Mr. Kimura was standing on the edge of the Nubble rocks when a giant, gray wave crashed on him, soaking his entire body. He turned around to climb back toward his wife and their daughter, Yuma, but another crashed on his back. He dropped his Chopard sunglasses into a chasm between two rocks and watched them clack into the tidepools twelve feet below.
“Are you all right?” Mrs. Kimura called from the parking lot. She stood beside archaic observation binoculars.
Going down the Nubble rocks had not been his idea. Mrs. Kimura asked him to in order to see if it was something she could handle with the fifteen-month-old. He dripped as he walked, flipflops squelching. His footwear was the main reason he hadn’t wanted to climb down. A grade school couple snickered from a neighboring rock and fondled each other’s pubescent fixtures.
“This is ridiculous,” said Mr. Kimura. “I told you I couldn’t in my flipflops.”
Mrs. Kimura supported Yuma on her hip. Yuma, who was just starting to speak, had amaretto frozen yogurt all over her face. She reached her cheeks with her tongue, where the corners of her mouth were pink and raw. It was late July.
The Cape Neddick lighthouse waited on its cliff like a stuck princess. Mr. Kimura patted Yuma’s head and she twisted to evade him. They stood on the edge of the parking lot, where cars went by, turning the stones. Other babies in the lot were fat and blond in white porkpie hats, slapping the trays of their strollers as they were pushed past. A man closed the trunk of his Rav directly into his forehead and went fuck me.
“You’re all right,” said Mrs. Kimura.
“Yes,” said Mr. Kimura.
“Let’s have lunch.”
“Can we go back to the hotel?” he asked. “—so I can change?”
They were staying downtown at the Union Bluff where wedding parties missiled through the lobby in boodles of gauze and filigree.
“We’re already here,” she said. “It’s just water.”
They got a table upstairs overlooking the ocean at Ernesto’s House of Lobster. They went every year—it was tradition—but it looked different to Mr. Kimura. The plywood wainscoting made stark borders under the long windows and beach paintings. There were three saltshakers to a table, and a votive candle beside each one. Mrs. Kimura insisted on being seated by the window, where there were only tables for six. Mr. Kimura wrung out the hem of his blue polo.
“They’re unretrievable?” Mrs. Kimura asked about the Chopards.
“Yes,” said Mr. Kimura.
“Out of reach?”
“Twelve feet down,” he said.
Mrs. Kimura put her menu between herself and Yuma, angling it toward her, as if she could read. She pointed to the entrées with a long, green fingernail—difficult for changing diapers but she managed—showcasing the sensational Sakura diamond. Mr. Kimura had traveled to Sendai to buy it before learning the store had a location in Newport Beach, mere miles from their home in Fountain Valley.
“What are you thinking about?” asked Mrs. Kimura.
“The baked scallops,” he said.
The Sakura was not her original engagement ring, but a gift, after she’d found Mr. Kimura talking on the internet with four Russian women about urinating on his face and penis for two thousand dollars. The waitress was a porky Mainer in a lobster print bistro apron.
“How precious are you?” she cooed at Yuma.
She stared back, then pointed urgently at the lobsters on her apron. “Tah! Tah!”
“Tah!” the waitress laughed. Then to the Kimuras, “I’ve got eight of my own.”
“Do you have gin martinis?” asked Mrs. Kimura.
“Wet with one olive,” she said, “and chocolate milk for her.”
“What happened to you?” the waitress asked Mr. Kimura. “Swimming in your clothes?”
“What she’s having,” he said.
On his trip to Sendai to buy the ring, Mr. Kimura had arranged for a busty woman in a schoolgirl outfit to tinkle down the back of his neck, but her e-mails stopped when he got into town. He suspected his wife knew about this, too, or even that it had been her.
The family who came in next, seated facing the Kimuras, had seen the waves hit him. The waitress came back with a martini and two chocolate milks. Mrs. Kimura looked over her nose at her husband, knowing he would not correct it.
“Do we know what we’re having for lunch?” the waitress asked.
“He’s having lobster, I think,” said Mrs. Kimura.
“Actually,” said Mr. Kimura, “baked scallops.”
“We can’t come to York and not order lobster,” she said.
“My carpal tunnel—”
“I can come back,” the waitress said. Yuma scowled.
“That’s fine,” said Mrs. Kimura. “Two one-and-a-half pound lobsters.”
Mr. Kimura drank the chocolate milk. They went to York every summer where his wife wanted to buy a home on the water, but he had not come around. This time, they were celebrating her promotion at FV Custom Jewelers. Mr. Kimura found the whole thing frivolous—even masturbatory—considering he’d already bought her a suede coat and crocodile bag for the occasion.
“Then we’ll go to look at the house,” she said.
“I’m not sure you can call it a ‘house.’”
“There were other places,” she said. “Bigger ones.”
“We’re already at the top of our budget,” he said. “We’d have to go inland.”
“Then what’s the point of a beach house?”
“I’m worried about my hands,” Mr. Kimura said, “cracking the lobster.”
“How did the waves get you?”
“What do you mean?” he asked. “You saw.”
“Were you trying to put your feet in?”
“No,” he said. “Didn’t you see?”
“Would you like me to get the waitress? Would you like me to get you a martini?”
“It’s fine,” he said. “This is good.”
“It’s no problem.”
“I’d rather not entertain her further.”
