Orson Welles wrote a spoof of Hollywood titled “La langouste qui ne pense a rien” (The Unthinking Lobster).
David Hadju, Lush Life
As I turned the knob of the door to my house and looked into the living room, I was overcome with disgust and frustration. There sat Eloise, my lobster, just as I found her at the end of every other day; spread out on the couch, watching soap operas, popping sea urchins into her mouth. She didn’t even look up at me as I came in.
“Hel-lo?” I said, hoping to express with my lilting tone the disappointment I felt towards her. I’d rescued her from the seafood department of our local grocery store on the recommendation of Orson Welles, the man who caused a nation to crap its pants with a fictional account of a Martian invasion, but instead of enriching herself by perusing the many books that lined the walls of our house, she just sat in front of the TV, slowly molting her life away.
“Oh, hi,” Eloise said. I don’t think it was just coincidence that a commercial came on at the very moment she looked up at me.
“Busy day?” I asked, and I infused those two little words with as much sarcasm as I could.
“Yes,” she said, and apparently without irony. I know it’s tough to crawl out of bed when you’re a ten-legged marine crustacean, but she’s got that muscular tail as well. It wouldn’t be so hard to just flip herself upright and get on with her life, but no, she’d rather take her own sweet time and e-a-s-e her way into the day, while I’m up at 4:30, on the train by 5:45 and at my desk by 7:15.
“Do you mind if I switch to the nightly news?” I asked as I grabbed the remote out of one of her claws.
“Hey!” she said. “I wasn’t through watching As the Tide Turns,” her favorite soap opera.
“Tough noogies,” I snapped. “I work my butt off all day, I’m entitled to a little consideration around here.”
A story came on about a guy who caught a blue lobster off Plymouth, on Cape Cod.
“That’s ironic,” I said.
“What?” Eloise asked.
“They caught a blue lobster down where the Mayflower landed. That means that both the descendants of the Pilgrims and the lobsters down there have blue blood.”
“All lobsters have blue blood,” she said, and rather haughtily, I might add.
“Well ex-cuuuuse me!” I said, and got up to go to the kitchen.
“Geez, somebody needs a little fiber in their diet,” she said, as she picked up the remote where I’d thrown it and started channel-surfing: reality show, soap opera, dumb sit-com, professional wrestling. Newton B. Minow called TV a “vast wasteland” in 1961, and fifty-five years later it had only gotten vaster.
“You know,” I said finally, as I watched the passing parade of photonic idiocy, “it wouldn’t kill you to pick up a book and read every now and then.”
She gave me a look that could have steamed a cherrystone. “Easy for you to say,” she said. “You think I can turn pages with these?” she asked, holding out her six legs with claws, assuming I’d have no answer.
“As a matter of fact, you could–if you’d only try. Instead, you just let your mind rot watching this drivel all day.”
I thought I heard a little sniffle come out of her gills. I was just about to say “You can dish it out, but you can’t take it,” when she blurted out the sad truth of her apparent lack of intellectual curiosity.
“I . . . never learned to read,” she sobbed, and I scooched across the couch to comfort her.
“I’m sorry–I never knew.”
“That’s okay,” she said over an audible lump in her throat. “It’s been my deepest secret for a long time. I’m tired of holding it in.”
I patted her greenish shell on the little orange freckles and tried to think of something I could do to brighten the dark corridors of her tiny mind. “Hey, you know what?” I said when inspiration struck me.
“You don’t need to be able to read to sample the rich stew of American culture–you can watch movies on TV!”
“You . . . you actually sprang for cable?”
“Just sports and basic, but that means we can watch classics, like Citizen Kane.”
She rolled her little eyes. “I’ve only seen that like a million times. Remember–I used to hang out with Orson Welles.”
“Oh. Right. Well, how about The Magnificent Ambersons?”
“From the novel by Booth Tarkington?”
“That’s it. C’mon,” I said as I grabbed the remote and tried to remember how to get on-demand movies. “Is it this button?” I asked aloud, but Australian rules football came on the screen. “Maybe it’s this one,” I said, but I got some kind of shopping channel.
“Gimme that thing,” she said, and before you could say “Peter Bogdanovich” she had found the film I wanted and paid for it with my credit card. We snuggled back into the couch to watch what Welles always thought was his greatest triumph, but which is actually a crashing bore on a scale almost as big as Welles himself.
“You want some popcorn?” I asked as I got up to go to the kitchen.
“No, but if you wouldn’t mind, I could go for another bag of sea urchins.”