December 2013

“If you want a happy ending, that depends, of course, on where you stop your story.” -Orson Welles

In exactly 500 words, what is happening here?

Michael Lejeune says:

Being on the ocean is great for businesses. Everybody makes money from the sight of that endless wet that laps at the edge of town. It’s hypnotic. It’s like the end of the world is right there on the eastern edge of town. People obsess over it. Boundaries are like that. You inlanders don’t really have them. It’s all one big playground in the patch between here and California. Highways go every direction. You wanna go, you just go. But on the seaboard, there’s a hard edge. No highways going east.

Crescent Beach is lined with summer homes that go for outrageous prices. Mostly the owners just rent them out by the week to tourists. They come, they spend too much, they leave. And what do they eat? Seafood. As manager at Captain Barnard’s, I used to tell the owner that the best investment we could ever make is a fishing boat. If we had our own boat… well, we’d cut out the middle man is what we’d do. Rake it in.

But now I’m Captain Barnard, or ‘Cap’n Barnacle’ as my manager Chris calls me. As owner all I do is keep my nose in the ledger and try to keep us afloat. I never realized how hard it is to balance cuts against quality in a small business. Two months after I took the reins, we started weighing portions. Had to. After that, price hikes. The day we switched to generic mayo I got three complaints from regular customers.

Locals. That hurt. We switched back, but one couple never returned. Around that time I had to let Andrea go. Hard choice. She’d been bussing tables since ’94.

But, lucky for us, things are looking up for the captain and his crew. Strange doesn’t cover it, but in these economic times I’ll take strange. You know the lobster shortage? Well, you inlanders never saw the face of it. The lobstermen whose equipment was destroyed in the storms, trying to find other work. I actually saw one crying on the wharf one night, over a pile of empty traps. Poor bastard. Most of his kind moved west in the last six months. Maybe they’re catching catfish now, I don’t know.

The cold weather drove the lobsters further out to sea. All the restaurants along Crescent Beach took them off the menu, including Barnard’s. But they’re back, here. We got ’em. We’re the only ones. And we’re selling ’em dirt freaking cheap.

Chris named them ‘basement bugs’ when he found them last month, in our sub-basement. But the moment I saw them I knew they’d pass for lobsters. Bitey little bugs. You got to be careful around them. I don’t even know what they eat. Or how they live out of water.

Weirdest part is, their insides already taste like lobster stuffing. You almost don’t even have to cook ’em. Just heat ’em up and split ’em open. A little celery salt and melted butter, you can’t even tell the difference…

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