Saturday, October 24, 2009

Pinch Me

"Mommy, can lobsters get us?"

Thus spake Jarrah on the way home from Birch Haunted Aquarium last night. I wasn't actually that surprised. I could recall the exact moment when things had taken a turn.

This was our fourth year of consorting with the fishes and the spirits at the annual Haunted Aquarium, and the first in which Jarrah and Joy had a set of grandparents apiece along for the adventure.

Things were different from the outset. We always have a dark picnic outside the gates before we go in, but in the past, we've had Quiznos. This year, I sussed out Prep Kitchen, a take-out extension of perhaps my favorite restaurant in La Jolla, Whisknladle. Instead of subs, we dined on pear and gruyere, chicken salad with cherries and pecans, and tri-tip. Paul said his turkey and chutney was "a million dollar sandwich."

We did notice that the hustle and bustle seemed a bit muted, but put it out of our minds since J and J were having such a blast tearing hither and yon in their costumes--Dorothy and Tinkerbell, respectively. The "aisle of pumpkins" and the rockin' band that greeted us in the entryway were familiar, though I was a bit miffed to see that the cookies and cider table of previous years had been disappeared. Damn economy. There were no crafts, either.

It was inside the tank tunnel that we could sense that something was off. Normally, it's shoulder to shoulder in there, everyone falling over tiny jellyfish and crabs in the dark. This time, there was room for days. The girls enjoyed feeling up some squid and screaming about the eels. The usual.

Outside, the eeriness took center stage. A thick fog encased the view and most of the terrace, and there wasn't a soul in sight. Jarrah and Joy had a captive audience in the staff who had been set up to show the kids a good time. The boy in charge of the lobster presentation wasn't just doing his job--he was doing it with love. He had been instructed to fascinate children with lobsters, and by gum, that's what he was going to do. He narrated his presentation with a swoopy, tremulous voice while a girl projected slides of lobster-related scariness onto the screen.

Now, I was standing behind him, so I really couldn't see what was happening there. I do know, however, that the moment when his tale was punctuated by a crashing piano, Jarrah's expression--which had been up to that point a combination of polite and "Is there candy at the end of this?"--suddenly went bug-eyed (lobster-eyed?) She didn't make a sound, but I knew. All I can say is, that boy must have been mighty persuasive about the threat of crustaceans. Because this is the kid who wants to see The Vampire's Assistant.

Next, the staff invited the girls over to the tidepool to see the nocturnal lobsters frolicking in their nighttime party milieu. Jarrah demurred. "I don't want to. Lobsters scare me," she said, taking my hand. "That's okay," I said. She stood behind my leg while everyone else admired the lobsters that a very enthusiastic gal was shining her flashlight on.

The rest of the evening passed peacefully--a bit of playing "house" in the photo booths, more than a bit of palpating plates of slimy green "sea turtle snot"--but once in the car, the worries rose to the surface again.

"No," I said. "They can't get us. They don't even want to. They're shy."

"Can they...pinch us?"

"Not these. They're California spiny lobsters. They have no claws."

"In the movie, this girl was on the beach, and a whole bunch of lobsters came up and attacked her."

(A short, stunned silence.)

"What? That was in the movie?"

"Yeah. So if it was a whole bunch of lobsters, they could get us?"

"I don't know what kind of movie this was, but no. They have no incentive to get us."

"What are lobsters, Mommy?"

"They're like...bugs that live in the ocean. Trust me, they want nothing to do with you."

"Okay, but I'm just going to be afraid of them."

Hey, better than wrought iron fences, if you ask me. We're making progress.


erin said...

I'm a little afraid of them too. But not afraid to eat them...just not often. Did you know lobster is really high in calories? Who would have thought?

God is always messing with us.

miss. chief said...

Yeah, they are freaky looking. I'm a little afraid of them too, I guess. Also, have you read Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters? Because there is a part in that book with giant killer lobsters...
AAAGH I'm gonna have nightmares. Thanks a lot.

Logical Libby said...

I don't mind lobsters, it's the damn octopi that freak me out.

Caroline said...

Yuck! Lobsters! Stephen King created some deadly creatures in his Gunslinger series called Lobstrosities. They're big and tough and can snip off your arm easy as pie. Urg.

I wonder what really was on that screen. Did anyone else see?

Stephanie said...

Love the costumes!

katydidnot said...

they really can you know. the lobsters. they can get us.

Prosy said...

From now on she's going to give the meat department at the grocery store a wide berth I bet.

Aunt LoLo said...

Please don't tell J, but when I was a kid, we had this simply GINORMOUS bathroom in the basement. Seriously - it took 10 steps to get from the toilet to the sink. I was always afraid to use it, because I was all alone in that big room...and I thought a lobster was going to crawl up out of the bowl and pinch my bum.

So...just know she's not alone in the Lobster Fear. They're vicious. ;-) (BBJ always asks to see the "lomsters" at the market. Because she thinks lobsters are monsters. heh.)