Maggie Barrymore stood in the center of the main room of Truman Humboldt’s modest home in Neptune, Nebraska. Her head slowly moved as she looked around at the odd curiosity that was his life. It was one of the strangest places she had ever seen, she thought to herself. In essence, it was more of a lobster museum than a home. She sniffed the air, and the smell wasn’t unpleasant, just different. It smelled like the cold, hard sea, and she could almost taste the salt on her tongue. How was that possible?
“You sure do have a lot of lobster stuff,” she said. “You really love lobsters.”
“Well, yes, I suppose I do,” Truman answered as he worked his way around the room clicking on lobster lamps and trying to tidy up without her noticing too much. He hadn’t been expecting such beautiful company and he didn’t want her to get grossed out. He kicked a pair of lobster underwear under a sitting chair.
Truman paused for a moment and looked at Maggie as she stood inside his home. She had a glow about her that resembled magical gold inside a pirate’s sea chest. He had a woman inside his home, Truman thought, and he could barely believe it. The only way it could get any better, he imagined, is if she turned into a mermaid. He envisioned her poised on a jagged rock being whipped by the sea. She had clam shells covering her intelligent breasts and her yellow hair flowed behind her like a war banner.
Truman shook himself out of the daydream and went to clear some things off the couch. “Sorry about the mess. Go ahead, have a seat,” he said to her, and he gestured with an arm.
She smiled at him and went to sit down. She nervously moved some of that golden hair behind an ear.
“Can I get you something to drink?” Truman asked her.
“I’ll take a Mr. Pibb if you have it.”
“You like Mr. Pibb? I like Mr. Pibb. I mean, I tried to find lobster soda of course, but nobody sells lobster soda.”
“Hmm. I wonder why,” Maggie smirked.
“Right. Do you like ice? Because I like ice in mine.”
Truman skipped off to the kitchen and Maggie heard him rummaging through cabinets, fumbling with glasses, and then filling them with ice. As he popped open one of the cans and began pouring the brown, bubbly liquid, the lobster ghost’s voice returned to Truman’s head in the most haunting way, like he was tapping on his mind with a little wooden hammer and repeating the words he had spoken in the car after their luncheon at Red Lobster — “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?”
“Leave me alone!” Truman blurted out.
Maggie stiffened in the other room. “Everything okay in there?”
“Everything’s fine, Miss Maggie. Fine as Georgia peach pie.”
Truman held a hand to each side of his head and gritted his teeth as the lobster ghost continued to bully his brain into doing something his heart had no intention of doing. But the threatening voice was playing tricks on Truman and little by little was beginning to make perfect sense to him — “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 clutched the edge of the kitchen counter with both hands. His heart was racing, his breathing quietly furious. Was he having a panic attack? he wondered.
“Truman?” Maggie called from the other room again. “Are you sure everything is okay?”
“Yes. I’ll be right there,” he answered. Then to the auditory hallucinations from the throat of the lobster ghost he cried, “Stop it! Stop it! Stop it! I will not!”
When Truman returned to the living room, he set the glass of fizzing Mr. Pibb on the coffee table in front of her. “There you go.”
Maggie picked up the glass and looked in it. The ice cubes were shaped like lobsters. “Thanks.” She put the glass to her lips and took a drink. “You know, I’m really surprised you don’t have any live lobsters roaming around this place,” Maggie laughed.
Truman took a big gulp of his Mr. Pibb. He eyed her through the glass as it was tilted up against him. The picture of her was warbled. “Well, Miss Maggie,” he began. “That’s very interesting you should say that. I do happen to have some live lobsters. Would you like to come down to my basement and see them?”
Maggie looked up at him and she caught a sense that he had somehow changed in the past few minutes. There was something different about him, he wasn’t as naïve and wholesome anymore. “Your basement?”
“Well, I don’t let them just run around loose. They’d tear up the furniture. And they need water, and I can’t keep a lobster tank in my living room now can I,” Truman laughed, and then he took another drink of his Mr. Pibb and exaggerated his enjoyment of it. “That would be weird, Maggie, and I’m not that weird… Come on. Let’s go take a look.”
