done before putting the lobsters into the pot makes all the difference.  “Hypnosis” actually doubles the time it takes for the lobster to die.  Slow heating in salt water also increases the amount of “activity.”  However, chilling the lobsters (putting them on ice or in the freezer) not only delays the reaction to pain, but by the time they feel it, they’re almost dead.

I inform my husband.  He rushes to the freezer and makes space.  We put the lobster into it.  I make martinis.

I prepare the water and set it to boil.  I make a salad; chop up potatoes and corn to add to the pot.  My husband paces, glancing at the pot through the glass lid.

“Is it time?” he asks.

The water is at a rolling boil.


He opens the freezer and rips open the bags.

“Wait,” I say, “let me get the camera.”

He’s appalled.

Out, out, damned spot.  Darn, I think it's butter.
I film him putting in the first lobster and stop filming so that I can put mine in, but before I can do it, he puts the other one in and shuts the lid.  He glances at me, then stares at back at the pot, holding his breath.

There’s not a sound.

He heaves a sigh of relief.

“I have done the deed.”

 All hail, Thane of Concord.

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The Cranky Cow by Kou K. Nelson is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.
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