Truman Humboldt’s guts bathed in the euphoric afterglow of a fine midday meal at Red Lobster as the car gently hummed west along Interstate 80 in Nebraska back toward the rubbish town of Neptune and lonely home.
Truman looked over at the lobster ghost glowing like a soft red x-ray in the passenger seat. He hadn’t said much since they had left the restaurant. He seemed to be deep in lobster thought. Truman worried something might be wrong.
“Is there somewhere you’d like me to drop you off?” Truman asked to break the quiet, wondering if the lobster ghost was planning to stick around forever.
The apparition came out of his meditative state and turned to smile at him. “No. I will dissipate when the time is right.”
Truman wasn’t sure what to make of that and looked straight ahead at the line of asphalt stretching out long and flat toward the bare and bone-colored horizon. “I wanted to thank you for encouraging me to apply for a job at Red Lobster. I’m very hopeful about it. I feel good. I sense a bright future is ahead of me.”
“I feel good about it as well,” the lobster ghost replied. “I’m very proud of you for putting yourself out there, for having some confidence in yourself for a change. I truly believe you will be greatly rewarded in the end.”
Truman nodded his head in agreement. “You know, I have so many things going through my head right now, but I’ve been seriously thinking… And once I get my foot in the door at Red Lobster and really show them who I am and what I can do, I’m going to see about getting a transfer to Maine. Maine!”
“That’s a lofty goal, Truman. A lofty yet wonderful goal… But don’t you think you should get the job first?”
They both laughed out loud.
“Right,” Truman said, and he smiled bright as a rainbow as he gripped the steering wheel. “Would you like to listen to my Ocean Sounds CD again?”
“Yes. Let’s get lost in the sounds of water along our journey through this desolate place of dust and dirt. But first I feel there is one important thing we still need to discuss.”
“What’s that?” Truman wondered aloud.
“What about her?”
“What should be done with her.”
“What do you mean… Done with her?”
“Oh, come on, Truman,” the lobster ghost started off, his tone more ominous than it’s ever been. “Are you seriously going to just let her stomp on your heart such as she did without the slightest retaliation? Where’s your sense of personal pride and self-esteem? Where’s your sense of revenge? You deserved better from her, and you didn’t get it. She threw a fistful of mud in your face. She humiliated you. That’s unforgiveable.”
Truman sighed. “I understand what you’re saying, and yes, I acknowledge the depth of emotional pain I have suffered at her hands and other body parts, but sometimes a man has to take the higher road. Sometimes a man has to just get over it and move on… And that’s what I plan on doing. Move on.”
“Well, of course it’s easy to say that now, Truman,” the lobster ghost tried to explain. “Your head is in the clouds. But what about further along the road when you come back down to Earth. What about when you are sitting all alone in your house in Maine and those painful memories of Maggie Barrymore come creeping in and claw at your guts. Hmm? Life won’t be too enjoyable then. You’ll regret not putting her in her proper place when you had the chance. You’ll be drowning in regret, and regret, my friend, is never a pleasant thing.”
“What do you expect me to do?” Truman asked with a snort and an awkward laugh. “Kill her?”
The lobster ghost’s long-winded silence was answer enough for Truman.
“What!? I can’t kill somebody,” he protested. “That’s taking it a bit too far… Way too far. And I simply won’t do it!”
“But you must!” the lobster ghost cried out, trying to steer his thinking in a different direction. “Think back, Truman. Think of the betrayal. Think of how she treated you. Think of that despicable Mr. Guldencock slobbering all over her. Think about how she liked it, Truman. Think about how she cast you off like a piece of trash at the zoo while she favored him. Why, her heart is colder than the North Atlantic in January. She doesn’t deserve to live. But you, my friend, you deserve a full life, a life unencumbered by the stinging pain of shattered love. You deserve all the success and happiness the world has to offer… But you’ll never have it as long as that stain in your life exists. Snuff it out, Truman. Make things right. Restore the balance. Blot her from this Earth.”
Truman suddenly slowed down and pulled to the side of the highway. He roughly pushed the car’s shifter to P and let the engine idle.
“What are you doing?” the lobster ghost demanded to know.
“I think this is where you should get out,” Truman said with an uncharacteristic degree of authority. “I’m not going to kill her. You’ll never get me to do it… And if you were truly my friend, you wouldn’t force such a thing upon me. I’m not a killer. I’m a lover of lobster. I’m a lover of life!”
“So, this it then, huh?” the lobster ghost said, shaking his head at Truman. “You’re just going to leave me on the side of the highway in Nebraska,” and he glanced out the window for a moment. “Without even a puddle of leftover rainwater to soak myself in. Hmm. Some friend you are, all right. Some friend indeed.”
“Don’t try to make me feel bad,” Truman snapped. “You don’t even really exist. You’re in my head. But now I want you out.”
“All right, Truman,” the lobster ghost said as he undid his seatbelt and moved a claw toward the door handle. “But let me just say this. I hope when the day comes, and it will come, that you are writhing in unbearable emotional pain over one Maggie Barrymore, so much so that you’ll just want to snuff it, I do truly hope that you’ll look back on this day and say: ‘Wow. I should have listened to him. He was right. I should have done her in.’ But, you surely have it all figured out, don’t you. You’re going to be a big Red Lobster hot shot and your life is going to be perfect… Just like in the commercials, huh?” The lobster ghost laughed out loud. “Commercials are nothing but lies, Truman. Lies.”
“Why are you going on and on like this?” Truman asked. “It’s over. It’s done with. You’re not going to rain on my lobster parade any longer. Now get out.”
The fluid roar of the intestate rose and seeped in when the lobster ghost opened the passenger-side door, and then it quickly became muffled again when he slammed the door shut from the other side. Truman put the car in gear and pulled back onto the interstate in a gunning, gravel-spitting peel out.
FINAL EPISODE COMING SOON
You can read all the previous parts of this story at cerealaftersex.com.