A misty green jungle glow leaves me melancholy high at mid-morning sigh the curtains in the kitchen hold back the ashen stare of this cell block with eighty tiny windows and hands reaching out to pray for the immoral justice to fade, fade with the orange gassy glow of another wet night of multiple ampersand weddings and lonely shuffles beneath creaking porch lights … and I cannot stop thinking of the wandering crows in those tiny black clothes and how they blow through the air and into a fractured face when the hobbling world is overworked or tired as I light these mystic candles all alone the mantle missing pictures of all the seas of you and I at the shores of blue water space and it’s blessed to imagine the days we are tightly knit together our lives wrapped around each other like newspaper on fish, like wings on wheels and it’s fun to play life with you for without you this game is already over and I am merely a wedge stuck beneath an open door letting all the air out forever and ever.
A dark hotel room in a cold Midwest city. The only light there is comes through the love slit in the drapes. The bed in the room is a California King. It’s large, alone, built for four, but cradling one. The air smells of ghosts, gin, and God. There’s a noise in the deep uncomfortable band of golden gray light. The heater box by the window is puffing suffocating breath as the glittering ruby blue town twinkles like radiated space.
“I’m going to be late for my flight,” he tells her as she rolls like a comfortable cat on the giant bed.
“There will be other flights,” she says. “Come keep me warm. It’s so cold in here. It’s like elves have been chipping ice.”
He turns away from the window to look at her there. She looks welcoming yet evil.
“That’s a weird thing to say,” he tells her.
She shrugs, unwraps a piece of gum and puts it into her mouth. “What can I say. I’m a weird girl.”
“Why are you trying to sabotage my flight plans?” he asks her accusatorily.
She props herself up on her elbows and gives him a dirty look. “If you don’t want to spend time with me… Just say so. But keep in mind, I came a long way to meet you.”
“This whole thing was your idea,” he said.
“And you agreed to it… Reluctantly.”
“You know I must get back home. I have work tomorrow.”
She scoffs and moves to the other side of the bed. She sits up on the edge, her back to him.
He turns to the window again, spreads the drapes like he would a woman’s legs. The city is there, staring back. Tattooed gray homeless shelters, black as witches’ wings ramp and soar, the energy cuts through like a whip. Tall buildings penetrate the atmosphere of aluminum blood, erections of steel and glass, the people inside creating humanity bombs. Lights pop, flicker everywhere and even there. Strangers stand on a bridge and kiss before one of them walks away in the neon rain. Somewhere in a cardboard box a broken man is sad about the decrepit condition of his underwear and wonders about the angels. Where are they now? In their bourgeois arenas of hypocrisy.
Her disappearance mingled with the thunderclaps. There was nothing left of her on the bed. He wondered, had she ever even been there? He turned away from the window once more to verify he was truly alone. There was another round of thunder. He turned to look out the window again just as a crooked line of lightning illuminated the sky. He winces.
He glanced down at the winding water burrowing through the guts of the city. That’s when he saw them. Warships of elves coming up the canal. Pointed ears twitching, ice picks in small hands. The sight of them is far more ominous than the Winter Warlock in an animated childhood Christmas tale. There’s a sudden hard knock at the door. He whips his head around as his heart flies up his throat. He stumbles to the door and puts his eye to the peephole. Her blonde fish-eye image is pouting. She pounds on the door again with a flattened palm. He undoes all the locks and pulls it open.
He doesn’t know who she is until she says something. “It’s just me baby. What’s wrong?”
He points to the window. “Have you seen what’s going on out there?”
“It’ starting to storm,” she says as she looks at herself in the mirror and tosses her hair around. “Do you want to go get breakfast before I take you to the airport?”
“I’m not going to the airport!” he protests. “Not when there’s elves attacking the city.”
She spun around to look at him. She noted that he was completely serious. “What? Elves?”
“Come look out the window,” he encouraged her, and he took her by the hand and led her. He yanked the drapes apart. “See!”
She looked out and saw nothing except the city wrapped in a thunderstorm. She glanced at him, concerned. She touched his trembling face. “I think you need to see someone… Again.”
“What are you talking about. I can’t see someone when the city is under siege.”
“There’s nothing out there. It’s just a passing storm, my love.”
“Absolutely. Do you want to sit down. Or we could go to the lobby for some coffee. You always enjoy your morning coffee.”
