Monday, 4 April 2011

My Pet Shame!

His eyes were wide and pleading as he gazed up at me. 'Please can we have a dog?' my eight-year-old son begged. 'I'll take it for walks and let him into my bath.'
I shook my head. 'Not now, love,' I said. 'Me and your dad are too busy.' My son's green eyes filled with tears but he was too brave to cry.
'Maybe later in the year,' I said, knowing I'd put it off then too. It wasn't that I didn't like dogs. I loved them – as long as they were small, fluffy and belonged to someone else.
'Puppies are too much hard work,' I sighed to my husband that night. 'Besides we live in a top floor flat.' What would we do if the dog was suddenly desperate for the loo – put him in the lift with a key fob to let himself in and out of the building? Or bungee-jump him off the balcony?
'He'll just have to wait for a pet,' I decided. 'I don't have the time.'
I was already juggling my son, two-year-old girl, my job and a chef husband. He couldn't help me as he was always run off his feet cooking up a storm.
'Can you pick up some ingredients for me after work?' he asked. 'I want to cook something special tomorrow.'
He'd forgotten to get them and we were expecting eight friends over for dinner the next day.
I scribbled down a long list of what he wanted  - cheese, flour, butter, tarragon, and – eek! - a lobster. I pulled a face.
I'm vegetarian and had never eaten a crustacean. The only thing I wanted in my house that came from a shell was a pearl. Not Larry the lobster who'd have to suffer to make my mates a tasty supper.
'Never mind, it'll be frozen,' I told myself as I drove to the beach front store the next day. 
'I'll just get them to put it in a bag and not think about it.'
So I bounded into the fish shop, eager to get my errand over and done with. 'A lobster please,' I said. 'My husband's ordered it.' 
The man smiled. 'Follow me,' he said, heading towards some water tanks.
Confused, I trailed behind, then froze. There, swimming around blissfully unaware of their fate, were half a dozen live lobsters. 'Pick one,' the shop keeper said.
I swallowed, scared. This wasn't some shopping expedition. I was on lobster death row and had been given the job as judge, jury and executioner. 
How could I choose which ones lived and which one died? 
'The oldest,' I mumbled, horrified. I couldn't kill a baby. 'This one's the biggest.' he said, plunging his hand into the pool and picking up a giant lobster, its pincers already tied.
I shuddered. He was already cuffed, and about to be put to death, ready for my family to scoff. Guilt tore through me.
'I'm so sorry,' I whispered as the man covered the lobster in wet tissue – to keep him alive during the journey!- and handed him to me in a box. 
I was too shocked to speak, so silently paid then carried the lobster, in his cardboard coffin, to my car. 
Carefully, I drove home, avoiding every bump. The lobster's end was going to be bad enough. The least I could do was make his final journey comfortable.
My husband had told me to put the lobster in the fridge, but I'd assumed it would be dead. Now, it was too cruel. So back home, I did what every decent vegetarian would do – and run a bath. Then I placed Larry the lobster in it for his last ever swim.
Just then my husband arrived home with our children. 'Oh look,' my son said, excited, when he spotted me kneeling next to the tub.
I waited for him to talk about how he'd like his supper served – with garlic bread or chips.  Instead he gave me a cuddle. 'Thanks,' he smiled. 'How did you know I wanted a lobster as a pet?' That made both me and his dad very crabby!


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