Truman moved toward the kitchen and beyond to where the door to the basement was. Maggie hesitated. “You’re not scared, are you?” Truman said, looking back. “They won’t hurt you. I promise. They’re beautiful and peaceful creatures…” He chuckled oddly like he often does. “And delicious.”
Maggie sat her glass down on the table and got up to follow him. “I’m not scared.”
The tank sat against a far wall in the mostly barren basement that smelled like a basement. The watery cage bubbled beneath a bank of soft lights. “Go ahead,” Truman said to her, placing a gentle hand on her back. “Introduce yourself.”
Maggie crept closer to the tank while Truman stayed behind her. Once more, the words of the lobster ghost invaded his mind of scrambled eggs — “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.”
Maggie felt him directly behind her as she bent a bit to look down into the tank where three lobsters sat huddled together in the water. Truman reached his hands up and they trembled as they moved toward the back of her head. And for a moment, Truman thought, that he might even come to enjoy hearing her struggle when he pushed her head down in the water and held it there. Maybe she would thrash about and kick at him, and he’d have to clamp a hand on her firm ass to settle her down. What a wonderful way to send her to the other side.
But right before he was nearly moved to do her in by some unseen, yet not unknown, force, something better came over his heart and he stopped himself. His arms dropped to his sides and then he moved like air and was standing right beside her, looking down at the lobsters with her, their elbows touching. “That’s Larry, Curly, and Moe,” he said softly. “You know, like the Three Stooges. They’re my friends.”
“Oh,” Maggie said, pretending to be interested. “That’s cute.”
“Lobsters aren’t cute, Maggie. They’re crustaceans. They’re ugly, but people still love them. I guess that’s why I love them so much. We’re not much different, the lobsters and I. We understand each other. They make me feel better about myself. They help me accept my place in this world and be okay with that.”
Maggie turned to look at him, the rhythmic reflection of the water in the lobster tank danced on Truman’s innocent but troubled face. She put a hand to his cheek, and he turned to lock eyes with her.
“I want to bathe you,” she said to him. “I want you to feel loved while in the water… Like how you love these lobsters.”
“Oh, Miss Maggie,” Truman said. “That’s the most wonderful thing anyone has ever said to me.” He looked down into the water of the lobster tank. “Do you hear that, guys? A woman wants to give me a bath.”
Maggie laughed. “You’re crazy.” She leaned in and kissed him. “Now,” she said in a breathy whisper. “Let’s get you clean so that we can get dirty.”
Truman stood while she released him completely from the confines of the tuxedo. She ran her hands all over his naked, pale body. He relished her sensual touch. He trembled.
“Are you nervous, Truman?” Maggie asked.
“A little.” Truman stuttered.
“You don’t have to be,” she breathed, and she proceeded to get down on the floor. She began gently kissing the tops of his feet, up his legs, and to where he was hard and jutting straight out at her face. She kissed him there, too, and he shuddered. Then she moved up across his stomach, his chest. She stood and kissed up and down each arm, his shoulders, and all over his neck, his chin, his face. Truman had never been smothered in kisses and he could barely breathe.
Maggie glanced over at the rumpled bed. “I like your lobster sheets,” she whispered in his ear. “Do you want to roll around in them with me after I bathe you?”
“Yes, Miss Maggie… I want to pound you with my lobster mallet.”
She giggled. “Oh, Truman. You’re being bad.”
Maggie took him by the hand and walked him to the bathroom. She bent over the edge of the tub and reached in to turn on the water. “How hot do you like it?”
“Very hot,” Truman answered. “If you look in the refrigerator, you’ll see a plate with a big hunk of butter, and some sliced up lemon on it. I like to have it in my bath water. It makes me feel like a lobster.”
She shook her head at him. “But you’re not a lobster, Truman. You’re a man. A real man. And you don’t need butter and lemon to prove that to me. Get in the water.”
Truman glanced once at the tub, the water now rising and steaming, and then back to Miss Maggie. He smiled shyly. “Okay.” He got into the water and slowly sank down to a sitting position. “Oh, that feels good, Miss Maggie.”