He didn’t look at her when he spoke. “No. Go ahead. I may come down later. Just give me a few minutes to collect my wayward thoughts.”
She went to kiss him. Her lips tasted like grape water. “Okay. But don’t stay up here too long. You must get on that plane eventually.”
“I’ll miss you,” he mumbled as she went out the door. It closed with a heavy clunk.
He stood in the lobby and looked around at all the people there. There was a lingering fog of meaningless copulating conversations. He didn’t see her. He went to the front desk. The woman behind it smiled at him. “Good morning. Checking out?”
“Not yet. I’m looking for my wife. Have you seen her? We were supposed to meet for coffee.”
“Your wife, sir?”
“Yes. My wife.”
The desk clerk leaned forward and whispered something to him. “I believe she’s already left.”
“I saw her get into a taxi with another man.”
“Do you know where they went?”
“No, sir. No idea at all. But if you ask me, something’s not quite right.” She took a step back as a breathing black cloud came through the front doors of the hotel. “You better run!” she called out.
The horde of elves came upon them all there, screaming and shouting, thrusting their ice picks into everything.
He felt something pierce his heart and he fell to the floor. He gasped. His head swam and his hearing faded as he looked up at the dust and chaos all around him. He just closed his eyes and waited until it became quiet again.
There was a long pause in his life and when his eyes finally did flicker open once again, she was sitting in a chair beside his hospital bed staring at her phone. She jumped up as soon as she noticed he was stirring. She held his hand and her eyes danced all over his tired, whiskered face.
“What happened?” he wanted to know.
She squeezed his hand and almost cried. “You had another one of your spells.”
He tried to sit up. “It wasn’t a spell. It was real. It was all real.”
“Baby,” she whispered. “You told the doctors you were attacked by elves with ice picks.”
She sighed. “I’m going to run down to the cafeteria for a snack. I won’t be long.”
He watched her walk out of the room… Again. She was always walking out of the room.
A young nurse came in. She smelled like a freshly cleaned restroom. She smiled at him as she checked his vitals. She glanced at the monitor. She wrote something down. “Any pain?” she asked.
“Just my heart.”
She panicked. “You’re having chest pains?”
“Not like a heart attack. Emotionally. I’m broken. Isn’t that what it says in all those notes?”
She smiled at him. “The sun is out. Would you like me to open your curtains more?”
“Maybe a little bit. I’m not much for sun.”
“Okay,” she said as she moved toward the window, and he noticed when she turned and brushed her hair back… She had pointed ears.
His wife was the one who walked in when he was attacking the nurse. She was sprawled out on the floor, and he was on top of her. His hands were around her throat. “Baby!” she screamed out. “Stop!” She went to pull him off the nurse. He fell back. The breath of the nurse sputtered like a dying engine. His wife ran out into the hall screaming for help.
A team of nurses came thundering into the room and secured him. Someone called for security. The nurse on the floor was attended to. His eyes darted around madly as they worked to get him restrained in the bed. He caught a glimpse of his wife cowering in the corner. She was crying. A gurney was brought in and the nurse he attacked was placed upon it and wheeled off. He wondered if she was still alive. “That elven scum should not be allowed to live!” he cried out. Haldol was ordered by a doctor. A beautiful hospital pharmacy tech in tight scrub pants that accentuated her perfect ass went to work. The frantic day eventually ended, and the moon came out and barked softly above the city.
His imagination often went on wild rides in dark and lonely hotel rooms in midwestern cities with a brutal edge. He breathed deeply as he looked out the window. The storm was over. The elves were gone. He could hear the clock ticking away in his chest. His heart. He turns to look at the king-sized bed. It’s neatly made. Smooth. Empty. The digital clock on the table reads 3:13 AM. He hates it when he can’t sleep. He hates it especially when he’s alone. If she had been there, he could have at least held her close, felt her warmth. But she was somewhere else. He picked up his cell phone and called her.
“Baby? What’s wrong?” she said in a very sleepy voice.
“I just miss you.”
“Baby. You’ll see me in two days.”
“Right. I’ll let you get back to sleep, my love.”
He saw her beautiful face as she said it. “I love you so much.”
He ended the call and sat on the edge of the bed in the quiet, lonely room. He took a deep breath and went on living.
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.
