Buoys

CJ Hauser

I have two lobsters in my bathtub and I’m not sure I can kill them. New England will know if I don’t. New England will strip away my stripes and scissor my membership card if I cannot kill these lobsters. Henry is from Maine, which I found charming, until we moved here post-honeymoon.

I’m sitting on the rim of my bathtub. It has curled, porcelain feet with flaky rust between the toes. Everything is anthropomorphized in this house—that’s my first problem. My second problem is that I pet the lobsters. I roll up a white-buttoned sleeve and run my pinched fingers along the length of Lobster No. One’s antennae. It feels sensitive and unbreakable like coiled wire. Lobster No. One knocks his crusher claw against my hand, but there’s a thick, pink rubber band binding it up so I’m in no real danger. I stroke Lobster No. Two’s antennae as well, just so they’re even. Both lobsters have dark spotted backs that remind me of Dalmatian puppies. I really should not be thinking of them as puppies. I get a six pack of bottled beer from the fridge and bring it to the bathroom.

This is my plan: I will get blind drunk and then I will kill these lobsters. I tie my hair up into a dark knob and hike my shorts at the waist, so I’m ready. I use the faucet to pry the cap off my bottle and beer geysers up. Fizz slides down the sides and plops in the water like sea foam. Henry says his mom gave her lobsters beer before cooking them. She also bathed them in seawater so they’d have one last taste of home. I ask the lobsters, “Do you feel at home?” Of course not, some bearded yahoo caught them in a pot. Their home is long gone. I don’t think Henry has ever cooked a lobster in his life. He just eats them, to feel authentic. I need the whole town to ratify my authenticity. This is how it works.

“I love you and I get my mail here, isn’t that enough?” I asked Henry.

“Of course it’s enough.” he said. “But it’s part of the culture here! I want us to participate in the local culture.” When I say culture I’m saying let’s go to the MOMA. When Henry says culture he’s saying cul-chah! in a wicked Maine accent.

I swing my legs over the side of the tub and stare at my underwater feet. My toes are painted the color the lobsters will be once I boil them. Lobster No. One and Lobster No. Two conference at the other end of the tub. Do they suspect? They are currently bruise colored.

I’ll find a way to do this, because love is boiling the lobsters your freckle-backed husband thinks will grow you instant roots. And because I want roots too, even though the soil here is black and full of salt. My parents raised me an only child in a nineteenth floor penthouse. No one grows roots nineteen stories long.

I will make Henry see that I’m game for our new life. I turn over my beer bottle so it glugs empty into the tub, and then open another one for me.

The lobsters are jostling around my feet and I know I won’t be able to kill them. I can live here and let it grow over me like a home but I cannot eat a lobster. I’ve devised a new plan, one to make Henry understand. I splash my feet around in the tub, because I think it’s pretty good. I’m going to name them. I get a box of salt from the kitchen cabinet and shake it soundlessly down on the water so it will be briny like the sea.

I finish the last beer, lie down on the fuzzy bathmat and wait. It’s almost six but the day is still warm. My legs stretch out past the mat and the tiles are cool. I think that this is not such a bad spot. I could lie here for a while.

“Leah?” Henry is home. “What are you doing down there? The bathroom smells like a bar.”

“Welcome to the Lobstah Bah.” I tell him.

Henry only has wrinkles when he’s concerned. “Are you OK?” he says. “Why are the lobsters in the tub?”

“Henry, this is Lavender and this is Leopold and they eat scurf and they have names and so we should not eat them.” Still lying on the floor I gesture towards the tub with one hand. “Don’t they look at home?”

I sit up and Henry and I both kneel by the tub. He puts his big hand on my back, like he’s still not sure I’m OK. “I’m as drunk as a lobster,” I say. “Let’s return Lavender and Leopold to the sea.”

• •

That night in bed we are quiet although neither of us is sleeping. I wriggle so that Henry can feel my arm against his back, but he doesn’t roll over which makes my heart feel like one of those long carnival balloons let fly so it whizzes through the air.

I want to mention that I’m good at many things. To start, I’m good at writing newspaper articles, which is what I did in New York. Outside of that, I’m a good cook, a fast runner, and I am excellent at loving Henry. In fact, I did such a stellar job of loving Henry that three months ago he decided to marry me, despite the fact that our two ages lumped together don’t amount to half a century.

The thing is, despite my fierce balloon-heart love, Henry’s worrying is putting a damper on things.

I throw off the blanket. It is far too hot and I appreciate the magical properties of our blue linen sheets that retain their cool long into the night. I can hear the ocean from here, but it’s the steel bell buoys ring out a baritone song, one note for each time the waves rock the buoy. It’s a deep, echoing sound I found haunting until Henry explained that the noise is meant to let ships know they’re too close to shore when visibility is bad. I thought that was nice. Dong, dong, you’re too close. Dong, dong, its alright, just turn away, we’re watching out. I listen and stare at Henry’s back.

Henry is still, but I trail my fingers between his shoulder blades that just barely protrude, like vestigial wings. I follow the vertebrae of his spine down to the small of his back where the bones disappear beneath the surface.

“Were you drawing a sailboat?” Henry asks.

I wasn’t, but suddenly I wish I was.

“A sailboat would be like this,” I say, and trace a boat body shaped like lemon wedge. I add a tall mast and two triangular sails. They would be white, if they weren’t invisible.

I stare a moment and then move my finger in a curved but unbroken line along his lower back.

“Those are the waves,” he says, “I can feel them.”

“Yes,” I say, “yes, those are the waves.”

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