Shells form part of a uniform for blue crabs and members of the mollusc family. The blue crab undergoes an uneasy process of moulting. The pressure of a blue crab’s growing body becomes so heavy and intense that it breaks open the exoskeleton. Moulting takes about thirty minutes. The newly formed crab with the sensitive skin climbs out of the old uniform performing a matryoshka doll trick. The soft skeleton hardens and becomes a shell in two days. In those two days the soft-shelled crab falls prey to a variety of predators.
I watched a video about Sand and Snow and how they both preserved elements of life in a glass bottle. They exchanged pieces of two worlds separated by an ocean. Teenagers harbouring fanatical baseball tendencies usually amass on park benches or street corners to exchange baseball cards. They often hold these laminated pieces of paper of The New York Mets close to their hearts and stuff the remnants in biscuit tins or glass jars in hopes of transferring it to the next generation of techno savvies. By passing down baseball cards, old prunes and maybe even sets of golden teeth, the older generation preserves illusionary optimistic thoughts that the new breed will pick up from where they so candidly left off and carry on the tradition.
My father was a traditionalist. He loved to eat at certain intervals of a day and never enjoyed staying in his pyjamas until noon. My mother was vastly different to my father in the sense that she was a pyjama nooner. She ate frozen yoghurt and peanuts (the ones in shells) in bed, followed by healthier options of yoga and cardio at the gym.
The day usually started with early morning filter coffee followed closely by scones with fluffy hairpieces of whipped cream and Rudolph cherry noses placed carefully on top of the yellow caps of dough. My father always read the half-eaten morning newspaper in between sips of caffeine.
“Early morning shit if you ask me,” he commented.
“Language,” retorted mom.
“I’m old enough, practically a middle aged woman now,” I added.
“Don’t be so dramatic,” she said, kissing him.
Without the slightest form of hesitation, he wiped off the red lipstick from his cheek.
“What’s that for?” she asked.
“What do you think everyone at work will think if they see me looking like a walking transgender?”
“Get with the times, everyone’s embracing culture and individuality rather than stuffing their souls in the closet,” I said.
“That’s clever-you should write poetry and paint your nails black,” he said, tossing the paper onto the floor next to CandyApple and briskly walking out the door with the “writers write” mug I bought him for Christmas in one hand.
I poured some whisky into CandyApple’s bowl and he lapped it like the regular alcoholic.
“Why do you pour that shit? He is a dog for Christ’s sake.”
“Thou shalt not take the name of God in vain.”
“Don’t preach that bullshit, especially from Joe Pesci’s mouth of yours.”
“What ever happened to ‘language’?”
“Your father isn’t around.”
“So I guess that means you can say whatever you want; kick off your shoes and sip on a soda.”
“Don’t taunt me!”
“My friend said she saw you in town visiting the liquor store, are you at that shit again?”
“Right back at you.”
“Once your father is back from one of his escapades, I want you to tell him what you’ve been doing to that poor dog! Like a goddamn serial killer.”
“His climbing Mount Kilimanjaro escapade.”
“I wasn’t aware that he was into that.”
“Oh he is into all sorts, including licking, sucking and fucking.”
“What the fuck? How can you share this shit with me? I’m your daughter you psycho.”
“Stop pouring good whiskey into CandyApple’s bowl goddammit!”
My father returned that evening to find my mother half asleep on the couch with CandyApple’s half-filled bottle of whiskey in one hand, cigarette in the other. She looked like Cathy from the cartoon strip, just a more pathetic version. The only thing missing from the picture were dozens of rollers in her hair.
“Where were you? Oh, let me guess, climbing Mount Kilimanjaro?”
“Don’t turn into your mother. What next? You’ve taken up smoking?”
He sat at the already made table eating the cold steak and tossing the horribly semi-raw green peas to CandyApple. Mother remained on the couch the entire evening with the empty bottle of whiskey resting at her feet.
“Aren’t you gonna tuck mom in?”
“What is she? Two?”
“Nevermind. I’m concerned about her-that’s all.”
“That’s my problem I guess. Goodnight now.”
“Goodnight father of the year.”
The murmur of little bitch travelled the air.
The next morning my father had an interesting conversation with the headmistress of the catholic school and found out about my truancy with Anne, the smoking venues and Charlie.
