The Magic Lobster

By: Michelle Nedboy

I was ten years old when my parents wanted to move back to Manhattan. I was in the fourth grade and this news was devastating. I had always noticed when other kids moved away, whether they were my friend or not, and I remember feeling grounded and lucky because I wasn’t going to move, ever. But I was wrong. There were a lot of things I liked about living in New Jersey; like my front and back yards, last minute playdates after school, and the village in town where we’d eat pizza and buy toys. We lived there for roughly seven years; it had been my childhood. I wasn’t ready to be raised in the city with the dizzying streets and menacing kids; I was never ready. But my parents were set on it. It meant a better education for me. It meant I could take fifth grade in the city and climb my way up to a good high school. One that didn’t have the same kids from grade school or the crummy curriculum. One that believed in teaching science and history; I didn’t know about kinetic energy, or the American Revolution. All I knew was how to grow beans in a soda bottle and the state’s national bird. I didn’t care about any of that. I just wanted to finish elementary school with my friends. I wanted to play tug-of-war at Field Day with all of the other fifth graders, something I’d waited for since the first grade. The move was going to happen and I couldn’t really do anything about it.

It was the summer before fifth grade and nothing much had happened. Some people in suits visited and talked with my parents about the house and I stayed in my room. Weeks went by and the house was still ours. We were still here. More weeks went by. It was cutting close, the housing market wasn’t doing too well. My parents were stressed, but I was ecstatic. Maybe we wouldn’t move after all. I could stay in my little New Jersey house and grow up with my friends and never have to worry about leaving. I could live in this house forever. We went to dinner one night, a week before school started. We were out in East Hampton at our favorite spot, where I had been going since I could eat at restaurants and my parents even longer. I mused to myself as we sat and waited for our table, the lobster buzzer in my hand (it was fish-themed), waiting for it to buzz red in anticipation. My mom and I had this game we played to pass the time, where she’d ask me when I thought the lobster would ring and I’d guess like some sort of fortune teller. So she asked me, “When do you think the lobster will ring?” And I said, “Very soon,” with the confidence of a ten year old. I was hauntingly right, as the lobster buzzed that very moment. Our eyes went a little haywire and my mom jumped at the opportunity: “Quick! Do you think we’re going to sell the house?” I didn’t want to say yes. I really didn’t. I wanted to say no and to have it over and done with. But I said yes, because it’s what I believed, against all the odds and my loathing. “Yes.” And that was all. We ate and thought nothing of it, really.

The next day, we got the call. Someone was interested in the house. My heart dropped and my parents’ soared. We sold the house, I still live in New York City, and it ended up being the best move of my life thus far.


A version of this post originally appeared in “Tenacity” The Teller October 2019 Issue #7

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