The Great Lobster Crisis Of New Year’s 2022

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.

Wish You Were Here

Sometimes, my clients go on vacation and bring me back a little present, like this Turkish glass “warden against the evil eye” which lives on my entry door.


The last one went to Harry Potter World in Orlando.

Am I getting some sort of cosmic message here?

Don’t Drop It On Your Foot

I find some way to like all my clients — or else I get rid of them, like the rich lady who used to call me at seven in the morning — but I have to admit that some of them are problem children. Today one of them showed up ten minutes early — which was foot-dragging, for her — announcing before she got in the porch door that she had brought me a book.

Early has been telling me for years how much stuff she has in her walkup apartment and how she just can’t get it under control. She really is just one of these people who can’t throw anything out, and will probably be found one day by paramedics expired and mummified at the center of a maze of stuff piled head high, with books and magazines predominating. I salute her attachment to the printed word but at some point you have to start recycling. Apparently she decided to start with me.

She had brought me a copy of the Mayo Clinic Family Health Guide, probably a useful book of reference, but I have a couple books of the sort already. This thing is the size of six bricks and would probably feel just about as good dropped on your foot, which I almost did. According to Early she found that she already had a copy. I don’t know how you could forget owning a table-thudder like this, but Early does not seem to be the most focused person in the world. I thanked her, anyway.

I have a policy about unwanted gifts, especially when the giver is clearly trying to get rid of something. I put them in the box I set aside for charity thrift shops and periodically schedule with the pickup trucks that make irregular calls around the area. This book is going in with the orange jumpsuit my Albino Ex grandly presented to me the last time we met for dinner, in the apparent delusion that I would wear it shoveling snow or doing winter mileage or something.

Agent OrangeActually, someone had gotten the jumpsuit as a gag gift for him on something called Freecycle, and it didn’t fit him and, halfway home from the dinner date (with the fucking thing slung over my shoulder in 85-degree heat, because I was walking) I realized he had given it to me solely because it was funny to see someone walking down the street with an orange jumpsuit. Albino Ex is a big one for the fully staged practical joke. It’s good to occasionally dine with your ex, so that you remember why it is good that he is your ex.

I almost shitcanned the suit in the nearest public parks trash bin but my natural frugality restrained me. Still, knowing that it came from some free exchange site meaning the source was god-knows-who-or-where, involving god-knows-what kind of cooties, I left it hanging over my porch railing, for the amusement and delectation of my clients. It looked like I had killed a chain gang laborer and hidden the body incompetently in my front porch enclosure.

Maybe I ought to put the Mayo Clinic book out there too. Early said she was suffering an infestation of carpet beetles but was only going to be able to clear one room for spraying because the other room was full of hibachis, or something. I don’t make the news, I just report it, OK?

Don’t Bring Me Narcissus

Over the years, well-meaning clients of mine have occasionally brought me pots and rockdishes of forced narcissus, usually in the dire black-and-white months before spring gets a grip, perhaps in an effort to share the wish that life rebound.

I don’t know who thought up this custom and I wish it would stop, because these are nice people and I hate to think one of them might find out that their gift ended up on my back porch or on top of the cellar refrigerator (which was a safe place until my latest aerialist cat came along).

Narcissus (like most bulb plants) are bad for cats to eat, and they exude a cloying, asphyxiating scent somewhere between ripening corpse and provincial whorehouse. The little blossoms are pretty but I have no idea who ever imagined that anyone could stand that smell in a confined space.

And they always come from people I love so dearly that I could throw them over my shoulder and burp them. What gives?