“A clear prostitute, smoking, boys and then money and eventually selling herself for money,” he said over a breakfast of chocolate filled croissants.
“Well she learnt from the best,” said mother with a bag of ice held over her head to nurture her massive hangover.
“From the best? Who’s the one who quit her job? Who’s the one you smokes and drinks like a fish all day?”
“Where were you last night?”
“Are you kidding me? Our daughter skips school to go smoking with her slutty friend for a month and does god knows what and you want to know where I’ve been?”
“Yes, I’d like to know where the fuck you were when she was smoking and drinking and doing god knows what.”
“I was at work and that’s the end of that.”
He got up, threw the uneaten plate of croissants to CandyApple.
“We’re not in Fuckin Paris.”
He was out the door within a fragment of a second and mother lay next to CandyApple who hungrily ate chocolate croissants with traces of chocolaty brown smeared across his fur crying her heart out.
I broke the silence, “I guess he is climbing Mount Kilimanjaro.”
For the rest of the day mother ignored me and finished three bottles of wine by herself. She didn’t even offer me one swig. Anne called that evening with some devastating news.
“Hi, guess they found out ehh?”
“Hey, yes, my mum doesn’t want me drinking anymore or else I might turn into her, she says.”
“Well I’m safe so far, my dad pretty much doesn’t give a hog’s shit and my momma is too busy drinking CandyApple’s whiskey.”
“For fuck’s sake, stop feeding the dog that horse shit or else he gonna turn into your momma.”
“Too late. He eats chocolate croissants, drinks whiskey and I swear I saw him wear fishnets once, I almost shat my pants.”
We both burst into giggles.
“This a serious convo. Can you be serious for a minute?”
“This is hard for me to say but I kinda saw your dad in town around noonish today.”
“What’s up with you seeing every one of family in town? What the fuck do you do in town?”
“That’s exactly what I do. Remember Allan from downtown?”
“The China Mall Guy?”
“Okay, when we get married and have loads of babies, you can’t call him China Mall Guy, you got that?”
“Does China Mall Guy have a job?”
“Yes, as a matter of fact, he sells cigarettes.”
“Cigarettes which ponies magically poop out?”
“Don’t be such a dickhead, Marijuana cigarettes.”
“You’re a fuckin dumbass, you are definitely not going to pop out normal babies, your kids are going to come out looking like distorted versions of Mickey Rourke and that’s a fucked up picture.”
“Forget the news then.”
“Okay, I apologise, okay? Tell me the news.”
“Ask me what I did with Allan first.”
“Jesus fuckin Christ, what did you do with Allan?”
“I gave him a blowjob outside that game place.”
We both giggled.
“I didn’t even tell you the best part.”
“There’s a best part to China Mall Guy?”
“He proposed next to Galaga straight after the blowjob with a lollipop ring. He said he can’t afford no normal ring.”
“Well what else do you expect from the guy who proposed next to a couple of arcade games?”
“You wanna know what I said?”
“Why not, go ahead, this couldn’t get any worse than what it is.
“I said I’d think about it long and hard.”
“Well I guess that’s sufficient enough. If you were smart, you probably wouldn’t have given a pothead a bj in the first place.”
“Don’t judge, anyways I saw your dad straight after Allan proposed but here’s the shit news, are you ready to swallow this meat?”
“I am certain that your mother ordered you straight out of a porno. Yes I can swallow it.”
“He was kinda walking with that woman from Who framed Roger Rabbit.”
“Yup, that’s the one.”
“For fuck’s sake, she’s from a cartoon.”
“Sorry, I mean she voices Jessica Rabbit, I think her name is Betsy Brantley.”
“How the fuck do you know Betsy Brantley? And what was he doing with her?”
“We saw them both holding hands and being touchy touchy. Allan Googled her. She was laughing and Allan said she sounded like Jessica Rabbit, I think he has a thing for her.”
“Jesus, what the fuck should I do with this?”
“Information, you retard. Thanks for telling me by the way, now I’ll never be able to keep my mouth shut. You know I’m shit at keeping secrets.”
“I honestly thought you’d be in tears by now- not arguing about Betsy Brantley.”
“I’m angry, not upset. I’m more concerned about momma finding out.”
“Yes, everyone says she is pretty much unstable. My dad says we should adopt her.”
