Recap #298: Froid Dans Le Dos #15: Le Homard En Cavale
Title: Froid Dans Le Dos #15 – Le Homard En Cavale, a.k.a. “Bone Chillers #??? – Here Comes Sandy Claws”
Author: Betsy Haynes (Maybe)
Cover Artist: Tim Jacobus
Tagline: Joyeux Noel!
Summary: What A Good Catch!
Ah! What a pleasure: the Florida sea, the palm trees, the beach. Well, rather a true nightmare! When a boat filled with toxic products destroys the seawall and throws all of its cargo into the water, one can only fear for the worst: for example, that a lobster turns into a cruel and berserk monster! And that he attacks two children, hunting them down without mercy… Really, Tricia and her brother Duncan are not ready to forget these holidays!
Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays, Point Horror! You would not BELIEVE the lengths I had to go through to bring us this very special recap of a Bone Chillers book that was NEVER released in America.
I learned of this book’s existence on twitter thanks to the wonderful Getting_GB and Spongey445. While discussing my difficulty of finding a copy of “The Jungle,” the last book in the Doomsday Mall series, my mention of buying a French copy brought up the topic of this Bone Chillers book. Apparently, “Le Homard En Cavale” was only released on the French market. It’s got no counterpart to the English language Bone Chillers and there’s practically no info about it anywhere.
Spongey was able to confirm Tim Jacobus did the cover, but Jacobus had no other info about the book. I immediately bought a copy for myself off Amazon. As soon as the book arrived I checked the publishing facts inside trying to determine if Betsy Haynes wrote this or if it was ghostwritten. For some reason, the name “Gene Hult” was included. I contacted Gene through an email and he confirmed while he has ghostwritten two Bone Chillers (“Queen of the Gargoyles” and “Scare Bear”) he had nothing to do with this one.
Interestingly, frustratingly, the publishing info revealed this book’s English title is “Here Comes Sandy Claws.”
SING WITH ME, EVERYONE!
HOWEVER, it’s also listed as Bone Chillers #29. This doesn’t really make sense, since “Romeo and Ghouliette” was #23 and the last of the books to be published. Was the #29 a mistake, or were there plans for six more books that never got finished and “Here Comes Sandy Claws” slipped through the cracks? Jacobus and Hult both were unsure if there were other books and I’m trying to track down more leads to investigate.
Now I was all set on translating this book using Google Translate, but I got lucky and discovered mask131 on tumblr is a Bone Chillers fan AND they’re from France. In exchange for scanning “Romeo and Ghouliette” for them, they offered to translate “Here Comes Sandy Claws” into English for me. Let’s all give a round of applause for mask131 and their efforts to bring this mysterious piece of YA Horror history to the English-speaking fandom. [Wing: Thank you! This is a wonderful gift to the community.]
Wing, before we go further I need to know, I’m aware of your spider trigger but I’m not sure how you feel about lobsters. [Wing: I think they’re delicious.]
Tricia Wheeler tried to conspire with her brother Duncan so they could escape their upcoming doom, but Duncan lacked faith in his sister’s brainstorming. While Tricia figured the two could sneak onto their parents’ cruise ship and hide until the boat was on the middle of the ocean, Duncan pointed out the fatal flaw in her plan. How exactly can the two get onto the ship AFTER they get dropped off at their grandparents’ place. Stymied, Tricia realized she hadn’t thought that out yet.
This year, instead of enjoying a snowy Christmas at home with their friends in Minneapolis, Duncan and Tricia were being dragged to Florida. The Wheeler siblings were being dumped with their grandparents while Mom and Dad got to spend two weeks on a Caribbean cruise. In the front seat, the parents excitedly chattered about their cruise not noticing (or possibly caring) how miserable Tricia and Duncan were. Just then, Mrs. Mom announced they arrived at Palm Grove much to Tricia’s disgust.
WELCOME TO PALM GROVE, PARADISE OF THE THIRD AGE
SUN AND QUIET FOR ALL THE RETIRED,
IN THE UNIQUE LANDSCAPE OF FLORIDA!