Aaron Echoes August
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Truman Humboldt glanced once in the rear-view mirror and the lobster ghost was gone. All he saw was the brown bowl where Lincoln, Nebraska sat in the distance like ripening fruit of varied shapes and shades, the orange and smoky image now growing ever smaller as the miles ticked off in the opposite direction.
Truman sighed deeply. He suddenly felt very free and uplifted. And although he was returning to the garbage town of Neptune and the awful job of breaking chicken necks at the processing plant, he looked beyond all that to a brighter future that he truly believed was within his grasp.
It was late afternoon when he finally returned the car to the rental office. He looked the vehicle over, smiled, and then patted the hood. “Thanks for the wonderful ride to Red Lobster,” he said. “I’ll never forget it.”
Truman slipped the keys and the official paperwork into the slot provided outside. He turned, put his hands on his hips and took a deep breath. “Ah,” he exhaled. “My future knows no bounds. No bounds whatsoever.”
Truman felt so good that he decided to take a stroll through the sad downtown and get himself an ice cream at Sundaes in Neptune, one of the few local places with life and one that was actually worth something. He felt he deserved a treat… Finally.
Once he got to the shop with the big glass windows full of colorful scenes depicting an ice cream and candy wonderland, he pulled the door open and a bell tinkled with welcoming, signaling that he indeed must be alive. The place smelled of sugar and chocolate and happy memories and Truman went to the counter where a blonde teeny bopper wearing a paper white hat and a bright glossy smile greeted him. He was still wearing his lobster-red tuxedo complete with top hat and walking cane and she seemed impressed, or maybe just puzzled.
“Hi! Welcome to Sundaes in Neptune,” she bubbled. “What’s your pleasure today?”
Truman’s eyes danced over the large menu above and behind her and its wide variety of choices. “Hmm,” Truman thought out loud. “Do you have any lobster ice cream?”
The girl laughed. “Lobster ice cream? Eww. No, sir. I’m afraid we don’t have any lobster ice cream… I don’t think I’ve ever seen lobster ice cream. Is that real… Or are you just fooling with me?” She was very electric and talkative. “That’s a great outfit by the way. Did you just come from a wedding?”
“No,” Truman said as he still perused the menu. “I had lunch at Red Lobster.”
“Oh,” the girl said, casting an awkward glance in his direction and then turning to look up at the menu board along with him. “Do you like peppermint? The peppermint is my favorite.”
“I want ice cream, not toothpaste. I think I’ll go with the cherry chocolate delight in a sugar cone please,” Truman decided.
“Oh. Yummy yum yum,” the girl said, and she grabbed a silver scooper and dug into the bucket of cherry chocolate delight and plopped it atop a crispy sugar cone wrapped in gentle pink paper around the bottom half. “Just one scoop?”
“This is a special occasion. Make it two scoops,” Truman beamed.
“You got it,” the girl said, and she piled two meaty balls of ice cream on the cone and held it while he got his money out. He paid her and she handed him his special treat. “Wow,” Truman said, smiling like a kid. “Awesome sauce… This looks great. Thanks.”
“Have a good rest of this beautiful day,” the girl said as Truman made his way toward the door. He turned and hoisted his cone as in a toast to the whole world. “It is a beautiful day!” he exclaimed with a broad smile, and he went back out into the grime and abandonment of the decaying downtown, but it did not soil his good mood. He focused on better days ahead as he walked, licking his ice cream slowly, relishing the present moment of peace and contentment.
It was becoming Sunday evening on the brim of the world, yet there was still light, as he made his way toward home. He stopped in front of the old movie house, The Neptune Theater, now dim and abandoned, irrelevant movie posters left behind, the glass of the ticket booth made opaque by time. He sucked the last of the ice cream from the bottom tip of the cone and looked into the building, past his own hazy reflection.
It had been left to rot, now a sea of soft dust floating about inside, ghosts of good times and laughter or maybe hot kissing in the back row floated through the lobby. Truman regretted never having someone to make out with at the movies. But then he thought, as he pushed the final piece of the cone into his mouth, so what… That was then, and this is now. He used his pointer finger to write something on the grimy glass: Be Here Now.
He stepped back and admired his proclamation for the world to relish in and hopefully live by; a proclamation that would eventually wash away but hold true forever, he thought. And he stuck his hands in the pockets of his lobster-red tuxedo pants and continued walking toward home.
