father was a seafood lover," said Newberg.
said Valerie, the pretty seamstress.
was always fond of your work. Said it was like you had six hands,"
continued Newberg as she finished taking measurements for his
tuxedo. "That's why I came to you for this fitting."
said Valerie through a mouthful of pins. She couldn't look him
in the eyes.
because you're the only one I know who doesn't mind
said Newberg. He withdrew the giant pincer he had for a right
arm behind him. The feeding claw made a clicking sound with his
took a deep breath. "You mean
said Newberg, looking distantly, "my shyness."
eyesight was getting worse by the day. Everything was a blur to
him. He knew it had something to do with the compounded eyes on
top of the stalks growing from his head. He kept the stalks under
a hat, but to see correctly, the stalks needed to breathe.
I mean, you're not the only one who understands my shyness,"
he continued. "Of course there's my girlfriend, Elsie. She
loves me for who I am."
nice for her," said Valerie in a suddenly curt manner. "How
nice for both of you. And you said she and her family are from
she's a local. Oh, can you turn up the radio? I love this B-52's
put down her measuring tape, pins, and chalk and crossed the main
room of her tailor shop. She had been Newberg's father's tailor
for years. The needle had always been her life. Lately, though,
she felt that something pivotal was missing. Then, out of nowhere,
she stumbled on the missing thread: Newberg.
knew a little about Newberg's history. Newberg's parents had passed
away a year ago, leaving him with all their possessions. Newberg's
father had been a local fisherman who was rumored to have caught
a fabled set of pearls in his day. Despite all the nets and lines
he set, he was the one finally caught by Newberg's mother. She
was the new manager of the town aquarium. His marriage to her
caused a bit of scandal in the small fishing village, since she
wasn't local. Also, there were rumors that, for extra money when
Newberg's mother was in college, she had volunteered for strange
spinal cord injection experiments. Valerie knew the rumors were
true since she had recently volunteered for these experiments
said Valerie, returning to finish the tux fitting, "tell
me all about this Elsie and how you two met."
much to tell, really," said Newberg. "She came to the
docks where I work one day and we struck up conversation. After
a few months, she invited me to meet her parents. That's what
the tux is for."
parents are very traditional. And apparently well-off."
has Elsie told them about your
what?" asked Newberg.
considered how to broach the subject. Although she had known Newberg
for years, she was never able to get close to him. "You said
the other day that you felt like an outsider. Since when?"
sighed, deciding to confide in her.
had been walking through his town last winter wearing an overcoat
during rush hour. He came to a busy intersection. Pedestrians
started crowding behind him, waiting like him to cross the road.
The traffic signal changed. Newberg started crossing then suddenly
stopped when he got an itch on his head. He raised his large,
red pincer claw to scratch it. To the people behind Newberg, the
pincer claw appeared to be a large red stop sign being held by
a crossing guard. Obediently, they stopped walking. Suddenly,
a tractor trailer came barreling down the road, the driver unaware
that he would have mowed down a tenth of the town's population
if they hadn't been stopped from crossing. After the initial shock,
the crowd gathered around Newberg to thank him. As they were patting
him on the shoulder, his overcoat slipped off and people saw the
pincer claw. Some screamed, but mostly, they ran away.
always thought it was due to his painful shyness. Valerie knew
decided to break the tension. "I once knew a woman who had
the head of a badger and the body of a badger but here's the twist:
it was the body of a different badger," she said.
way, wouldn't that make her a badger, not a woman?"
loves me for who I am," said Newberg.
smiled blankly, finishing up her measurements.
I know she's serious," continued Newberg, "because she
asked me to bring a little gift to each of her parents. She said
it's traditional right before I ask for her hand in marriage."
said Valerie, standing up, "already they're asking you to
shell out money."
it's not like that."
come back at five tonight. I should have your tux ready by then,"
said Valerie. Newberg could tell she was concealing her feelings
but couldn't determine what those feelings were. That was the
thing about Valerie.
spent the rest of the day molting and shopping for a gift for
his future father-in-law. He knew almost nothing about the man.
