"Now That's Seafood!"
We go to Red Lobster once a month, Dad and me. Mom used to go with us but not anymore. Dad says it’s our night of no worries, our special dinner. Just me and you, Daniel. Father-son bonding. Just because Mom’s not here doesn’t mean we can’t have family dinners. I used to love that until I was ten.
We go at 7pm on a Sunday, stop in the front of the restaurant to look at the lobsters in a tank for a bit, and then sit in a booth. I used to order the ‘Ultimate Feast’ and a Live Maine Lobster every time we went, and then eventually Dad started ordering it for us. It makes him happy that he knows my order, that I “love” our Red Lobster nights. Truth is: I don’t like lobster. I actually hate lobster. I hate lobster a lot. But Dad orders us the same thing every time, and I don’t have the heart to tell him otherwise.
Red Lobster is pretty packed tonight. When we drove into the parking lot, I thought maybe, for once, we weren’t going to get a table and I wouldn’t have to choke down a bunch of chunks of moist lobster meat. But, lucky for me, we got one, so now I’m sitting in a booth covered in square patterned fabric that looks like it used to be the carpet of a retirement home across from Dad and a steaming basket of Cheddar Bay Biscuits. I sure as hell don’t like lobster but I love Cheddar Bay Biscuits. They’re, quite literally, the only good thing about Red Lobster night. I grab one out of the basket, taking a bite. The warm cheesy crumbling biscuit in my mouth helps me forget how scratchy and uncomfortable the booth is.
The waitress comes up to our table, wearing a white button down with a few orange-y stains near the neck line. Her metallic name tag reads Amy.
“You guys ready to order?” she asks.
She has red hair which I find pretty funny since she works at Red Lobster and all.
I finish chewing my biscuit, swallowing.
“Yes!” Dad smiles broadly. He runs a hand through his hair. It’s mostly grey now, hints of brown peppered around. “We’ll have the Ultimate Feast and Live Maine Lobster.”
I nod in agreement weakly.
I look down at the sea bug in front of me. It’s steaming orangey-red shell is cracked open on a large white plate with melted butter and a bright yellow wedge of lemon on the side. I’m going to have to eat all of this. All of it. I can already feel the bile rising up in my throat. Dad is already deep in the ‘Ultimate Feast’ plate, shoving half a lobster tail into his mouth, the butter making his lips shine in the light. The meat is glistening, slick, and butter drips off the edges like pus.
The lobster’s shell begins to meld together, like the red is soft wax. It’s alive, crawling off the plate, onto me. It crawls into my mouth and downwards, crushing my windpipe. I can feel its warm bumpy shell pressing against the inside of my throat. I choke. My skin is like a rubber glove, elastic, and the lobsters flailing limbs are stretching it thin. It falls into my acidic stomach, its clippers breaking my skin, popping veins. Blood fills my stomach. I can feel it sloshing around, like my own little kiddie pool. My eyes roll back, I can’t breathe, my stomach is drowning. God, I can’t breathe. I try to yell for help but my tongue is slack in my mouth, dead. I can only moan, not that anyone’s listening anyways.
Amy is back. She places her hand on the plate in front of Dad, “You done with that?”
Her nails are painted hot pink, popping against the background of her thin white fingers.
Dad nods. They both smile. My face is purple and my eyes feel like they’re going to bulge out of my head. There’s a large plastic red lobster hanging on the beige wall. Its beady black eyes are staring at me and I wince, looking away from it, back at Amy and Dad. The other lobster is still in my stomach, ripping the lining to shreds with its clippers. Amy and Dad are looking at me, but it’s like I’ve disappeared, like they’re staring at the booth behind me, staring at the dark green and red square patterned fabric. Amy is sitting down in the booth next to Dad. I pull my shirt off, looking down at my stomach. The skin is pulsing and throbbing, being shoved outwards. I can see the claws pushing the skin out, I can feel them. Dad’s arm is around Amy. They’ve turned away from me back to their food, picking out white meat from red shell and shoving it between their thin aging lips.
COOKIE DUTCH is currently a sophomore at Interlochen Arts Academy. He enjoys both writing and visual art. Cookie's visual work has been featured in the ⌘Z Juried Digital Exhibition, as well as in Interlochen's Red Wheelbarrow. In addition, Cookie's writing has won a Regional Honorable Mention and a Regional Gold Key in the Scholastic Art & Writing Awards. He is also a joint recipient of the New Hollywood LGBT Emerging Voices grant.