Delmont walked into the bar, three sheets to the nonexistent wind. With no low pressure front in sight, Delmont’s drunkenness was the only metaphorical breeze in town. The air conditioning died three weeks ago and it was hotter than a goat’s butt in a pepper patch. Vernon, the manager of the bar, kept leaving messages for the repair man who lived on the other side of the sound. Despite the fact the woman who works down at the ferry office saw the a/c guy’s obituary in the paper a week ago; Vernon kept calling and leaving increasingly irate messages for a dead man.
Delmont was already good and pickled, marinated in brine and sweat and bourbon and tears; thanks in part to some liquor store gift certificates which subsidized his emotional breakdown. Delmont was also depressed. Before the effects of the cheap bourbon slammed into his central nervous system, he was, according the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (IV) suffering from the stressful events and life changes characteristic of a major depressive episode.
Delmont’s major depressive episode began three days earlier. Memorial Day weekend was meant to be a family occasion. He ran the drop cord from the window to the front yard. Delmont set up the camp stove and the little television so they could watch Judge Judy while he cooked. Amid the smell of decaying crustacean flesh caused by boiling shrimp for a few minutes, Delmont’s second cousin (and third wife) informed him she was leaving.
“It’s over, I done met somebody else,” Harmony announced.
Delmont didn’t understand, “What kind of woman tells a man she’s leaving when he’s in the middle of cooking shrimp? I’m still going to want to eat after you leave; you don’t want me to ruin this very delicate process. “
Delmont’s shrimp contained a high concentration of sugars. If heat is applied, even a tiny amount, the amino acids and sugars in the shrimp do a chemical dance which produces fine tasting food. Delmont didn’t know the science, per se, only that you shouldn’t over cook the shrimp. When they to turn from transparent to opaque, it’s time to move. Delmont soon forgot about the shrimp.
“You ain’t listening, Delmont. I met someone else,” she said. “This ain’t about the shrimp.”
Delmont was in denial. Harmony claimed to have met a traveling art salesman who worked the hotel circuit. She said this happened sometime after Easter. He specialized in selling portraits of mischievous cherubs and adorable kittens to resort hotels. Delmont hadn’t been in a hotel since his second honeymoon with his first wife but he remembered the pictures from the hotel wall.
Glenn, the art guy, offered a care free life on the road in a 1989 Honda Civic. (Delmont drove a 1987 Dodge truck which was no longer ram tough or able to pass state inspection.) When he wasn’t selling paintings, he was hitting the flea markets all up and down the east coast. Delmont didn’t know what to say. First his shrimp, then his cousin, now his wife (who were one in the same); Delmont’s life was slipping away.
Harmony’s exit from Delmont’s world was the rock bottom experience he never expected. The first two divorces were easy. Kicked to the curb for riding too close to the center line with Harmony by Cheyenne and Cheyenne by Debbie, Delmont had never been left with the over cooked shrimp and the empty trailer.
Hotter than hell in a bar without air conditioning, officially diagnosed as depressed, Delmont found himself uttering those five words, “This ain’t about the shrimp.”
“What’s it about?” asked the bartender.
Delmont thought for a moment. He had seen couples visiting the local cemeteries up and down the island. Standing for a moment before a grave, trying to do the math in their head to determine how old or young someone was when they died. He always laughed at the amazement in people’s voices when they realized people in the 19th century died at a young age. They always appeared to be shocked to see someone from the 1800’s who died in their 30’s. They always said, “How tragic”. No one ever says, “How typical”.
Maybe he shouldn’t be as shocked when he did the math about his own life. How typical. It’s so easy to underestimate the weight of the water, you can cook to long, overestimate the catch, and forget that the shrimp you’re trying to eat are ultimately, full of their own poop. Sometimes the tragic and the typical, like a second cousin who’s also your wife, are one in the same.