A Lobster Story...
I was greeted by half the cast of The Little Mermaid and a billowing cooking steam when I arrived. I flipped my head under the little entrance curtain and mysteries of the crustacean were revealed. We were in a (very high class by the looks of it) lobster restaurant. A very fresh lobster restaurant, where I would evidently be expected to become engrossed in a battle to the death with the subject of my choosing before sitting down to dine. As there, in numerous bubbling tanks around the room, were a smorgasbord of plump red lobsters. Silently mouthing laments in a bubbly mass from their watery prisons. The aim of the game, as I soon found out. Was to throw out a line, and hoist a lobster up and out of the water into the cupped hands of his executioner. Miraculously, I managed to grasp the little wire hoop around the middle of my chosen victim and swing him up and out of his gloomy habitat with apparent ease. The waiter bowed low with his arms slung forward as I deposited my prize into his gloved hands. The Fujiwara’s erupted into a show of praise as Loren caught hers and we stood side by side eyes agog and hands behind our back like a pair of lost mules who had suddenly found themselves part of a horse race and through no skill of their own blasted through the finish line and become unexpected winners.
At once the Fujiwara’s rounded on us for a bout of selfies, as was custom. I stood there with a false smile and my eyes widening in terror as i was handed my lobster and the waiter gesticulated wildly that I should clasp it tight around the middle. I tried not to look the thing in the eye as I held it, its long antennae swinging wildly. I smiled for the camera, making a peace sign with my right hand and clutching the spiky crustacean in my left. In the excitable furore I almost forgot the rough shelled decapod I held was still very much alive. Foolishly my grip loosened around slightly around its middle, and recognising my error, it suddenly took the chance to make a break for it. Convulsing wildly, its legs straightened and forced its torso forward. I let out a shrill scream in shock and as one does when taken by suprise, or is smacked on the knee with a blunt object, and catapulted my arm forwards in an automatic reaction and threw the poor blighter well across the room. It soared in an arc above my watchful crowd of friends. All eyes widening in horror as our gaze followed the path of my red friend as it jettisoned down into the restaurant. Narrowly missing taking off an old Japanese ladies ear, knocking over a candelabra that landed in the tank with a magnificent splash that drenched the entire table of people beside it, where girlish screams erupted from the diners closest; before landing with a thud under the back of a ladies chair. Stranger still, though I had been the one to faux pas, the servers had begun a flurry of apologetic bows in my direction. As though they were the ones who’d started a food fight in this well respected establishment.
If my mother could have seen me now she would have dug a hole right there in the middle of the restaurant and buried me in it along with herself. The lady, bending down to see what had hit the back of her chair became thoroughly confused and from there the mayhem only increased. Her neighbour, a man with a shock of spiky hair picked up a jug of water and in some apparent reign of madness threw it at the lobster. Unfortunately he missed his target entirely, and the woman behind him was suddenly dripping wet with a party serving of ice in her lap. She in turn, let out a squeak of terror so high pitched that it sent all dogs within a mile radius barking, and so on and so forth until every patron in the restaurant was looking around to see what the commotion was and added to a cacophony of sounds that filled the restaurant as though it was the opening night at the Big Top. The lobster was not at all amused, and took off across a tablecloth, dodging prongs of chopsticks and outstretched hands as it went. I was surprised to see the absolute deft speed at which his spindly legs could manoeuvre on dry land. At one point I swear I saw him take up a chopstick and use it as a fencing sword, jabbing it into the bottoms and ankles of anyone that got in his way, darting from one kneeling diner to another in a brave attempt at freedom. The lobster was almost at the door, his fellows in the tank cheering him on with their silent bubbles popping behind the thick glass tanks, before he was blindsided by a bamboo screen. Then 3 waiters bombarded him from every angle and dived upon him. A pile of legs floundering triumphantly as one of them held the poor beast by his pincers in their practiced vice grip.
Loren, I noticed, was surveying the scene with great amusement. Taking the opportunity to light a cigarette discretely amongst the drama and blowing great clouds of smoke around the room. It gave the whole thing an ever more showy appearance, the circus tent readying for the big event. The canon had fired and we were waiting for the dust to clear to see if the daring acrobat had landed safely and undamaged in the net. Eventually, the waiters had won the battle and the lobster succumbed to what would he his final capture. His dance of defiance over, the drama settled and I heard the delighted uttering of ‘sugoi’ and ‘yabai,’ circulating the crowd as they discussed the event and began to laugh at the humour of it all. Loren and I were the only white people I had seen about the place the entire day and it was evident that this sort of charade didn’t happen too often. In a few years no doubt, a best selling book would hit the shelves named, ‘The gaijins who came to tea.’ After all was said and done, the restaurant seemed pleased with the nights entertainment and the mood had elevated a good few degrees as everyone sat back down to eat. I alone was left standing, choking on the apple sized frog in my throat and collapsing under the weight of my own embarrassment. As I knelt down on the floor next to Loren and tried to put my heart back in my chest where it belonged, she leaned into me and snorted. “I’ve changed my mind, this is way more exciting than a night out in Osaka.” I rolled my eyes at her and downed my green tea in one to try and calm my nerves. Having provided the entertainment for the evening, dinner was eventually served. And I had to force back my distaste as the lid to the bamboo box was lifted, and I was faced with the steaming remains of my foe. The disgruntled lobster who since meeting so little as half an hour ago, I had already done many wrongs. His eyes milky and his carapace blushing pink with the signs of sudden death. His claw contorted in a fashion that I could only describe as meaning, ‘fuck you.’