Lobster Meat is Sweet
Brian L. Tucker | Christine Stoddard
The Jif peanut butter plant released its workers at 5pm. Finally, Gary thought. He wanted to catch lobster off the New England coast like guys on the Discovery Channel. He’d stamped his timecard a final time. Gary knew lobster was no longer a poor man’s meal; it was luxury to the max.
He rushed to his Jeep and pointed it towards—Maine.
“They can live to be a hundred,” he said to Burt, a co-worker he’d talked into this permanent trip away from Kentucky, away from horse country. “Lobster can live longer than you can, buddy,” he teased.
The miles through Ohio and Pennsylvania sped by, as talk of Cincinnati Reds baseball and the riots in Dayton intensified. Both agreed a riot would be something they’d take part in if given the chance. Gary told Burt his last fight was fifth grade, and Burt said he loved UFC re-runs on the tube. Gary said it was hard to hit someone you barely knew.
“Then, it would be easy to hit you,” Burt joked.
The two looked out the Jeep’s slightly fogged windows and Gary exhaled. The word, riot, was tantamount to adventure.
Gary’s Funk & Wagnall Encyclopedia—the letter ‘L’ stamped across the spine sat between them. It was earmarked on the page about lobsters where a picture of a big red giant flexed its claws. Its black eyes stared at the cameraman. Right under the image, a caption read: ‘King of the Deep.’
Burt flipped open the earmarked page again, and saw different examples of the crustacean: slipper, spiny, and squat. When they reached the New York state line, Burt landed upon the mack daddy of the lobster phylum, Homarus americanus.
By midnight, they found a truck stop and planned to hit deep sleep. The gender at such locales was usually male; Gary admitted the absent females made it grotesque. Burt spotted one briefly in Hartford, but she turned out to be a minor. Gary called him a sicko!
Every stop the same offerings: beef jerky, forty-four ounce Gatorades. Refuel, Check Receipt, Drive.
The one girl that did end up in the Jeep was asked what she thought of the crustacean book. “I can’t believe they boil those poor things alive,” was all she’d said.
Burt tried to insinuate that medical doctors proved the lobster to be incapable of feeling pain.
At the wheel, the air grew stale for Gary as she talked. He couldn’t remember if the Funk & Wagnall said anything about lobster pain. He was temporarily deflated and gave her a ‘best friend’ hug at Marlborough, Massachusetts. Gary knew how depressed she would’ve been on a lobster boat. As she sat on the Greyhound bus bench and they drove away, Gary couldn’t force himself to wave to her, PETA so clearly stamped across her forehead.
Hunger hit Gary—an insatiable appetite for flapjacks, the thicker the better—and luckily for him they were in New Hampshire. Each and every community tied to maple syrup, and as each farm sign came into view, Gary shouted, “What’s that one say?” and Burt lunged forward with his beady brown eyes to decipher.
When Burt claimed his eyes hurt, the men called it quits and looked for women at gas stations again. If they found one, she could sample the syrup and offer little drops to them, while Gary drove and Burt read the lobster book with his delectable, maple-scented breath. They traveled north and sang, “99 bottles of syrup on the wall.”
It was like a trip through the land of milk and honey, except it was all syrup and Shell stations, Gary thought. The adventure was important—lobster the prize of their eyes. Gary felt his blood sugar spike from the syrup, and said more than once, “This syrup is sweet like lobster meat.”
Both men rarely bought more than ‘the essentials,’ swore against anything that was unmanly, low in sodium. Their beards grew in thicker by the Maine state line, and in Brunswick, Gary even caught the attention of a McDonald’s drive-thru girl. She leaned out and gave her phone number away. Gary’s beard was full and savory, and he imagined he knew how to ‘treat a lady.’
This adventure brought Gary from his routine-driven shell, and the women now flocked like the crustaceans of the deep. To other fishermen’s chagrin, women started to notice Gary’s pickup, his Kentucky tags. He was different.
Gary’s luck changed like the weather as they drove north. Maine welcomed his optimism in a way home never had. Regardless of whether they boiled the lobsters alive or quartered their exoskeletons, the crustaceans came back for more. Each day the men went out from Bangor and trapped the biggest and best lobsters they found, on a fishing vessel called The Daunting Dance. Both hurled the creatures onto deck from morning to night.
Gary liked to watch the pinchers feel around for surfaces they could impel, maim.
Burt winced when the claws of a bigger lobster found the backside of a smaller one. And as the ship rocked, he was not a little seasick.
Yet, neither man fretted, because the sea was vast and the lobsters plentiful, just like the TV shows promised.
Gary knew Maine was a good choice. He was happy they’d left the peanut butter factory and found something untapped and wild.