Duncan could already imagine it. While all his friends got to have snowball fights and potentially contract hypothermia, and his mom and dad got to eat, sunbathe, and get drunk off their asses, Duncan and Tricia would be the only 10 and 9 year olds in a retirement community. All around them were old people riding what looked like huge tricycles, eating enormous ice creams or hanging out in front of slot machines. It was disgusting. Like seriously, Jesus did NOT die for this shit to go on during Christmas.
Tricia vainly hoped their grandparents wouldn’t be home, but no such luck. Not only were Grandpa and Grandma home, they were eagerly awaiting Duncan and Tricia’s arrival. They oo’ed and aah’ed at how big Duncan and Tricia had gotten before reminding Mumsy and Dadums not to miss their boat. The Grands promised the kids were in good hands. Grandma espouses Palm Grove’s just lovely this time of year, especially the beach. And hey, they’ve gotta hurry if the kids wanna see Santa Claus!
A beach and Santa Claus. Duncan and Tricia could hard-lie wait.
Duncan couldn’t believe his grandparents thought him and his sister were still babies. I mean, the water might be fun but they had to sit through Grandma covering them from head to toe in sunscreen. At least their house was next to the beach.
Elderly and childling Wheelers headed for the beach, Grandmater Wheeler armed with a bag of cookies and orange juice. To Duncan’s dismay, there were no other children. It was practically a geriatric sea. Suddenly someone pointed to the water and people started getting excited. Tricia got excited too when saw Santa Claus coming in from the ocean!
Well, in Duncan’s opinion this was a rather odd Santa. The beard was short and neatly trimmed, and Santa had on Bermuda shorts with rubber boots. This Santa reached into a bag and threw candy, wishing everyone a Merry Christmas. The elderly beachgoers and even Tricia were having fun, catching candy and waving to Santa. Duncan could care less about the candy, but that speedboat Santa rode on was a different story. He could only imagine how fast such a boat could go, and all “Santa” used it for was to give candy to old people.
And what was that name?!
Who names a speedboat “Slowdown Joe?!”
Duncan had no way of knowing that, soon, both Wheeler siblings would find out about “Slowdown Joe.” And they would have a Christmas neither of them would ever forget.
Regardless of the name, Duncan was entranced by the sheer power of Slowdown Joe. It seemed like such a waste to be used for entertaining old folks and giving out candy. It was certainly more appealing than sitting around, eating cookies with Grandma and Grandpa. Imagine what such a boat could do in the right hands…
Duncan was woken from his blissful daydreams by Tricia. Annoyed, he demanded to know what his awful sister wanted from him.
“Me? Nothing. I can do without you.”
Ooh burn! Anyway, Tricia explained their grandparents had been trying to get Duncan’s attention for like five minutes. Grandmum decided it was time to leave, even though it felt like they only just arrived. Well the matriarch was worried about everyone getting sunburned. Duncan’s face was already starting to get red. Plus, they have to start decorating the Christmas tree!
Deciding not to annoy his impatient grandmother, Duncan left the beach with Tricia while listening to Grandpops exclaim what a thrill it was to have Santa Claus visit. Behind the ancients’ backs, Tricia and Duncan both look appalled. They figured the entire trip would consist of them being treated like they were four years old. Dad’s parents were old enough to truly consider Tricia and Duncan to be babies.
Looking back, Duncan could see Slowdown Joe was a dot on the horizon and felt a crushing despair.
Boredom slowly drained Duncan’s energy as he was stuck inside with his sister and grandparents. He kept wistfully gazing out the French windows in the living room towards the ocean, hoping to see Slowdown Joe speeding through the waves. Grandma was so god damn cheerful, playing Christmas music and trying to lead everyone into singing while they trimmed the tree. Duncan might’ve been a killjoy, but Tricia found herself having fun. In Duncan’s eyes, that made Tricia a traitor abandoning her only brother.
Once the decorating was finished, the grands announced they’d be having dinner at Barnabe‘s Lair. Its specialty is lobster and it’s NAMED after a lobster too. They keep Barnabe in a tank and he’s supposedly enormous. He’s also 47 years old, making him possibly the biggest and oldest lobster known to mankind. Tricia was easily impressed. Duncan was not so easily impressed.
Siblings! So acute, yet so obtuse!
Thankfully, Barnabe‘s Lair was located on a pier giving the Wheelers a good view of the ocean. While Duncan continued to hope for another glance of Slowdown Joe, he was at least happy with the restaurant decor. Barnabe‘s Lair was tastefully decorated to look like the inside of a pirate ship, sticking with a theme but not overdoing it.
