HOLY SHIT, OYSTER!
I have to tell you this story. It’s been going on at my house all night.
My brother in law and nephew are here visiting from California and Canada. One of the things we like to do when guests are in town is go to the fish market. It’s not far away, but not the kind of thing we do without a reason. So, we were happy to have a reason.
(By the way, this whole post has nothing to do with education or fat kids or how Michelle Rhee nearly cured me of my Asian fetish. It’s about family and mutant sea creatures. Just a little heads up because I care about you and your time.)
So we loaded up at the fish market. We got fine fillets and steaks of fine fresh fish. We got crabs and steamed them on the spot. We got mussels and we got oysters. We had a feast on the deck back at the homestead.
I was the oyster shucker. That was my job, not because I’m good at it, but because I was the only one who had ever done it before. It is hateful work. You damn near cut off your thumb with every one. And that’s if you’re good. Otherwise you just loose a thumb straight away and say “Fuck it. I don’t need oysters on the half shell that bad.” And you walk.
But I can do it. Even after my specially-made shucking tool had broken, I got out a screw driver and kept going…kept laying out the oystery goodness for my family to enjoy. You can’t stop me.
Then there was a break. We had too much food. My hands were sore. My kids had moved into the living room and were watching a movie with their cousin. My kids are 6 and 9. Cousin is 25. I’m talking to the father of the cousin, my brother-in-law, and he says that the cousin used to work as an oyster shucker.
Really?…An oyster shucker?…He kept that pretty fuckin’ quiet during oyster shucking time, didn’t he?…shucker fucker.
So I confronted him in the morning as he was making pancakes. He confessed, but said he had only done it for a day. So all is forgiven because he never got that good. (It reminded me of a job I had for only one day in a styrofoam mattress factory. I operated this big press machine that cut out some little part of the mattress for some reason that hospitals thought was important….then I never came back. That was the grumpiest bunch of losers I have ever met, ever.)
But that isn’t really what I want to talk about. It’s summer and I’ll do whatever I want. I want to tell you about this crazy shit I found in an oyster.
Like I said, I was shucking oysters. What that means is you have to use a tool to pry the oyster open, remove the top shell, and detach the oystery goodness from the muscle that attaches it to the bottom shell. Then you slurp it up with some lemon and maybe horse radish or cocktail sauce…to each his own. Having done this 2 or 3 dozen times this evening, I stopped when I saw something odd in one just-shucked oyster.
They all look pretty much the same. So this caught my eye. I saw something about the size of a spherical dime. It had a translucent coating and a lot of red on the inside, especially in the middle. I thought it was some sort of tumor and was about to throw the whole thing out.
I studied this thing and poked it with my fork as the others ate. It wasn’t a tumor. It had legs. This thing had legs that I could pry away from its body. But were they really legs? Or was this just some strange plant with its leaves and twigs? I poked and pried and it was clearly a crab. A bunch of legs. Little, tiny pincers. Inside my oyster was some sort of fetal crab. It was dead.
I brought this to the attention of the group. We discussed this oddity as we ate. We said things like “How the fuck did a crab get in there?” We discussed other things as well. Dinner was over and we cleaned up. The dead, mysterious crab was still sitting in the half-shell and got brought into the kitchen with everything else. We were loading the dishwasher, cleaning up plates, downing the last of a bottle of wine, poking the crab and asking one another “How the fuck did a crab get in there?”.
But then something even stranger happened. I was alone in the kitchen. My wife and her brother outside. I began to yell at them and motion through the window for them to come inside.
The crab was alive.
It started to squirm when I poked it, still just sitting there on the half shell in a little puddle of water.
Holy shit!! This is the weirdest thing I have ever seen in an oyster. I didn’t know what to do. Should I eat it? Should I set it free in the back yard? Let the cat find it? Garbage disposal? I have had too many glasses of wine to be qualified for such Solomonic decision making.
So I don’t do anything. But my brother in law and I set on a plan. We first decide on a name. The crab will be named Gary. Then we work on the habitat. This consists of a small glass cereal bowl, some salt, and a shell (because Gary seems to like living in shells?) Gary really perks up. He seems psyched. He’s…sort of groping around…moving. We aren’t really sure what is normal. But we know that a crab living inside an oyster is not. So this must be a step up for little Gary.
But now what? Do I have to care for Gary? Even if I wanted to, do I have time to find out what Gary eats? I already have a dog, two cats, a lizard, a wife, two kids and a hundred year old house. Though I am bonding with Gary, this seems really impractical.
Anyway, it was late. So we went to bed. Gary was dead in the morning. And that was really a blessing for everybody.
We’ll miss you, Gary. You were the craziest crab I’d ever seen. And I’m glad I didn’t eat you. Amen.