The Engineer gets a regular refrigerated delivery of medication for the tiny woodland sprite Lilly Bast, whose thyroid, as is the wont of old cat thyroids, began overclocking a year or so ago and making her skinny and aggressive. In Lilly’s case, “aggressive” meant “stops hiding in the corner 23 hours a day and actually greets visitors,” so it’s been a positive development in many ways, but she still needs her medicine and I am diligent about calling upstairs when a REFRIGERATE IMMEDIATELY shipment appears on the porch.
This time, he said “She’s not due for another delivery of meds.” He peered more closely at the infinitesimal print on the mailing label. (Why? In God’s name, why? What is saved by printing addresses in lettering so small that a Lilliputian would squint?) “Legal Seafood?”
It was clearly addressed to him. Conundrum.
I don’t know if you remember the Ginsu knife craze but at different times I received three for opening bank accounts or buying a box of detergent or something and they still perform the office of package opening. Inside the box were two pillows of mostly vaporized dry ice, a nearly foot-square brick of styrofoam, and a printed sheet.
“It’s a gift from my mom,” he said, “and — what?”
It is not an exaggeration to say I felt my world collapsing around me. I am a vegetarian, for fuck’s sake. Except for a post-surgical period when I felt my tissues screaming for protein that I wasn’t distilling in adequate quantities from eggs and lentils, and consented to prawns, I don’t eat anything that ever had a face (even an approximate one like a crustacean), a central nervous system, or a mother. (I consider scallops kind of a grey area on the food chain, meat plants, sort of.) I can’t even stand to watch people eat animal crackers. I especially don’t eat something that is typically prepared by being boiled alive.
Ginsu knife in hand, horror collapsing my features, I stood there at the table while the Engineer contemplated the styrofoam block. Visions of buying an aquarium jostled in my head with a surreal image of walking a lobster on a leash and fluorescent harness. How would the cats feel about a little lobster buddy? What is proper enrichment for a lobster?
Tears standing in my eyes, I stared at the Engineer. He stared back. He cracked the styrofoam.
It was a package of crab cakes.
I sagged with relief. We took a closer look at the printed insert, which went on to detail proper storage and prep for all the company’s offerings, including filet mignon, which the last I looked was not seafood but maybe there is some sort of legend of Theseus and the Bull From The Sea thing going on (pace Mary Renault).
The Engineer is happy to be a veggie himself, but he does enjoy a bit of seafood and I am not one of those irritating vegetarians who harangues people. The crab cakes are in the freezer.
We still don’t know exactly why his mother sent him a half dozen crab cakes. News as I get it.