And man, the grands weren’t kidding when they said Barnabe the Lobster was big. He was ENORMOUS. Barnabe could barely fit in the tank, making him immobile. Only his antennae twitched from time to time, as Barnabe‘s black, portruding eyes stared off at the sea. It was almost as though the creature were hypnotized.
…I mean, you stick a lobster inside a tank where he can’t move, inside a restaurant that specialized in lobster dinner, and give him a clear view of the sea where he could be living safe and sound, that’s gonna happen.
[Wing: WTF restaurant. What. The. Fuck. Why are you torturing that poor thing?]
Duncan and Tricia both tried to get Barnabe‘s attention; Duncan tapped on the glass while Tricia pressed her face up against and called to the poor red devil like he was a dog. Grandmummy Wheeler told the two to knock it off, since dinner had arrived. Tonight they were having homard à l’américaine, which looked delicious. Duncan finally started to unclench, figuring his grandparents had been pretty nice to him and his sister so maybe he wasn’t being fair to them.
The grands taught the kids how to crack open and peel a lobster. Duncan placed two lemon slices over the eyes of his meal so it wouldn’t stare at him. Just as he started to savor that first bite of cooked lobster, Barnabe went fucking berserk! The huge lobster furiously banged its claws against the glass.
I MEAN, YOU’RE EATING WHAT MIGHT’VE BEEN A RELATIVE OF HIS. MAYBE THOSE WERE HIS KIDS. OH MY GOD ARE YOU EATING HIS BABIES????
Duncan and Tricia were both freaked out by Barnabe‘s violent behavior. The grands were also a bit unnerved, since Barnabe’s usually rather docile. Something must’ve upset him. Well, Barnabe’s outburst had completely ruined Duncan and Tricia’s appetites. Duncan felt bad because their meal had been one of the most expensive on the menus, but the kids simply couldn’t eat after what happened.
Oh but look, Santa came back!
Duncan noticed the Santa from the beach had arrived, only instead of shorts and boots he had on an elegant looking jacket and pants suit. Santa was accompanied by a dark-haired woman. Mrs. Claus? Santa addressed the Wheeler grandparents as Georges and Madeline. Santa and his gal pal were addressed as Joe and Esther.
I get it.
Georges and Madeline introduced the grandkids to Joe and Esther. Duncan couldn’t help but gush about how awesome the Slowdown Joe looked, and exclaimed he’d do anything to ride on it. Granny Madeline was a bit embarrassed, but Joe was thankful for the compliment. It is indeed a pretty sweet ride.
Joe said he’d be happy to have the Wheeler kids on his boat. In fact, Palm Grove usually has a sort of Christmas boat parade every year. The boats, ships, and yachts get decorated and are unveiled at night with all sorts of illumination. There’re even prizes for the best decorated boats, and Joe hoped to win 1st place this year. He was more than eager to let Duncan and Tricia join him during the parade.
Georges wasn’t too sure about letting the kids ride on the Slowdown Joe until Madeline saved the day and said the kids could join Joe if they wanted.
Duncan went to bed that night dreaming of sailing upon the sea on the Slowdown Joe. He’d forgotten all about Barnabe the Lobster.
At breakfast, Georges explained the name “Slowdown Joe” came from all the other boat owners always telling Joe to slow down. He was a speed freak, and he’d be forced to pilot his boat at a normal pace with the rest of the boats in the parade. Duncan felt a twinge of pain. It would be pure torture to have a boat that fast and be forced to move at a snail’s pace. [Wing: He’s not wrong.]
Slow seemed to be the theme of the day, as the Wheelers hung out at the beach simply relaxing. It was pretty dull; there were no other kids aside from Duncan and Tricia. The one interesting person on the beach was an old guy with a handlebar mustache, using a metal detector to look for coins and valuables hidden in the sand.
The highlight of the day was a phone call from Esther. Duncan practically threw himself on top of the machine before he answered. Esther explained it be best for everyone to show up at the Slowdown Joe a half-hour before the parade started so they could get in line with the other boats. Duncan offered to arrive earlier to help with the decorating, but Esther promised they had that taken care of.