Not long after Truman’s prophesizing at the old theater, a car came by and drove up slowly beside him as he walked. He turned to quickly look and then back again. He had no idea who it was or what they wanted. Maybe it was just someone lost and they wanted some directions, Truman thought. But then he realized the car looked somewhat familiar to him.
Then whoever was in the car honked the horn. Truman stopped. The passenger-side window slid down and a beautiful head leaned over and called out to him. “Hey, Truman! What are you doing?”
It was Maggie Barrymore.
Truman was shocked as he moved closer to the car and looked in. The smell of her perfumed, glossy life pleasantly assaulted his face.
“I’m walking home,” he nervously said. “I just got some ice cream.”
Then she laughed at him. “What’s with the wild tux?”
“I had a very important luncheon in Lincoln,” he said, and he straightened up with a sense of pride. He wanted to impress her. “At Red Lobster.”
Maggie Barrymore laughed at him again. “Red Lobster? You went all the way to Lincoln to eat at Red Lobster?”
“Yes,” Truman snapped, somewhat annoyed and not understanding why that seemed so ridiculous to her.
“Okay… I can give you a ride if you want.”
Truman’s eyes darted all around the interior of her nice car. It was clean. It smelled good. The stereo was playing some kind of poppy dance music that he didn’t know anything about. “You don’t mind?” he said. “I mean, you won’t get in trouble for hanging out with a co-worker. I wouldn’t want you to lose your job.”
“No.” She shrugged her smooth, bare shoulders. “It’s Sunday. It’s my day off. No one can tell me what I can or can’t do. Hop in.”
Truman pulled on the door and got in. That girlish smell of the car really got to him, and his heart started thumping. He was with a woman. A real woman. He looked over at her. She was wearing very short pants and he quickly glanced down at her long, lean legs as they worked the pedals. He had to turn away from her and glance out the window.
“You look different without your office clothes,” Truman told her.
“Yeah, I must look like a bum, but hey, it’s my day off, right? But I got to tell you… You look pretty sharp in that tux.”
“Thanks. I figured, hey, it’s Red Lobster. I got to look my best.”
She bit at her bottom lip as she looked over at him. “That’s cool. Were you with friends?”
“No, just by myself. Well, I was with a friend, but we had a disagreement and went our separate ways. The bottom line is, I don’t have any real friends. No one likes me.”
“Oh, Truman. I’m sure that’s not true.”
“I like you, and I could be your friend,” she said with a sultry tone almost, and she took her hand and moved it to his leg and gave it a gentle squeeze. “You can never have too many friends, right?”
“Aw, you’re just saying that because you feel sorry for me. And you didn’t want anything to do with me the other day.”
“I’m sorry about that,” Maggie said. “I’m sorry I acted like a jerk. I guess I was having a bad day. I do like you and I mean it when I say I want us to be friends.”
Truman tried to swallow the lump in his throat. “I would really like that,” he said to her.
“All right then,” Maggie said with a playful bob of her head. “Let’s be friends.”
Truman suddenly got excited by an idea. “Hey. After you drop me off… Would you like to come in and watch some Seinfeld with me.” He was sure she would immediately reject the idea. But then she didn’t.
“Sounds like fun,” she said.
“Sure. I could use a few laughs… And some company.”
Truman noticed she suddenly looked a bit sad. “Is something wrong?”
She shook it off with a gentle smile. “No… Just some man trouble.”
Truman leaned back in his seat, somewhat dejected. “You have a boyfriend, huh? I guess that’s not surprising.”
“I wouldn’t say boyfriend. It’s more like recreation,” she said with a laugh. “But you know, relationships of any kind aren’t always easy.”
“Hmm,” Truman hummed. “I wouldn’t know anything about that. Not really.”
She proceeded cautiously with her next question. “You’ve never been in a relationship before?”
“No,” Truman answered. “Can’t say I have.”
Then she chuckled as if he was kidding. “You’ve never had a girlfriend?”
“No, Maggie. I’ve never had a girlfriend.”
“Your entire life?”
“Truman,” she said sympathetically. “That’s terrible.”
“Tell me about it.”
“So… Have you ever kissed anyone?”
Truman turned to look at her. He noticed her lips and thought how well-versed in love they must be. “No. Not in real life.”
Maggie put a hand to her stomach like she was hurting. “That’s so sad.”
“You can turn right at the next block, and then the second right and all the way to the end,” Truman said, and he emitted a soft laugh. “I live at the end of the road.”
