“They go flat,” she said.
“What goes flat?” I asked.
“The cats,” she said and motioned to the old black cat laying on its side on the deck. She sucked on the crab leg she was pointing with and continued, “They go flat in the summer.”
I looked over at the cat and it did kind of look flat. Like someone had a let the air out of it.
“Yup,” she said, “Darndest thing.
We were on the back deck of her house, eating crabs. The table was covered in newspaper. A few dozen blue claw crabs, smothered in old bay and steamed so that now they shone bright red, lay scattered amongst the headlines.
Sea Isle City’s Annual Baby Parade to Be Held July 19
She tossed the remains of crab she’d been working on and picked a fresh one from the pile.
“So, you hear from Sam lately?” I asked.
She pulled one of the claws off the crab and whacked it with a small wooden mallet and pulled out the meat in one piece.
“Looky there, will ya?” she said. She turned her attention back to the crab at hand and said, “Nah. Haven’t talked to Sam in awhile. Last I heard she was bartending down at Jake’s in the Villas.”
“She still with that guy?” I asked.
“Pete? Yeah, I guess so,” she said. “He’s no prize but he treats her alright and let’s face it,” she said and gestured with her mallet, “She ain’t no prize neither.” She brought the hammer down and cracked the other crab claw.
“Looky there.” she said again but this time she show it off. She just ate the crabmeat.
“You want another beer?” she asked.
“Sure,” I said and downed the last of my beer. She took my bottle and threw it in the blue recycling container and went in the house.
I picked up a fresh crab and underneath was something that caught my eye. Not the headline, but name in the first paragraph.
Two Arrested after DWI Crash; Assault on Officer Alleged
“Hey,” I called. “Isn’t this your niece?”
“Isn’t who my niece?” she said walking back out with two beers. The screen door slammed behind her. She handed me a beer and looked over my shoulder.
“This here,” I said pointing to the newspaper.
“I need my glasses,” she said. “Hold on.” She looked around where she’d been sitting, and started moving stuff around. “Now what the fuck did I do—ah, here they are.”
“Says here that an Shelly Frankel of Woodbine was arrested for a DWI in Wildwood three days ago,” I said.
“Well shit,” she said.
“Isn’t that your brother’s kid?
“Sure as shit is,” she said reading over my shoulder. “And she had the kid with her? Fuck me. She hit a cop too?”
“No, that was someone else. Says here, Dwayne Knight, a family member. But it sort of looks like bullshit. He was charged with assaulting the cop and throwing bodily fluid. My guess is he resisted arrest and spit on the cop.”
“She’s fucked,” she said. “And her poor kid. He’s fucked too.”
“You didn’t know about this?” I asked.
“Frank doesn’t tell me shit,” she said looking at the paper. “Which is the way I like it. That family is a barrel of monkeys fucks with their hair on fire. I don’t need the headache. Who the fuck is Dwayne Knight? Family member my ass.”
She turned and sat back down, unscrewed the cap on her beer, and tossed it into the blue bin. I waited while she took a long slug.
“My god it’s hot,” she said.
“So, you don’t see Frank at all anymore?” I asked.
“Sure, I see him around,” she said. “Funerals. Birthday parties. Shit like that, but we don’t spend no time together.” She motioned to the paper with her beer, “Because of shit just like that. What else does it say?”
“Says she hit five parked cars,” I said.
“Jesus,” she said. “How do you manage to hit five parked cars?”
“I have no earthly idea,” I said and began picking at the crab again. “I guess you have to give her credit for effort.”
“Eat your crabs and stop reading the fucking paper,” she said. “You’ve put me off my shit.”
“Sorry,” I said.
“Oh, don’t be,” she said. “I’m just feeling sorry for myself that my family are such pineys.”
She drank her beer and I worked on my crab silently. Lynyrd Skynyrd played on the radio.
Whiskey bottles, and brand new cars
Oak tree you’re in my way
There’s too much coke and too much smoke
Look what’s going on inside you
Ooooh that smell
Can’t you smell that smell
Ooooh that smell
The smell of death surrounds you
“So, how long you back for?” she asked finally.
“Leave the day after the funeral,” I said. “I have to get back. I have some business in the city.”
“That’s a shame,” she said. “I’m sure Mark would have loved to see you but he’s out on the boat. Won’t be back until Wednesday at the earliest. He would have been here had he known you know?”
“Yeah,” I said. “I know.”
“It sure is hot,” she said and slapped at a green head on her leg the stepped on it where it fell.
“Sure is,” I said and pounded a crab claw with a mallet.
“I guess that’s why they go flat,” she said looking at the old black cat.
The cat remained motionless except for the slight rise and fall of it’s chest.
Hey, you’re a fool you
Stick them needles in your arm
You’re just a fool, just a fool, just a fool