Out of the Shell
September 23, 2010 by William K. Wolfrum
Somewhere sort of like here …
“And this abomination, this insult to Our Lord, it will continue to take us down a path of depravity and immorality that will destroy this great nation. These depraved, perverted individuals must be stopped. This behavior must be eliminated! And it can only happen with the help of God. You are his hands on Earth. You will help to stop this menace before all is lost!”
“Amen!” shouted Pastor Doug’s congregation, as one. But anyone walking by could hear that this response was not a joyous one. Such a holy word, yet such hate emanated from it.
Jeremy starred down at his plate of shrimp. A lifetime of shame flashed through his mind. His stomach seemed to want to leap out of his body sit next to him and taunt him. But Jeremy was also more excited than he’d ever been. He was literally pulsating from head to toe. Was this really going to happen? Was his only true fantasy going to become a reality? He was frozen with anticipation, fear, lust and hunger. He hadn’t eaten since lunch, after all.
“Dude, just eat it. Seriously, it’s going to be Ok,” said Michael.
Michael. Jesus Christ, Michael tempted him. But he made him feel amazing. They had been high-school sweethearts. They were the King & King at the prom, even. And the relationship had somehow grown only stronger in the two years since they graduated. Friends and family were already telling them to “just set the date already.” They were the perfect couple and deeply in love.
The only issue had been Michael’s Shellfish Eating. They were only 15 when Jeremy saw him eat a shrimp for the first time. Raised in a strict Catholic household, he couldn’t even admit his secret desire to gorge to Michael back then. It was too forbidden. It was, as Leviticus had written, an abomination. Even now, at age 20 and as logical as he had ever been, he feared for his very soul.
He had spent his high school years haranguing Michael with Bible verses, tears, and outright demands that he stop. Luckily, Michael didn’t look like someone that ate shellfish, and didn’t take the harassment that other suspected shellfish eaters took from vicious high school bullies. Jeremy prayed every night for God to rid Michael of his deviant behavior. That the two never came close to breaking up was a testament to their love.
When they were both 18, Michael came out of the freezer. And it seemed like the more he told people, the more people he wanted to tell. Jeremy was beside himself. How could they get married now? An Abstainer couldn’t marry a Shellfish Eater. But Jeremy could never leave Michael. And finally, a few weeks after Michael had come out, Jeremy told the love of his life that, yes, he had fantasized about eating shellfish. Not that Michael hadn’t figured that out years ago, mind you.
“Jeremy,” Michael said softly but firmly. “It’s time. Let go. It’s not an abomination. Leviticus says homosexuality is an abomination, as well. Does anyone pay that any attention?”
Jeremy chuckled nervously. He was a nervous chuckler. But Michael was right. What difference did it make to anyone? Whose business was it? Who was he hurting?
“No, they don’t,” said Jeremy, looking into his soul mate’s eyes with a smile. “They don’t.”
With that, Jeremy picked up the shrimp and put it to his lips. And then into his mouth. As he chewed he let out a small moan. He had taken his first step toward freedom.
Senator McBride was exhausted. The Shellfish situation was becoming a real problem. It seemed like ever since Ellen Degeneres came out as a Lobster Eater on her Popular TV show, a majority of the general public had decided to follow her. Or at very least, decided they just didn’t care that people consumed shellfish. It made no difference that Ellen’s show was canceled soon after (many felt she had been discriminated against, but the simple fact was that all her shows started to revolve around lobster and it just got sort of repetitive and preachy). A genie had been let out of the bottle and it wasn’t going back in any time soon.
The U.S. had always been a step behind when it came to civil rights. Women and African-Americans had to scrape, claw, protest and shout to get their voices heard and their votes to count. Still, even in 2010 there were sizable gaps in regard to the equality of women and minorities.
As for the Shellfish Eaters (“Shells” as they called themselves and “Eaters” as they were called derogatorily), the past decade had seen remarkable progress in their efforts to gain equality. There had been a cultural shift, as shellfish could now be eaten on TV – Network TV – and no one even blinked an eye. There were even prominent Shells that had come out of the freezer, and were applauded and respected for doing so.
But there was a hollowness to this liberation. Because to the right of all this acceptance was simmering hatred. There were still millions of Americans who not only abstained from Shellfish (Abstainers, they called themselves), but actively despised the Shells and truly wanted them to be eliminated.
Some demanded that Shells work to suppress their desires or pray them away. Some worked day and night to put laws on the books that would not just ban shellfish, but ban Shells themselves. Some just wanted to hurt or even murder Shells. There were scary people in the U.S., and more of them than anyone liked to imagine.
And because of this increasingly loud but increasingly small minority, true civil rights for Shells were still just a dream. Shells that had come out of the freezer couldn’t serve in the military, couldn’t adopt children, couldn’t get married, and were denied an almost incalculable amount of rights that Abstainers received.
“Think of the children,” was the common refrain. It made almost no sense, however. The desire to eat shellfish wasn’t something that could be passed along. You were either a Shell or you weren’t. The need to consume exoskeleton-bearing aquatic invertebrates wasn’t a choice. It was as natural as could be. Even most species of animals were involved in shellfish eating to one extent or another.
Senator McBride understood all of this. But as the Senator from Arizona, one of the nation’s most conservative states, it was his job to ignore it and do whatever he could to mollify his hyper-conservative Christian constituency. It was his job to put his foot on the gut of the Eaters.
Mind you, the Senator didn’t really care one way or the other. Votes were what mattered, not minorities, women or Shells. But this issue had taken on national significance. The blogs were out of control, screaming for Shell Civil Rights. The right to eat Shellfish – which was still outlawed in 45 states – had become a cause célèbre, with more and more celebrities and those with influence jumping into the water daily.