When they pulled into the driveway, Maggie shut the car down and turned to look at Truman. “Wait,” she said, and she moved closer to him, held him by the back of the head and pulled him in for his first real kiss.
When their lips parted, Truman relished the cool wetness that lingered. “Damn, Miss Maggie,” he said. “I had no idea it would feel so wonderful. I think my heart is going to explode.”
She giggled and looked down between his legs. “I think something else is about to explode,” she said with a smile. “Let’s go inside.”
NOT YET THE END
Author’s Note: I had fully intended this to be the last installment of this story, but lo and behold, it is not. It has a life of its own. Thanks for reading and keep checking cerealaftersex.com for more on The Lobster Guy. I’ll wrap it up soon.
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.
Truman Humboldt steered the lobster-red rental car onto Interstate 80 at or about high noon and gunned it east toward the city of Lincoln, Nebraska, but he didn’t really know why.
He shoved his favorite Ocean Sounds CD into the dash and tried to relax, but he found that extremely difficult given his very tense and present circumstances. He thought that a fast drive across the gutless landscape would perhaps do him some good.
Truman ground his teeth together and dug his fingernails into the steering wheel as he accelerated the vehicle, his thoughts of emotional relief quickly shredded by visions of his darling Miss Maggie and the retched Mr. Guldencock locked in their nefarious embraces of lust.
“Cinderella from hell! That’s what you are Miss Maggie!” he screamed, nearly losing control of the vehicle. “I’ll stuff you with a slipper you’ll never forget!”
Truman shakily wiped at his brow with the back of his hand and flipped the nervous sweat away. “I’ll show her! I’ll show her how much more of a man I am than gross Mr. Guldencock!” he shouted out, as the sound of crashing ocean waves dramatically poured out of the car’s speakers.
“And just how are you going to show her, Truman?” came the wispy voice like glowing charcoal waving to Heaven on high. “Are you that much more of a man? Truly? Authentically? Are you anything like a lobster would be in such a situation?”
Truman nearly swerved off the road due to the shocking fright of it all.
“Careful now! You’ll get us both killed,” the haunted voice came again. “Well, at least yourself. I’m already dead,” and there was a laugh like how lobsters would laugh if only they could.
Truman turned to look at the shimmering figure suddenly sitting there in the passenger seat. It was the lobster ghost from the ocean beyond who had visited him at home earlier. It was now dressed in a fancy blue suit over a crisp white shirt with a red tie, a big monstrous claw poking out from the end of each sleeve, spindly feelers coming off a maroon head punctuated by two frightening round eyes the color of the black pearls of pirates. Truman slapped at his own face to clear the hallucination away.
The pale, toothless wedge of a mouth moved when the cold-water phantom spoke. “I’m afraid that will do you no good, Truman. I’m real. I’m here with you now. We’re going to spend the day together. And despite your crushing heartbreak at the hands and mouth and other unspeakable orifices of that evil woman… We are going to have a good time. A very good time.”
Truman’s hands mercilessly gripped the steering wheel as he drove on. “Where are we going?” he asked.
The lobster ghost turned and looked straight ahead. “We’re going straight on to Lincoln, Nebraska.”
“How did I already know that?” Truman asked.
“I’ve sprinkled you with lobster intuition,” the ghost replied.
“What are we going to do in Lincoln?”
“You and I are going to have lunch.”
“That’s right. Lunch.”
Truman was overcome with great curiosity now. “Where?”
The lobster ghost turned to him and attempted a smile. “Red Lobster.”
“Red Lobster!” Truman voraciously squealed.
“I can tell that makes you happy. I want you to be happy, Truman.”
“Are you kidding!? Red Lobster is my favorite restaurant of all-time! How could I not be happy about eating at Red Lobster!? But wait…” Truman’s mood suddenly dampened, and he sighed.
“I can’t go to Red Lobster looking like this. I’m not dressed for it.” Truman looked down at himself, ashamed. “I look like I just rolled out of a garbage bin after a night of restless dreaming. They won’t even let me in.”
“Nonsense,” the lobster ghost said, and he snapped the tips of one claw together and there was a great poof of under the sea magic and Truman was suddenly transformed.
He looked down at himself in disbelief, nearly losing control of the automobile once more. “A tuxedo!” Truman yelped.