The Wheelers arrived at 6:30 and were sincerely impressed; the boat owners clearly went all out for the parade. Many had decorated their ships with multicolored, twinkling lights, and others had paintings of holiday imagery on their sails. Angels, nativities under starry skies, even the three Wise Men.
I think this is the first time in the YA horror genre, barring “Not A Creature Was Stirring,” I’ve ever seen explicit reference to religious imagery in Christmas tales.
Esther and Joe, on the other hand, were NOT fuckin’ around.
Esther and Joe hadn’t been playing around. On their boat was a sleigh filled with gifts and with six reindeers! They were on the bow of the boat, and it looked like they were ready to fly in the sky. With that, the Slowdown Joe was sure to win the first prize!
The Wheelers were handed Santa hats and asked to take their seats. Dunc and Trish could hardly stay still and positioned themselves next to the sleigh, hoping to make sure everyone could see them. Surrounded by all those lights, Trish felt like they were in a giant Christmas tree.
Dunc still had the need, though.
so he joined Joe in the cockpit. Joe was glad Duncan seemed to be having a good time, and offered to let HIM handle the wheel for a bit when they were in the deep sea. Man, this was the best Christmas ever for a kid like Duncan!
Joe even agreed with Duncan on how fast they should be going. It was kind of a pain having to move the boat so slowly with all the others.
Say, Duncan, how about a little race?
Joe broke out of the line and moved the boat faster than the rest. As people stared, they shouted “Slow down, Joe!” OHHHH LIKE THE NAME OF THE BOAT I, I just, I just got that, Wing. I get things. I’m a getter.
Madeline was worried about the increase in velocity, while Georges was having fun and Tricia held onto the railing. Everyone seemed impressed by Joe’s, snerk, showboating as he sped in front of Barnabe’s Lair to impress the judges. Duncan had a blast…
Until he caught sight of Barnabe the Lobster through the windows of the restaurant. Duncan could see Barnabe banging his claws against the tank, and he seemed to be looking straight at Duncan. It was an angry, menacing glare.
Duncan felt, deep inside, he’d made an enemy.
Wow so Bone Chillers has given us the heartwarming story of children and their dog bonding with a lonely turkey AND kids being threatened by a mascot lobster. [Wing: If that lobster should be threatening anyone it’s the restaurant people who keep it in that too-small tank. Your need for vengeance is short-sighted, sea creature.]
All of a sudden, the crew of the Slowdown Joe noticed a smell. A smelly smell. A smelly smell that smells kind of… smelly. Esther thought Joe might’ve spilled ammonia on the boat, but that wasn’t it. Out in the water, there was some kind of oily substance.
“Your attention everyone. Harbor master’s office speaking. An important quantity of dangerous chemical products was accidentally spilled out from a tanker near Palm Grove. We ask all the boats to return to shore. The parade is cancelled. I repeat: the parade is cancelled.”
Oh God, and it was heading right for the Slowdown Joe!
Quick, call Stephen King he’ll know what to do!
Everyone on board the ship started taking down the decorations as Joe turned the Slowdown Joe around to head back for the dock. As the boats passed by the toxic spill, they imagined in disgust what it would probably do to the poor sealife.
Oh but wait, Joe began to speed up again. He hadn’t noticed Barnabe’s Lair coming up because the lights had been turned off. Just as he turned on his headlights, the restaurant loomed up in front of the boat. They were going to crash!
Joe tried to turn the boat at the last second, but it was too late. The boat crashed into one of the pillars. Thankfully no one was hurt and the boat wasn’t too damaged, but then HOLY SHIT BARNABE’S TANK WENT CRASHING THROUGH THE BAY WINDOWS! BARNABE FELL RIGHT INTO THE TOXIC SPILL!
R.I.P. Barnabe, another victim of industrial pollution.
At least, that’s what Duncan hoped…
Due to the polluted water, Christmas Eve was a miserable affair. The water was an unhealthy green, and everyone had to stay inside with their windows shut due to the fumes. It stank. I mean it REALLY stank. Tricia was optimistic; reports said the spill wasn’t that big and the waters will be safe in a couple of days. However, Trish was definitely sick of her brother’s dismal attitude and accused of never being happy about anything.