Elsie had mentioned, in passing, her father's child-like playfulness.
Newberg believed he had gotten the man a great gift.
mother, Mrs. Keller, was described as small-boned and having everything
she could ever desire. Newberg knew exactly what would set her
returned to Valerie's shop exactly at five. Newberg gave the gifts
to Valerie to admire as he tried on the tux. It fit perfectly.
He thanked Valerie for her exceptional craftsmanship. She smiled
her Valerie smile and wished him luck tonight. He turned redder
was surprised when he arrived at Elsie's parents' house. He had
expected something more palatial. It was simply a suburban ranch
on a street of identical ranches. They're just not ostentatious
people, thought Newberg. He still was overcome with joy at the
prospect that someone loved him despite his shyness. Her family
would, in all likelihood, be just as accepting of his handicap.
knocked on the door. His back still itched. He knew he was developing
six walking legs out of his back but the leg-buds were still small
enough to disguise with his jacket.
was the first to greet Newberg at the door. She wore a beautiful
evening gown and wore her hair up in a bun. She commented on how
handsome Newberg looked in his tux. Her face displayed shock however
when she looked up at his head. He had moussed his hair into dozens
of spikes. He told her he read in a magazine that it was all the
rage. He didn't have the heart to explain how he was camouflaging
his newly formed eye-stalks.
Keller came down the stairs next and greeted him warmly. She looked
him in the eye and never looked away. It was as if she was scared
to look elsewhere. Newberg took this as a sign that she wanted
to help draw him out of his shyness. Elsie called to the next
room for her father to say hello. Mr. Keller emerged from the
hallway in a wheelchair. He greeted Newberg by extending his right
hand in a robust manner. Newberg shook it with his left hand.
adjourned to the living room for cocktails. Elsie explained that
the ballet started in two hours and they had some time before
the car was due to pick them up. They sat around the cozy coffee
table. Newberg shuddered as Elsie's father pointed out their displayed
cast-iron butter-press collection. Elsie's parents either stared
at their drinks or looked directly into Newberg's eyes.
asked what ballet they were seeing, then took a sip from his salted
Nutcracker," said Elsie.
spit water out of his mouth in a giant spray that managed to drench
lord," said Mrs. Keller.
Neptune," responded Newberg. "I'm so sorry. It's just
that I hate the N-word."
said Mr. Keller, drying himself, "what say I take you for
a tour of our little home?"
before we do that, Dad
" said Elsie, nudging Newberg.
said Newberg. He whispered into Elsie's ear how he was slightly
embarrassed by his choice in presents to her parents.
come," said Mrs. Keller. "Nothing to do for that shyness
but to overcome it."
yes. Yes, yes," said Newberg, standing up. "I'll be
came back into the house moments later bearing a small wrapped
box and an enormous wrapped tube.
I never," said Mr. Keller, accepting the large wrapped tube.
He opened it, revealing a bright-red pogo-stick.
choice," said the father. "We'll get along swimmingly.
Thank you ever so much," he added in a forced manner. He
laid the pogo-stick on top of his wheelchair motor.
hope mine's not a mini-pogo-stick," said Mrs. Keller. She
unwrapped the small box and opened it. Her eyes lit up by the
treasure inside. It was Newberg's father's Anklet of Pearls. Newberg
knew that Mrs. Keller would be impressed with them. Newberg didn't
care much for jewelry but knew his father would have wanted this
piece to stay in the family.
Anklet of Pearls was stunningly beautiful. It was known to glisten
even in darkness. "Here, let me show you how they glow,"
said Newberg. "Do you have somewhere dark we can go?"
mother smiled. "Let's go to the backyard by the pool,"
she said. Newberg followed Mr. Keller out to the pool while Elsie
and her mother stayed a few steps behind.
tried making conversation with Mr. Keller. "So, I hear that
your family fortune came from your father, Elsie's grandfather?"