“A tuxedo that makes you look like a lobster… Mostly,” the lobster ghost proudly pointed out. “How do you like the top hat?”
“It’s fucking great!” Truman yelled out. “Do I get to have a cane, too?”
“It’s in the backseat.”
Truman grinned more right then and there than he had in a very, very long time. “I’m so happy I could cry,” Truman said, and he looked down at the protrusion in his crotch. “Wow. I’m experiencing so much personal pleasure right now that I’m stiffer than a narwhal’s spiral tusk,” and he looked over at the crustaceous phantasm. “Thank you. This means a lot to me… More than you could ever know.”
The lobster ghost softly chuckled. “You’ve had a rough ride most of your life, Truman. A rough ride indeed. It’s time you experience some real joy.”
Once off the exit in Lincoln, Nebraska, Truman craned his anxious neck to see the Red Lobster restaurant glowing like a beacon of love to him in the distance. “Oh, my God! Oh, my God! I see it!” Truman cried out, his guts gallantly vibrating like golden angels trumpeting atop heavenly clouds.
The traffic was thicker than cold gravy in the retail and restaurant clotted edge of town. Truman grew impatient as they slowly crawled toward the Red Lobster, the purposeful architecture reflecting seaside melodies and nuances as it called to him. Truman could almost taste the salty air; hear the clanging bells of the boats, the gruff voices of sea captains as they smoked pipes in yellow wet gear, and the clattering of lobster traps as they’re stacked on the docks by strong men in brown cable-knit turtleneck sweaters.
Truman honked the car horn, rolled down the window and stuck his head out. “Come on you fuckers! Move it already! I gotta get to Red Lobster!”
“Calm down, Truman,” the lobster ghost gently advised. “We’ll get there soon enough.”
“Ugh. I’m sorry. I just get so frustrated with these brain-dead shopping fools trying to get to Sam’s Club and Best Buy, or wherever, just so they can twaddle their lives away in meaningless materialism. And I’m hungry, and I get very agitated when I’m hungry.”
Independent content creator, author, former print and digital journalist, and trying really hard to be a diligent husband. I am the publisher and editor of Cereal After Sex, an eccentric online journal/magazine focused on social commentary and fiction with an unpredictable edge. I reside in Tennessee, US.
I sat at the control panel in the red room. I was looking over digital charts and trying to plot out the best course for the continuing journey on the love ship. She kept coming onto the bridge to show me something or tell me something or maybe she was just flirting. She was wearing a tight pair of light gray leggings, you know, the kind that cling to everything, and she definitely had everything going on.
I was trying to focus on the ocean of space through the wide viewing window in front of me, but then there she would be, right beside me at the helm, smelling good, and I couldn’t help but to look over at that sweet caboose packed so tightly in those leggings.
She was tapping into her little electric pad and the look on her face was far too serious.
“Why don’t you turn around a bit and let me get a good look at that,” I said to her.
“Captain? Look at what,” and she was turning herself around and around trying to see if there was something stuck to her.
I made a twirling motion with my finger as she slowly rotated. “Wait. Stop. Stay just like that.”
“Is there something wrong, Captain? What is it? Is it a spider?”
“Oh, there’s nothing wrong. In fact, it’s all right.”
“Sir? I don’t understand?”
I reached out my hand and took a good squeeze of one firm cheek. “Mmm, that’s what I’m talking about. Nothing like a nice piece of ass.”
“Captain!” she said with a slight hint of alarm in her voice, her face reddening.
“That’s right. I’m your captain. That means you have to follow orders. Don’t you agree?”
She took a step back. “I’m afraid I don’t understand what you’re getting at, sir.”
“What I’m getting at, lieutenant, is that I want you to wear those leggings all the time. In fact, that’s an order.”
She reddened more and awkwardly tried to change the subject, her voice trembling. “Have you gotten today’s Wordle, sir?”
“Wordle? The only game I want to play is handball against that firm backside of yours. Wordle can wait.”
“Captain… You’re making me very uncomfortable in the workplace.”
Like all good captains, I knew I was perhaps pushing it a bit. It was time to slightly shift gears to soothe her growing anxiety. “How would you like to learn how to fly the ship, lieutenant?” I slyly asked her.
“But I’m a communications officer, not a flight officer. That’s not within the scope of my duties.”