God I’m the older sibling but I know how Tricia feels when my own brother acts like a little shit during the holidays.
Madeline told her grandbabies to stop fighting and advised they watch some TV. Duncan didn’t want to watch the news since it was discussing the toxic spill, but Tricia kept it on as the report covered Barnabe’s death. No one could locate Barnabe’s remains, and there was Joe on camera trying to apologize for his reckless behavior. He loved Barnabe as much as everyone else in Palm Grove. Barnabe was like a symbol of Palm Grove. Well from now on, Joe Blaise is gonna be the most responsible boat owner on the Gulf of Mexico.
The mere statement horrified Duncan, who couldn’t get enough of Slowdown Joe’s power. He wasn’t gonna tell his sister that, of course. Dunc told Trish sure, it’s great that Joe publically apologized. Tricia then proposed they could help look for Barnabe’s remains.
With permission from their grandparents (and wet towels to press against their noses if the toxic fumes were too much (I-I have no idea if this is a thing people do, but whatever)), the kids promised they wouldn’t stay out too long. Because apparently the life of a 47 year old lobster means more to Georges and Madeline than their grandchildren.
I mean I’m kidding, but still.
There was only one policeman stationed at the beach to ward people off from trying to swim. There were other people out, all wearing scarves and balaclavas to cover themselves from the fumes. They were all talking about whether or not Barnabe was dead. Maybe he swam away. Maybe his tank turned upside down and it’s protecting him from the pollution. Barnabe was quickly becoming the new JFK.
Duncan thought about that hateful glare from Barnabe’s eyes, and hoped somewhere a great white shark had devoured the old lobster.
Duncan’s hopes were quickly dashed when a lobster tank bubbled up to the surface of the water.
An EMPTY lobster tank.
Dunc and Trish were so exhausted that by the end of the day they’d simply thrown themselves into bed without even taking their clothes off. [Wing: After all that exposure to chemicals? Gross.] Tricia tried to be more empathetic than her brother, and expressed her sorrow for poor Barnabe. Duncan was unmoved, thinking the lobster was clearly out to get them after they way he acted in his tank. Tricia tried to look at it from another perspective.
“Maybe he was just in a bad mood because his tank was too small,” [Duncan’s] sister noted. “Or maybe he wanted to attract our attention.”
“To do what?”
“I don’t know… because he felt lonely… and because he understood that we were new at Palm Grove, and also feeling lonely. He didn’t want to scare us, but just to call us for help.”
Duncan reasoned his sister hadn’t seen the angry look in the creature’s eyes the night of the parade, but no, Tricia was sure Barnabe must’ve been a very kind animal.
That night, Duncan had been woken up by something. A sound. A loud sound. Was it coming from the roof? Duncan woke up his sister and told her about the noise. Oh, sure, it’s probably Santa, Tricia thought. Duncan wasn’t in the mood to be mocked, especially when the loud sound turned into a loud SCRATCHING sound.
Of course the smart thing to do was good outside to check. Out on the balcony, brother and sister looked up to see what appeared to be a big, green, slimy tail.
I’m reminded of a quote from the ever wise Lori Beth Dingberg of Vital Information For Your Everyday Life.
RUN LIKE THE WIND, THAT AIN’T SANTA!
Barnabe the Lobster was back, and he… did not look good.
Suddenly, the giant lobster appeared right above him. Under the moonlight, his shell seemed fluorescent. He looked at Duncan and Tricia with his eyes as big as billiard balls.
The two children walked back, terrified. The crustacean had grown enormous. He was far much bigger than his fish tank now. He was now tall enough to reach Duncan’s shoulder. His head had stayed relatively small, except for his eyes and antennas, but his tail was now monstrous. He walked slowly, atop of eight skeletal legs. The most frightening thing about him was however without a doubt his claws.
With that, he can crush down anything, Duncan thought while trembling.
Dunc and Trish had to avoid both the lobster’s giant claws as well as the toxic goo dropping from them. Even Tricia had to admit in this new form, Barnabe did NOT seem like a happy animal. [Wing: He didn’t seem like one in his old form, either!] Duncan tried to figure out what to do. The balcony wrapped around the entire sixth floor they were on. Could the kids sneak up behind Barnabe and push him off?
No, too dangerous, especially considering Barnabe was covered in toxic nastiness.
