Thursday, May 10, 2007

A Lobster's Tale

(A Story of Absolutely No Merit Save That Writing It Gave Me Something to Do While I Was Defrosting my Fridge)

The particularly fetching lobster that you see to the left is Larry. He has been so named because of the obvious alliteration produced when “Larry” is coupled with his surname. Which, in case your lobotomy stitches are still fresh, is "Lobster". Not very original but there it is. Larry the Lobster – who is not only a particularly fetching lobster but, unlike most invertebrates, is attached to a thermometer – was purchased at a scrofulous discount store in Nova Scotia (Canada) as a going-away gift for my mother who was about to embark on her first solo trip overseas. It seemed impossible to us that she could spend 7 months in
Spain without a reminder from home. What says Atlantic Canada better than pot-holed roads, high unemployment, high sales tax lobsters?

So Larry flew to Spain – not in an airline approved carry-on container for perishable commodities – but in Mom’s suitcase. Larry's meteorological counterparts in Spain claim that Málaga and its environs enjoy (≥) 320 days of sunshine a year, so it seemed a logical choice to install Larry on Mom’s terrace. There he could bask in the Andalucían sun while Mom’s friends and family back home froze their asses off in yet another bleak Canadian winter.

Larry not only wholly acquitted himself of his climactic responsibilities but was a very brave lobster. Although he survived the Costa de Sol’s (≤) 45 days of rain, his cherry-red exoskeleton (i.e. his paint) blistered and eventually peeled away under the searing rays of the Mediterranean sun. Indeed, his shell never grew back and he is now a very vulnerable peachy-colour with just a hint of red (see photo). Everytime I look at him I make a mental note to pick up a tube of sunblock SPF60 the next time I'm at Label Vie .

Eventually Mom returned to Canada, but the following winter she rented a different apartment in the same complex. When we visited her over the Christmas holidays, Mr. Cat in Rabat and I were a bit perplexed; Larry was conspicuously absent from her balcony. Where was Larry? She feigned ignorance. Larry? Skilled interrogators, we subjected her to a particularly heated grilling, whereupon she confessed. My mother - the woman who had given me life - had callously left Larry behind on the terrace at her previous apartment. Her excuse: she claimed that adding this diminutive sylphlike ceramic lobster to one of her suitcases would have sent her already hefty overage costs spiralling through the roof. We were outraged – not least of all because we had spent $2.99 on him – but because he was a ready reminder of all the poor sods shovelling snow at that very moment. And he could tell the temperature.

Mr. CinR and I stormed out and looped around to her previous apartment. Peering over the wall of the terrace, we saw a faded, forlorn and very much forsaken Larry perched on a dusty outdoor window sill. Our hearts melted. Then and there we made a pact to rescue Larry! Later we checked the newspaper and rejoiced that there would be no moon that night. Surely this was a sign. Much to my mother's horror, after midnight and concealed under the cover of darkness - with flashlights in hand - we retraced our steps to the walled terrace. Mr. CinR slipped over the wall (committing at least one felony in the process) and grabbed Larry. Turning around, he raised Larry triumphantly on high and cried “I have him!” Well, not exactly but close enough.

My mother remained unimpressed when we returned with Larry and, with one eye on the lookout for the Policía Nacional, reiterated that she would not be taking him back to Halifax. With self righteousness coursing through our veins, we announced that we were just fine with that. Clearly she had shown nothing but depraved indifference to the welfare of her lobster and was not a fit guardian for him. We shouldn't have been so appalled - she has even been known to eat lobsters. Larry would come to Morocco, where he has been since January.

It is now May and summer has just begun to exert itself in Rabat. The spring rains are a thing of the past, daytime temperatures are climbing to the very high 20’s, Mr. CinR is perspiring like a Grand National racehorse, and my students are begging me to turn on the air conditioning (which I won’t). In acknowledgement of the fine weather, and with not a little excitement, Larry was given a place of honour outside on our living room window sill this morning. An hour ago, I took a peek at our heat-seeking homarus and noted with horror that at 10:30 a.m., it was already 50° Celsius. And when I say “I looked in horror” I of course meant “I looked in horror at Larry’s inability to accurately gauge the temperature". I was crushed.

Perhaps this is really why my mother refused to take Larry back with her to Canada – he’s a crap crustacean, a lemon of a lobster. Nonetheless, I’m confident that if I keep an eye on his scratched ‘brass’ dial over the next few days & take careful notes of his temperature readings, I should be able to arrive at a mathematical equation which will prove to be accurate. What’s it like out today, Mr CinR asks. To which the answer might be just check out Larry, then subtract 24 degrees Celsius from his reading, then given the initial conditions y(0) = 1 and y′(0), calculate & multiply by your weight divided by the square root of pi.

Of course, maybe he’s not broken at all – maybe, like me, he’s just a little thin-skinned. After all, his exoskeleton never did grow back. Poor Larry … Morocco can be an awfully tough place to be when you have no shell.

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