When Mrs. Kimura first discovered the receipt for a large rubber sheet in his wallet, she thought Mr. Kimura was planning to gruesomely murder her. She was initially relieved at the prospect of joining her mother in paradise. Then Yuma came, supposedly from that same Heaven, black-haired and quiet, teeming with instincts of infant. She searched open-mouthed for milk ducts and was met with the polycarbonate bottle. Mrs. Kimura unwrapped the silverware from a paper napkin and used it in firm downward motions to rub the frozen yogurt from Yuma’s face.
“Will you do it for me?” asked Mr. Kimura.
“Do what for you?”
“When the food comes?”
He didn’t want to break down his own lobster. If he saw the tomalley, he’d lose his appetite, and the cracker was rough on his carpal tunnel. She nodded and turned to the window where the sea heaved against boulders. She imagined the Chopards in a tidepool with ropes of algae catching their frames.
“If we bought a place here,” he said, “we’d have to come all the time to make it worth it.”
“You can work from anywhere,” she said.
“You just got that promotion,” he said. “You were so excited about it.”
“I can be excited and still want to be happy.”
She reached across the table with her napkin and dried her husband’s place setting, which he’d dripped all over. The waitress brought lobsters on platters and cups of melted butter. Mr. Kimura wished they would extract the eyes, which looked like capers.
“Why do they leave the eyes in?” he asked his wife.
“I’m not sure,” she said. “To cover the brain sac?”
He could have sworn the antennae were still quivering, searching for the ocean floor. Their claws were big and heavy, like regular hands, and he recalled the live ones in the lobby with green rubber bands on their pincers, dawdling in their tank. Cooked, their tails tucked under their pelvises, which was a sign they were truly fresh. Mrs. Kimura tore off one of the walking legs, pulled it in half, and gave a piece to Yuma who brought it to her mouth and sucked.
“Will you do it for me?” Mr. Kimura asked again.
“Lob-tah,” said Yuma.
“That’s right,” said Mrs. Kimura, “lobster.”
“Did she just say ‘lobster?’” the waitress called, elbow on the kitchen window.
“Yes,” said Mrs. Kimura.
“Almost,” said Mr. Kimura.
His wet haircut sent drops down his forehead, which he constantly wiped with the back of his hand. Mrs. Kimura tore off the claws by the carpus. She grabbed the tail, bent it backward and twisted it, ripping off the abdomen. She dropped it in front of him and nodded at it.
“Start without you?” he asked.
“Good?” she asked.
“Will you do my claws?”
On with the deconstruction. She pulled apart the crusher and handed it to him. He bit the meat off the top and looked over his shoulder at the sea as not to appear weak while she spooned out the pancreas. With the chrome-plated cracker, she fractured the claw in two places and removed the shell. Liquid drained onto her hands, getting all over the Sakura, which Mr. Kimura watched in despair.
“Do you want to take your ring off?”
“I said I’d never take it off,” she said.
Yuma smacked her palms on her highchair, of which the oak was terribly scratched. Mrs. Kimura kissed her cheek. The claw meat came down to a point like a wild tongue.
Mr. Kimura stared at the tail, which hunched over a lemon wedge, as if fucking it. Mrs. Kimura had moved on to her lobster and sliced its backend down the middle—an orange spine—then held either side of the shell and pulled it apart as simply as peeling a clementine. She cut the meat in half the long way, crushed the lemon over it in a fist, dunked it in butter, and brought it to her mouth. She offered more walking legs to Yuma, who had the attention of a neighboring table.
“Starting her young,” a man said. “Good on you.”
“Yep,” said Mrs. Kimura. “Can’t come to York and not have lobster.”
“Good mum,” he said.
Mr. Kimura looked at Yuma and her cheeks of milk. There was an unsaid rule about him not kissing Yuma on the face—specifically the lips—which he imagined had something to do with his wife’s discovery.
Then he realized how the man was looking at her. His smile was nervous and kind; Mrs. Kimura was making eyes. He was Chinese—almost certainly—and wore a fleece vest despite the heat. He ordered a two-pound lobster loudly.
“Two-pounder,” said the man.
“No way he’ll finish that,” Mr. Kimura said under his breath.
“Do you remember where the bathroom is?” Mr. Kimura asked her.
“What for?” asked Mrs. Kimura. “There’s a nice place for your rubber sheet right over there.” He didn’t speak. “Downstairs, sweetheart. Have a sense of humor.”
He took another sip of chocolate milk and headed for the stairs, which were narrow and carpeted. Past the flirting man, he puffed his chest. His heel caught the edge of the first step, offsetting his weight, and twisted his foot out of a sandal, snapping the thong. He fell backward and went down the first four stairs on his back and twisted his ankle. He grabbed onto the railing, dislocating his shoulder.
“Are you okay?” the waitress asked, chest bouncing as she hurried.
Mr. Kimura had dislocated it before as a child and recalled the pain but not how to proceed. The arm drooped just slightly lower than the other. Mrs. Kimura carried Yuma to the top of the steps. She had another walking leg in her fist.
“He’s all right,” said Mrs. Kimura. “Are you all right, sweetheart?”
She was beautiful towering over him. So was the waitress. He wanted to close his eyes and open his mouth. Mr. Kimura stood up with rugburns. His shoulder panged. People started chatting, and the restaurant returned to lobster and cocktails.
Carolynn Mireault is a recipient of the 2022 St. Botolph Club Foundation Emerging Artist Award in Literature and the 2022 Florence Engel Randall Fiction Award. She holds an MFA from Boston University, where she served as a Leslie Epstein Fellow and the Senior Teaching Fellow. Her work has recently appeared or is forthcoming in Cutleaf, Louisiana Literature, BULL, The Westchester Review, Glassworks Magazine, Misery Tourism, and FEED among other venues. Find her most recent publications at carolynnmireault.com