When she walked the lobster with its purple leash into the laundromat, Liz heard the boys.
“That a toy?”
“Crazy lady, bringing a lobster in here.”
“Maybe that’s her only friend.”
“Man, look at the claws on that thing!”
As she loaded her clothes, the boys drew closer, peering and poking at the crustacean with their shoes.
“Hey lady, what you got a lobster in here for?” This boy was not the tallest. He wore a red cap with bells, like some jester of old.
Liz thought of Loki, the god of mischief.
Liz paused, clung to her “Starry Night” nightgown, worrying whether the stars’ blurry rage would fade in one too many trips to this revolving engine of warm and soapy froth.
Nerval explained he walked his lobster on the grounds of the Royal Palace in France because “it does not bark and knows the secrets of the sea,” and though she felt somewhat the same, Liz did not give that answer.
“Because it comforts me.”
“Yeah? Cool pet, huh? Bet it could snip the tails off dogs and cats.”
Liz smiled at the boys.
“They’ve been known to crack the legs of scuba divers.”
Let them know some fear.
Let them keep their distance, for she wanted to contemplate the spin of water and soap, the riffles of lint like coral spirals, the laundromat walls with their infinite cracks, opening to worlds and worlds beyond.
The boys retreated.
“Aint that big.”
“That’s the small kind, supposed to get eaten at Red Lobster,” the jester sneered.
“I dare you to pick it up,” the tallest boy said and folded his arms.
The boys’ jabbering sank into the background buzz of the machines while Liz completed her loading. She set for “warm,” added soap and coins. The door still hung open.
The lobster wobbled along the edge of the washer, testing the metal with antennae.
Then, the boy with the fool’s cap grabbed the lobster by the tail, flung it into the washing machine with Liz’s clothes.
Another slammed the door and pressed start.
The purple ribbon curled up into the air and twisted, spiraling.
Liz screamed, tried the handle.
No pounding would loosen that grip of metal and glass until twenty minutes had passed.
“He’s on vacation!” The tallest boy laughed.
“You’re killing him!” Liz shrieked.
“Nah, he’s surfing! C’mon, he’s a lobster, he’s good with water.”
“It’s too hot!” Liz screamed.
“Shit,” jester-boy said, “yeah, might be a spa in there.”
“He’s just taking a bath. He aint boiling.”
As the lobster whirled in foaming sparks of Van Gogh’s “Starry Night,” Liz grew dizzy, but she remembered that lobsters survived while breakers pounded the rocks. The hum of motors clanked through her mind, and she wondered when the pulses of the universe would send the great crustacean across cosmic gulfs of darkness to slice with its massive chilipeds through the rocky whirl of worlds and send out sparks of stars.
Jason Marc Harris graduated from the MFA program at Bowling Green State University and is outgoing Fiction Editor of Mid-American Review. He received his Ph.D. in English Literature from the University of Washington. Publications include Folklore and the Fantastic in Nineteenth-Century British Fiction (2008) and (with Birke Duncan) Laugh Without Guilt: A Clean Jokebook (2007). Stories in CC&D: The Unreligious, Non-Family-Oriented Literary and Art Magazine, Everyday Fiction, Meat for Tea: The Valley Review, and Midwestern Gothic. Come by and say hello at http://www.jasonmarcharris.com/.