In my family I am the errand runner, the burro, the hunter and gatherer. It is my job to acquire the bare necessities and bring them back to the cave for consumption. Often, I take my four-year-old daughter along with me on my missions because I kind of feel like Batman with a little Robin when I do that.
Yesterday we were walking through the grocery store toward the land of lunchmeat when we passed an almost empty aquarium of lobsters. Only two of them were left, aimlessly padding around the barren tank and waving with their rubber banded claws.
"Look Daddy," the Kid With One F said. "It looks like all the lobsters found good homes."
First a bit of background. Despite my working two jobs, times are pretty tough for us. My wife is in the last semester of nursing school, and being the sole breadwinner doesn't really offer you vacations and Baconators whenever you want them when you get paid in Jacksons for writing about pissed off Bigfoot hunters. So instead of going to the zoo, sometimes I just take the kid to the pet store.
For the price of a single can of wet dog foods she gets snakes, fish, ferrets, birds, and cats. Especially the cats. We're big on rescue animals. We never drive pass the ASPCA building without calling out "We all hope you find good homes" and we express the same sentiment whenever we see empty cages in the rescue displays at PetSmart.
And apparently, seeing the nearly empty aquarium of lobsters prompted the same thought within my daughter's head.
"I'm... I'm sure they did, sweetheart," I said. I wasn't technically lying, I guess. I'm sure the people who bought the lobsters were nice enough. I mean, maybe one of them was some kind of lobster-loving psychopath that dreamed a thousand dreams of murder and blood, but the odds are pretty long on that.
"This one likes me!" said my daughter with her face smushed up against the glass. One of the lobsters did in fact seem to be waving playfully at her... which considering they can't speak English and didn't know that we were talking about pet status instead of lunch just goes to show you that you shouldn't expect brilliance out of giant sea roaches. Still I dreaded the next thing she would probab...
"Daddy, when I'm older and more responsible can I take a lobster home and love him? I'll be really careful."
Look, I don't shy away from explaining things to my daughter. We've discussed everything from death to transgender doom metal. I know she's got to live in the world, and there's not reason to habitually shield her from things since it's only going to make her more open to being hurt later. Objectively I knew I should come clean right then.
But how do you do that when three feet of blond curls and dimples is singing a spontaneous composition called "Lobster, You're My Cuddle Friend"? You can't just wait for the gap between verse two and the bridge and say, "Actually, heart, we boil them alive until their innards steam and then we eat them with butter and a freakin' nutcracker for their hand-meat". That's the sort of shock that turns them into strippers in weird fetish clubs.
"It costs too much money to have a lobster pet," I said instead. This I found out later is actually true. You need a 100 gallon tank with a meticulously maintained temperature and pH level, and you have to be really careful with cleaning it. Lobsters are definitely an advanced aquarium project, though it is apparently not all that uncommon for folks to just take them home from the grocery store and decide to keep them instead.
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"When I make enough money can I come back and take this one home? Please please please?" she said with her hands clasped in desperate prayer in front of me. I looked at her... looked at the lobsters (He waved)... then back at her.
"Sure," I said. "When you make enough money you can have a lobster for a pet."
What the hell, I always wanted an aquarium.