Hagebak: ‘Lobstah,’ the roach of the sea

Published 10:00 am Saturday, April 15, 2017

When Hubby and I got married, we decided to go to Maine. It was a toss-up for me between the beautiful blue waters of St. Johns and the beautiful dark waters of a lake in Western Maine, right up until I read the tarantula warning on the St. Johns brochure. And when we started making plans for Maine, I discovered that we would be staying in a town only an hour or two away from Stephen King’s house! It was all I could do to wait for the wedding before I set out for Maine and the little cottage on the shore of Moosehead Lake.

I’ve read everything that Stephen King ever wrote, and there are some doozies! Most of them take place in Maine. “Cujo,” one of my favorites, was about a rabid dog that spent a day or two terrorizing a little boy and his mama. Cujo lived in an old, beat-up farm house that was bleached silvery gray. The screen door flapped in the breeze and the dog waited just out of sight, ready to chew an arm or leg off, or perhaps just to pass along his dread disease.

In “Needful Things,” a mysterious stranger (I’ll give it away – he was the Devil) comes to a small town in Maine and opens up a store where, if a person wanders in, she might find the very thing her heart desires. The only price is her immortal soul! And “Pet Sematary,” while mostly about dead things that come back a little…different, describes how logging trucks careen up and down the highways in Western Maine, and sometimes squash cats and kids.

When we took a day to wander the backroads, what I noticed first was the logging trucks. They are massive and unbelievably heavy, loaded down with all that wood. They roar down the highways and I believe that even if they tried to stop for a cat or a toddler in the road, it would be impossible. I started looking for signs of little trails that might lead into the woods, back to an old Native American burial ground that some kids might’ve found and used to bury their beloved pets. Hubby laughed and laughed at me.

We wound our way down to Bangor, where I couldn’t contain my excitement! Stephen King lived in Bangor! I might get to see my idol! What if he was shopping at one of the odd little pre-Walmart-type department stores that dot the city? What if he was eating at the diner we chose for lunch? You know what? People in Bangor look at you funny if you ask for Stephen’s address.

On the road between Dexter and Greenville we found the sweetest little town, so small that it was only a group of several buildings. I saw a little store and hollered, “Aaaaagggghhhhh!”

It was called “Needful Things”…

Hubby said, “Oh, did you want to stop in there?”


I’d just about climbed back into my skin when we caught sight of a sign that read, “Fresh Seafood For SALE.” Who goes to Maine, even Western Maine, and doesn’t eat fresh lobster? So we turned around and went back.

We drove up the rutted drive and after a hundred yards or so, we caught sight of Cujo’s house. It was a two-storied frame house, and at one time it had been white, but most of the paint had worn away, and the boards were a lonely, silvery gray color. The screen door was hanging loose, attached by only one hinge. There was no one in sight.

“I don’t want any seafood.” I said.

“Oh don’t be silly!” Hubby hasn’t ever read any Stephen King, so he blew the horn.

Just when I thought that we were in the clear and the place was actually deserted, the door opened, revealing a rail-thin woman with long stringy hair in a falling-down bun and a sweater that used to be white. I whispered, “reversereversereverse,” but Hubby waved instead.

The lady pointed to an old outbuilding, from which a large, greasy-haired and bearded man was emerging, wiping his hands on a bloody apron. I tried to put the car in reverse myself, but Hubby hollered out the window, “Hello! We’d like some fresh seafood! Do you have any for sale?”

The building, when we got to it, had hides nailed to the walls, and there was a skinless carcass in the path. I headed for the car, but Hubby grabbed me by the back of my shirt. The man, who had yet to speak, led us into a dark room. We could hear the chugging of the old grocery store coolers and freezers, and another strange and ominous noise, kind of a scrabbling sound, and when the man pulled a string in the middle of the room the weak light illuminated about a million lobsters crawling over and under and all around each other, trying to escape one of the open coolers. I knew exactly how those lobsters felt.

“How many yah wahnt?” he finally spoke.

“Do you have any that are already dispatched?” I asked from behind Hubby.

“Whahht?” the man looked at me like I had three heads. He probably was sizing up my skin for his barn wall.

“What my lovely wife means,” Hubby said, “is, do you have any that are already dead. She won’t kill anything.”

“Listen heah. Yah kill flies, dontcha?”

I nodded.

“Yah kill roaches, dontcha?”

Another nod.

“Well, lobstah is the roach of the sea!” he finished, and gave us a big old gap-toothed grin.

At that moment, one of the crustaceans make a break for freedom and slid over the edge of the cooler, landing on the floor at the man’s feet. Just to prove his point, he raised one foot and brought it down on the poor old lobster, smashing it flat.

Hubby bought a couple of lobsters. I don’t know what the purchase was like, because I was huddled in the car, quivering and mumbling to myself. I wonder if the seafood man tells the story of the crazy lady who came to buy dispatched lobster.

Pepper Ellis Hagebak is from LaGrange and may be reached at pepperellishagebak@gmail.com