Mr. Keller said as they arrived outside in the backyard, "which
is fortunate since my wife recently retired from her job as a
scientist. My father became famous for his folk art pencil sketches
of dairy farm life."
" started Newberg, stunned and appalled.
"said Mrs. Keller, "Our family fortune was made from
shuddered, his pincer claw clicking beneath the voluminous tuxedo
jacket sleeve. His thoughts were interrupted by Mrs. Keller. She
cooed as she inspected the Anklet of Pearls in the moonlight.
Then, she closed the box with a snap and she wheeled her husband
into the house.
confused, turned around to see Elsie stepping out of her evening
gown. She wore a bikini underneath.
going on?" asked Newberg.
parents saw how uncomfortable the ballet made you so they suggested
we stay here and play while they go. Isn't that wonderful?"
she said as she walked over to the pool cabana and flipped a switch.
Suddenly, the Jacuzzi next to the in-ground pool began to roil.
Elsie stepped in slowly as the water heated up.
Poseidon," said Newberg. "That's not what I think it
is, is it?" He was suddenly terrified.
on, lobster-boy, get in. I promise to make it worth your while,"
she said sexily.
didn't know what to do. On one claw, he had waited his whole life
for this moment. On the other claw, every instinct he possessed
said to run the other way.
make matters worse, his head began to itch. When he focused on
the itching, everything suddenly became clear. He was seeing the
surrounding world not through his eyeball eyes but through his
stalk-eyes. Although he was facing Elsie in the boiling water,
he could see behind him.
saw Mr. Keller slowly and quietly wheeling towards him, a look
of menace about his face. Before Mr. Keller could get any closer
and push Newberg into the boiling water, Newberg spun around with
alarming speed and instinctively swung his pincer claw forward.
The crusher claw and feeder claw wrapped around the spring-action
of the pogo-stick on the back of the wheelchair. The claws pressed
tight and let go. The pogo-stick sprang away from the wheelchair,
shifting the wheelchair engine into overdrive. The wheelchair
rocketed forward, propelling Mr. Keller into the deep-end of the
pool. Elsie jumped out of the Jacuzzi and into the pool to save
will be quite enough," said Mrs. Keller. She wore a lobster
bib and held a pair of giant rubber bands. She waved them threateningly.
"Get into that Jacuzzi," she demanded.
I just got out of it," said Elsie.
you," shouted Mrs. Keller. "Up with your hand and claw!"
was speechless. How did his evening go so wrong?
was in love with your father," said Mrs. Keller to Newberg,
advancing on him as he walked backwards carefully towards the
Jacuzzi. "He was supposed to give me the Anklet of Pearls.
But he met your mother and married her."
part of this is news to me," said Mr. Keller, whom Elsie
was pushing over to the shallow side of the pool.
think your fate is cruel?" Mrs. Keller asked Newberg. "I
was a scientist conducting experiments on longevity in humans
and lobsters. Your mother volunteered. I injected a serum into
her spinal cord made up of lobster DNA. Your father still married
her. But it all worked out. My little experiment created you and
Elsie made you bring me the pearls!"
would have been more of her speech were it not for the interruptive
sound of a loud, metallic clanging that echoed through the night
emanating from the cast-iron butter press coming into direct contact
with Mrs. Keller's head. At the business-end of the swinging butter
press stood Valerie.
grabbed Newberg's claw, and pulled him towards her.
on, Newberg, surf's up. Let's get the hell out of here."
Valerie walked him to her car.
looked despondent. "I've lost the two most important things
in my life: my great love and my father's pearls."
reached into her purse and pulled out the Anklet of Pearls. "I
switched them and gave you the phonies when you were trying on
your tux," she said. Then she kissed him hard on the lips.
"And just one more surprise," she said as she wrapped
her recently-sprouted six walking legs around him.