She glanced at a cake of soap shaped like a lobster that sat in a lobster-shaped soap dish in the corner of the tub. She grabbed it, dunked it in the water, and then lathered it up in her hands. She “accidentally” let it pop out of her grasp and it fell between Truman’s legs. “Oh, no,” she giggled, and she reached down and felt around in the water, making sure to touch his man parts in the process. “My, my, Truman. Your little sailor is standing at attention again.”
Truman leaned his head back and closed his eyes as she gripped him tightly. She retrieved the lobster soap with her free hand and started to rub it all over him, coating Truman in a pinkish, sudsy foam. She washed him everywhere, from his toes to his face.
She released her grip on him and leaned back and laughed. “You look so cute. But now it’s time to rinse. Come on, sink down.”
Truman smiled, held his nose, clamped his eyes tight and went under the water. Maggie looked at the very top of his head just breaking the surface, and that’s when her hands moved quickly, and she forcefully held him down.
Truman started jerking, then slapping at the water. Maggie let him come up for a breath of air for just a moment before holding him back down again. The next time he came up, Truman was spewing and gagging, and he screamed out as best he could, “Miss Maggie! What are you doing!?”
She gripped him tightly by the hair and spoke into his face. “I know you were at my house the other night, you slimy creep. I know you were watching me. Did you like it? Did you get off to it? Huh? You’re a peeping Truman. You’re sick.”
“No, Miss Maggie. No… It’s nothing like that. I… I just wanted to surprise you with a special visit. I just wanted to spend some time with you.”
She forced his head under the water once more and held him there for a few moments in a gesture of torture before pulling him back up. “You were going to tell on me, weren’t you?” she said. “You were going to make me out to be the town tramp. You wanted to ruin my reputation and get me fired, didn’t you?”
“I’m begging you, Miss Maggie. No. That was never my intention. I just wanted to love you. I wanted you to love me. Is that all so horrible!?”
“Love? What do you know about love… You lobster freak.” Once more, she forced him under the water. This time, she raised herself up so that she could put more weight down on him. She pushed and pushed and pushed. Truman’s struggling started to weaken and she released him, and he broke the surface one last time.
Truman was somewhat delirious, his head wobbled, his speech was soft and slurred. “I… I should have listened to him and done you in when I had the chance. But I just couldn’t Miss Maggie.” His eyes rolled in her direction. “I couldn’t do it… Because I love you. I still love you…”
She shoved him under the water once more and this time Truman did not struggle. He just let it be until he finally let go and returned to the eternal sea.
Once she knew it was done, Maggie jumped back and stood over the tub. She looked down at Truman as he slept dead in the water. She did nothing else except check her face in the mirror, turn off the light and walk out.
The next day, as Truman’s lifeless body soaked in the killing tub on the other side of the house, his telephone rang. It rang once, twice, three times, and each time it rang the sound punctuated the lonely dead air with even greater intensity. The voice on the other end eventually came across as a message on the answering machine following the insidious beep:
Hello, I’m calling for Truman Humboldt. Truman, this is Brian Brando. I’m the general manager at the Red Lobster in Lincoln and I’ve been looking over your job application and would very much like to speak to you about some open positions we have here at our fine establishment. So, if you could, please call me back at your earliest convenience so we can set up an interview. My number here is 402-446-8397. Again, this is Brian Brando, general manager. Thank you very much, Truman, and have a wonderful Red Lobster day. Goodbye.
A claw of the lobster ghost pushed down on a button and listened to the message again. He looked off through the walls and to where Truman was dead. He shook his head in great disappointment, great dismay.
The lobster ghost floated into the bathroom and drained the tub. He was greatly pained as he looked down at Truman the way he was. He pulled him out of the tub and carried him to his bed where he laid him atop the crinkled lobster sheets. He wrapped him up in them as best he could.
The lobster ghost then went out into the living room to think about things. He noticed the open Seinfeld DVD case. He hopped up on the couch and worked the remote controls of Truman’s home entertainment system. He sat back and watched The Hamptons episode, and he laughed out loud. “Ha! That’s great stuff.”
When it was over, he shut everything off and went back to the bedroom where Truman was wrapped up in the lobster sheets. He picked him up and carried him to the front door and out into the ghastly world. The lobster ghost smelled the air and started walking east, still holding Truman, and he did not waver or stop walking until he got all the way to the coast of Maine and the last bed of his friend’s dreams.
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