I flex the muscles on my forehead, struggling to remember where I left the crabs. I know they’re here somewhere.

My date just pulled up outside in his yellow Gremlin. The dark shape of him out there, car door cracked to light the interior, probably adjusting his hair in the rearview mirror, gussying for the crabs I promised. I can’t disappoint, not on our first date. Try to retrace my steps, back to bringing the crabs into the house, but a big dark empty space is all I see, a void the color of those new cars that look like they’re black, except when the light shines on them just right you can tell they’re really dark emerald green. My memory is mysterious like that, enigmatic like that cool paint job. Man, I wish I could afford a new car. There are other things I probably need first, but a sheeny new car, wow.

I recall certain events from earlier in the day. Going to the seafood store: clear. My barren wallet and me turned away empty-handed like a pathetic beggar: distinct, like it happens every day. Then sitting in my car alone, drinking can of beer after bottle of beer after can of beer after bottle of beer until my small cooler was empty. So many voids fill my brain. The sound of seagulls screeching rattles in this space. Caw, caw.

There it is, of course. Caw. While on the beach for more beer, I caught the crabs myself. Sudden like, everything is in my head, my whole day laid in a perfect horizontal, like those signs flying behind airplanes, advertising the latest swap meet for beachcombers.

Run to the back yard with my largest lobster pot to retrieve the crabs, fling open the sandbox. It’s empty. Just when my brain finally felt full, another empty space. The frisky little crabs must have clawed their way to freedom. Slamming the lobster pot down, it ricochets off my big toe, hurts worse than being attacked by a dozen angry crabs. Damn, if only they’d wrangled me, their captor, ferreted out their revenge, rather than crawling off into the night like cowards beneath their tough exoskeletons.

As I limp back to the house, I prepare my apologia. But my date hasn’t rung the bell. No one is on the front porch with a bouquet of dandelions, the light still on in his car. My pearl-beaded cardigan wrapped around my shoulders, I investigate.

Approaching the driver’s side of his little car, a leg hangs limply out from under the door. “Joey?” I say, hesitantly. No answer. His head cocked backwards at an unnatural angle, contrived even, I’m afraid but forcefully press on. When I rick open the door with a queak, an oversized pair of bright green fuzzy dice falls to the asphalt. A hard eight. I smile: tonight might be a lucky one after all; but looking up, all color, along with all hope, melts from my face. A needle sticks awkwardly out of Joey’s arm. A thin line of blood runs down onto his pale blue pants. His pupils as large as sausages, his face as purple as the eggplant I aimed to serve with the crabs.

Oh, well, at least no more worry about making good on my promises.

About the author:

Sarah M. Balcomb was born in Buenos Aires is 1899 and was educated in Europe.