I looked around the bridge. It was very early in the morning and none of the other members of the crew had yet arrived. “It’s fine. Nobody will ever know. And besides, it’s not that hard. Most of the controls are automated.”
She bit at her bottom lip and looked around as she considered my offer. “Okay. I’ll give it a try. I’ve always wondered what it would be like to steer this big thing.”
“I bet you have,” I mumbled.
“I said that’s perfect. The only thing is, you’re going to have to sit on my lap,” I told her.
“Your lap, sir?”
“I need to be able to help you with the controls. I need to give you proper instruction.”
She set her electric pad aside and climbed aboard the platform. I had her turn around in front of me, that delicious rump roast staring right at me, and then she slowly worked herself down upon my lap. I immediately felt her heat. I reached around her and held her wrists and moved her hands toward the controls. “Now,” I said. “This one is to slow the ship down… And this one is for thrust,” I breathed into her ear, and I bucked my captain’s log against her.
She immediately jumped up. “Captain! You have no intention on teaching me how to fly the ship, do you!? You just want to be a dirty boy in space. I’m sorry, sir, but order or no order, I will not be taken advantage of like that. I will not jeopardize my career as an officer… And neither should you.”
I looked at her, puzzled over why she was rejecting me. I mean, I’m the captain. She can’t deny me like this. “Let me get this straight, lieutenant. Are you saying you don’t want to work my throttle?”
Sher rolled her ocean blue eyes at me. “Do you really think that’s the way to win the favor of a woman? By acting like a spoiled, full-of-himself fraternity prick who uses naughty talk? I’m here to tell you… It’s not.”
I got up from my seat at the helm and walked toward her. “Now, now lieutenant, speaking to your captain like that could land you in the brig. You wouldn’t want that, would you? You wouldn’t want to spend your remaining days of soaring through the universe like that. You’ll go mad. I guarantee it. Things would be much better for you if you just gave in to my desires, and yours… And besides, deep down inside, I know you really want to get sucked into my tractor beam. I can tell you ache for my burst of plasma. Release yourself to me now, and later, when you are comfortable in your quarters, you will be able to reflect on a far better day than if you continue to turn away from me.”
The director suddenly called out “Cut! … Excellent work. Take a break guys, we’ll pick it up in twenty.”
I smiled and got closer to my co-star. Her name was Jennifer Los Angeles. She was a real fox. “You did great,” I said.
“You really think so?”
“Absolutely. I would never have guessed this is your first science fiction porno.” I rephrased it when I could tell she was a bit dismayed by the terminology. I knew she needed to feel better about it. “Adult film is what I meant. This is real art what we’re doing here. Real artistic cinema. It’s a very unique genre.”
“Right. Just naked,” she purred with a hint of innocent distrust in what I was saying.
I pointed a finger at her and smiled, making a clicking sound with my mouth. “Some of the best things in life are done naked,” I reminded her.
“I suppose you’ll be getting on top of me here pretty soon.”
I chuckled. “That’s what the script says. And I just have to tell you… I’m really looking forward to blasting you with my proton torpedo.” She tried to laugh. “I want to do this scene with you more than any other scene I have ever done in my entire career,” I said with all sincerity.
“Do you mean that?” she asked with wide and naive eyes of bleached lapis lazuli, a hopeful, absorbent look on her face. “Or are you just saying that to make feel better.”
I moved closer to her and played with the blondish platinum locks that fell down upon her shoulders, a light rain of the softest yet broken ringlets. “I mean it. Wholeheartedly. You’re one delicious babe. And you have a great ass. I really love it.”
She smiled sweetly. “Thanks. That’s very nice of you to say.” Jennifer Los Angeles looked around as she struggled to find something else to talk about. “I suppose I better go freshen up before we get back to it.”
“Sure. I’ll see you back on the set.” I started to walk away to get myself a Fresca when something truly genuine and real suddenly hit my brain. I turned and rushed after her. “Hey,” I nervously started off, because this was going to be something real. “Do you want to come to my place tonight. I’m starting this new show on Netflix, and I really want someone to watch it with me. And I hope I’m not being too forward when I say… I want to share the experience with someone special.”
She smiled shyly. “And you consider me someone special?”
“I do. Very much so.”
“What’s the show?”
“It’s called 1899.”
She looked beyond me as the gears inside her mind whirred and whizzed, and then her eyes returned to my face, and she looked at me strangely. “But captain… We’ve already done that.”
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