"Competition of the Week" story # 11

Grand Rapids, Michigan           October 6, 2001

Octopus Love

It was said
that when she
did her famed "owl-defense" mechanism -
the last resort of our species, when threatened -
her face swelled up as cute and round
as a bowling bowl
that had travelled down the greasy lane
that is my artery,
with just a touch of spin,
due to that where her head folds back it's a bit lob-sided,
and barreled over the pins
that are my left and right hearts, respectively -
a masterful split I would've bet 100-1 against.
And even though I love
"cuttin' a little lane in the ugly, red shoe,"
as my buddy, Ernie, and I jokingly refer to it,
I didn't want
to see her "owl-defense" mechanism,
because that would mean she was scared of me -
probably taking me for a
hungry pilot whale,
wanting to bite off her mantle
and litter the water with tentacle pieces and ink.
I wanted
to make her change from white to red -
not because a meddling sea-turtle
had spooked her,
wanting to back her against a rock
and nibble her like gummi-bears
until there was nothing left of her but eyes -
no, I wanted her
to be calling me over,
summoning me
for my third tentacle's love eel
and asking
that I sensuously insert it
in that oh-so beautiful opening on her left-right-left tentacle
in a moment
of ship-sinking passion -
and, yes, it would be passion,
because I'd just met her,
and, frankly,
I tend to agree when Ernie says,
"If love at first sight existed and was free,
then why does this bottle of beer I'm holding
seem like the best damn thing that ever happened,
and it cost three bucks?"
- but it'd be good passion,
not the kind you regret the next day
as you're digging in the mud after shellfish,
the meaning of your existence
as you've reached mid-life, at age three,
and you're alone,
slaving as someone's secretary
because you've got eight fricken hands and type 400 words a minute,
and your only possession
is literally a hole in the wall of coral,
and you've been hopelessly as bald as a baby's butt
your whole life,
and those cursed squid keep getting all the -
I mean, yes, it'd be good passion.
Good passion, indeed,
because they say
she was flexible,
able to fit her whole, voluptuous body
in a glass bottle,
even her beak.

Of course, I remember
the day I met her -
heck, my kindred retain
of the whole nearby ocean floor
in our heads!
I could even tell you,
without looking,
that there's a jar of sea-cucumbers,
a two-week old box of A Slice For Each Arm Pizza,
and half a clam
in the back row of my fridge. I
remember. Her body dragged itself into my life,
as gracefully as a mophead
used to clean
the pitcher of beer
Ernie drops almost every league night
once he gets in his routy mood.
Sitting at the bar,
she teased me
as her delicate, red, beak lips caressed her lucky gum,
causing the suckers on my tentacles
to get hard
in a way not like the time Ernie
had puked in the ball-return
and I thought we were going to get arrested for the mess.
I approached
her. "Hi," I said.
"Hey," she gargled,
her voice sounding like an air-bubble
rising to the ocean's surface, the unknown above,
possibly heaven-bound.
"Why don't you tell your idiot friend
to stop dancing on the table
with all three pairs of his underwear on his head,
singing Ringo Starr?"
"Oh? Ernie?" I said,
"he's great." Feeling wonderful.
I'm sure she was, too, but
one minute, I was lost in her eyes,
pink as the delicious,
dead salmon
that somehow sunk past the upper-level predators
and into my den.
The next -
her eyes
were suddenly pierced from behind by two crab claws.
An Alaskan Blue towered over me,
his mandibles twitching busily
as if to laugh
at me
in slow-motion cruelty.
The tank walked away,
the limp legs of my beauty
dangling from his grip.
It was the worst thing I'd seen
bowling alley thugs had stretched Ernie
and used him as a trampoline
after he'd stiffed them
on a $40 bet that he could throw a folding chair,
using his left-left-left tentacle,
and knock over only the five-pin.
My middle heart was broken.
Though I'd known the mysterious vixen
for only a second,
I must admit,
I'd been in love.
Crushed, I would return to work the next day,
and return to digging through the mud after oysters too.
Luckily, I have two hearts more.
Luckily, I'm not Ernie.
And luckily, this poem only took
ninety seconds
to type.

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