“She’s a grown ass woman, how the fuck are your martyr parents going to adopt her?”
“I don’t know, I guess they just feel sorry for her.”
“Tell them they can adopt some abandoned Ethiopian kids okay?”
“I can tell you’re mad, so goodnight okay?”
“All the best with your pothead boyfriend and Mickey Rourke kids, okay?”
Before she could say anything else, I slammed the phone down.
That same evening I confronted my father. He sat in his leather armchair reading the newspaper near the fire with a glass of scotch in one hand.
“I know about you and Jessica Rabbit.”
“I haven’t watched that film in years.”
“I know about you and Betsy Brantley.”
“Is she still alive? What have I got to do with Betsy Brantley?”
“Fine, I know about you and that woman you were kissing who laughs like Betsy Brantley.”
“I was with a woman, yes. I suppose you heard it from that slut friend of yours?”
“I’m telling mum you climbed Mount Kilimanjaro.”
“Go ahead and ruin your mother’s life, we all know she’s already down the path of destruction with her drinking habits and guess what?”
“She’s gone and started feeding liquor to CandyApple as well, I got a whiff when the poor sucker licked me when I got home from work.”
“You mean when you got back from Betsy Brantley’s laughter. What else did you do with her dad?”
“I haven’t tasted her sushi if that’s what you mean by that.”
“I don’t know what’s more disturbing, that you are cheating or that you refer to women’s parts as sushi. Samantha much?”
“Well it smells, looks and kinda tastes like sushi don’t it?”
“It’s no wonder I’m all fucked up inside.”
“You stop blaming us for your mistakes. Take some responsibility for god’s sake.”
“Thanks. And the Father of the Year Award goes to…sushi maker.”
He dropped the scotch on CandyApple’s head and ran straight for me with his fist in the air. I ducked, dodged and locked myself in my bedroom.
“It’s about time I shoved off from this shithole,” I said to myself.
“You dirty bitch!” he screamed from outside the door.
The thuds from outside the door died out. I assumed he passed out from intoxication. I couldn’t help but feel sorry for CandyApple.
The next morning I found my father snoring outside my door. I stood with my packed bags in the kitchen. I wrapped a few peanut and jam sandwiches in cellophane and remembered to pack Charlie’s tin of memorabilia. As I was frying bacon and eggs, mum walked in with blue rollers in her hair.
“Where are you going Birdie?” she asked.
“I’m going to stay with Charlie for a while.”
“What on earth for?”
“I just need to clear my head. This can all be a bit too much.”
“I sense your father just needs some space so I’m going into town to get my hair done and surprise him with a little black number for the benefit dinner tonight. I figure I haven’t been trying hard enough Birdie. “
“Mum, it’s not you, trust me on this one.”
“What do you know?”
“It’s Jessica Rabbit mum.”
“The fictional character?”
“Well, I gotta go Birdie, have fun at Charlie’s.”
“Sure thing mum.”
She walked out of the kitchen with the scent of pork wafting in the air. My father walked in with the half eaten newspaper tucked under his arm. His face was contorted in anger. He stared at me.
“So you’re still here?”
“I’m going to stay with Charlie.”
“Good because quite frankly you’ve been an utter disappointment.”
“Funny how you can transition between Jekyll and Hyde so quickly-ever since I brought up Betsy Brantley.”
“I was with a woman and it was not Betsy. Get your facts straight.”
I removed the pink shell from my pocket, the one he gave me at the beach house when I was ten. I had so many terrific memories of my father. I remembered how he enjoyed listening to the Bee Gees with me resting on his lap. I realised then he would never be the same again and always remain empty. I handed him the shell.
“It’s yours, I really hope she’s worth it.”
I kissed CandyApple goodbye.
“Stop drinking you mooch.”
I waved goodbye to daddy and stepped out into the cold air. Winter had arrived and kissed me on the cheeks, buttocks and thighs. I hummed my own version of Roses are Red all the way to Charlie’s house.
Sasheera Gounden is a South African English teacher who has a flare for writing. Her article, “Twenty years of growth and success” was published in Accounting SA July 2015 issue. She has written numerous poems and short stories which have been published in The Literary Yard, The Bitchin’ Kitsch (2016) and the Guwahatian.