While Sen. McBride didn’t hate Shells, he did hate liberals. And liberal bloggers could all be lined up and shot on pay-per-view for all he cared. Actually, he fantasized about that a lot more often than was healthy. So when he stepped up to the Senate podium to give his remarks about a bill that would repeal the U.S. military’s ban on Shells, he concentrated on the Liberals. Screw them.
“My friends, I know the military. I am a proud veteran, and I tell you now that allowing Eaters to openly infiltrate our military will put every last American at risk. I stand firmly against Eaters in the military. Eaters can take the road to Hell if they like, but they will not take this country with them! Not while I’m in this Senate!”
Sen. McBride took a breath and surveyed the Senate. On the right, his Republican colleagues cheered, some even hooted and hollered. To his left, he saw his Democratic foes looking at him with disgust. This. This was what it was all about for the long-time Senator and one-time Presidential candidate. And he was just getting started.
At the exact same moment that Sen. McBride was working to deny Jeremy’s rights as an American citizen, Jeremy was outside of Congress holding a protest sign.
“Shrimp is not a 4-Letter Word: Equal Rights Now!” the sign said. It was just one of hundreds of signs in a peaceful protest rally that had drawn thousands of Shells and Shell Allies. Standing next to his man, Jeremy felt a swell of pride run through his body.
The six months prior to this protest had been the best of his life. After weeks of nibbling on lobster, crayfish, shrimp, oysters and other shelled delicacies in the privacy of their own home, Jeremy could not take it anymore. Things felt so good. So right. He was fulfilled. He was finally free and he wanted to shout it out to the world. And he did. With Michael at his side, he came out of the freezer to his parents.
It went terribly. His mother cried. His father threw them out of the house.
“I did not raise a disgusting eater!” his father screamed at him as they left.
It hurt Jeremy terribly. He had lost his family because of something some idiot had written a billion years ago. He decided to stay in the freezer. That lasted a day. It was too late. He was out now, and there was no going back.
Two week’s later, Jeremy’s father called and asked his son to come visit him. When his father told him that all he wanted was his son, and his eating habits were nothing to him, a weight came off Jeremy’s chest. In time, his entire family not only learned to accept Jeremy as a Shell, but they supported him, as well.
This. This was what it was all about for the long-time frozen Shell. And he was just getting started.
With Sen. McBride’s help, the ban on Shells in the military stayed in place. Shells still could not get married. An employer still could fire a Shell just for being a Shell. Shellophobes were more blatant than ever.
But at that moment, the Senator could care less. He was crying. Actually, he was bawling as he sat in front of Pastor Doug.
“I’m sooooo screwed,” whined Sen. McBride, a small snot bubble forming and popping.
The Pastor looked down at him. His arrival at the Senator’s home was part of the well-oiled public relations effort to revive McBride’s image after he had been caught throwing down oysters in a Las Vegas motel room. The public was outraged at the hypocrisy.
So the Senator cried. And he cried real tears. Because one of the women he was eating oysters with was actually a liberal blogger. He had been a Shell since he was 12, but was so far in the freezer he had a burn. There had been rumors, of course, but no one dared make such an accusation in public about a war hero. But this Liberal blogger had him dead to rights, and the Internet exploded with the news. The secret video the blogger had taken became the year’s most viewed. Sen. McBride’s secret life as a Shell had gone viral.
“People will forget,” said Pastor Doug, thinking about the money that would pour into his church for his breakthrough performance as the man who saved Sen. McBride’s soul. “Just start focusing on immigration issues and everything will be just fine.”
“Shut Up!” shouted McBride, standing up and taking a deep breath. His re-election chances had taken a mighty blow. The public wanted a True Abstainer, not an Abstainer in name only. He was screwed. And he knew it.
“Fucking liberals!” he shouted at no one in particular.
Jeremy and Michael never heard them coming. Walking down the street, holding hands after enjoying a delicious feast of shrimp scampi at the medical shellfish restaurant (not having shellfish gave them headaches, they told the doctor), they were in their own private heaven. How could God punish someone for doing what came so naturally and felt so right, thought Jeremy? He looked at his fiancee and smiled, love making him feel almost dizzy. And then Jeremy saw Michael take off and fly away.
“You fucking Eaters are going to Hell,” screamed one of the attackers. Jeremy felt a flash of fear. And then he felt the back of his head explode. And the lights went out.
Five days later, someone turned on the lights again. Jeremy’s eyes opened. And Michael was the first thing he saw.
“Hey Honey,” said Michael, his eyes swollen from tears but his smile dazzling. “They said I might see you today. We got attacked. But you’re going to be Ok.”
Michael leaned over and gave Jeremy the lightest kiss he could. To Jeremy, it felt like a punch in the mouth, so bruised was his entire face. But the kiss was also the most delicious he had ever been given. He smiled up at Michael. Or at least tried to smile. His face would take a year and two surgeries to fix.
“We’re going to be Ok,” said Jeremy, through his broken teeth. To Michael, the words sounded like “Werging Bee Kays.” But he understood what his lover had said, nonetheless.
With that, Jeremy closed his eyes. And for whatever reason, for the first time, he really believed they’d be Ok. The fight would continue, and he’d be there. He’d march, protest, write letters and vote. He wouldn’t quit. There would be equal rights for Shells, and if some Shellophobes thought this beating was taking him out of the fight, they had another thing coming.
Because Jeremy had finally, truly come out of his shell.
Crossposted at William K. Wolfrum Chronicles