Duncan considered getting Barnabe inside to wash off the crap. It was guesswork right now; they had no idea what Barnabe wanted to do. Or rather, what he wanted to do to THEM. Dunc urged his sister to get inside and open one of the windows. Barnabe watched Tricia the whole time without moving.
Alone with the best, Duncan feared what those claws were capable of and slowly, without taking his eyes off the lobster, moved inside after his sister. Barnabe then fell onto the balcony as Duncan tried to coax him inside. Despite his size, Barnabe moved so fast that Duncan barely made it into the bathroom. Tricia had the cold water running full blast into the shower, and Duncan threw himself out of the way at the very last second as Barnabe ran into the shower stall.
Slamming the door shut, Duncan and Tricia watched as the cold water rinsed off the green gunk from Barnabe’s body. The lobster was steadily becoming a shade of red once again.
So now what?
The lobster did seem calmer, so Duncan tentatively held out a towel for Barnabe. Barnabe grabbed the towel in one of his claws and proceeded to rip it to shreds.
They gave him a shower and now he wants to kill them. r00d.
Duncan and Tricia ran out of the flat with Barnabe after them. They couldn’t take the elevator, because if Barnabe lost sight of them NOW what would stop him from going after their grandparents? The kids had to get the lobster out of the building for everyone’s safety. Dunc and Trish made it to the apartment staircase and ran down, looking up to see Barnabe on the sixth floor.
Hey, if he doesn’t know how to make it down the stairs, would he just jump down and crush them? What if there was still pollution on Barnabe’s shell?
Barnabé quickly found a way. He simply retracted his legs and let his body slide down the staircase, as if it was a toboggan.
[Wing: Haha, okay, that’s wonderful. Why isn’t this animated?]
The kids hurried into the building’s lobby, closing the door behind them as Barnabe banged against it. Thankfully the door was solid, but Barnabe couldn’t be left alone or he’d wreck everything. Tricia made the sensible notion of calling the cops or the fire department. Could they take a chance that Barnabe wouldn’t hurt anyone until help arrived?
Outside the building, Duncan and Tricia couldn’t find a phone booth anywhere. And the longer it took them, the more Duncan thought about Barnabe getting back into the apartment.
To their sleeping grandparents.
Duncan finally remembered seeing a phone booth near the restaurant on the pier. Finally arriving to Barnabe’s Lair, the Wheeler siblings couldn’t believe how awful it smelled. The phone booth stood at the very end of the pier, a lone sentinel in the darkness. It was more than a bit creepy.
Tricia asked Duncan if he any money to make the call, but he pointed out emergency calls are free. Well, it didn’t matter in any event, because the phone wasn’t working.
Now they had to get back to the apartment and hope that Barnabe hadn’t gotten to anyone else in the building.
Those fears were laid to rest because Barnabe was ON THE PIER WITH THEM!
Duncan and Tricia’s horror grew just as it seemed Barnabe was growing, too! What the hell was IN the water, mutant growth hormone?! Duncan didn’t know how to fight back, other than they had to at least incapacitate Barnabe somehow. Seeing Barnabe was now bigger, Duncan deduced the lobster lost some of his agility. They had to be fast and they had to be clever. If they got around Barnabe, they could push him down.
Tricia was having a hard time moving; she was paralyzed with fear. And with good reason because Barnabe went through a horrific change.
Right under the children’s wide-opened eyes, the giant lobster mutated. His head bloated, and soon found itself at the end of a very long and scaly neck. But the most horrible thing was its eyes. They weren’t black anymore, but bloodshot, and filled with hatred. His mouth had also turned monstrous. He opened it, revealing rows of sharp teeth.
Suddenly, to Tricia and Duncan’s horror, he started speaking:
“Look what you turned me into! You will pay for this!”
OH SHIT HE CAN TALK?! WAS NOT EXPECTING THAT.
[Wing: ONCE AGAIN BARNABE, YOUR VENGEANCE IS SHORT SIGHTED! GO AFTER THE PEOPLE WHO PUT YOU IN THAT TANK AND LEAVE YOU IN IT FOR YEARS.]
Duncan managed to shove his sister out of the way when Barnabe swung down one of his giant claws. The mutant lobster struggled to free itself from the broken wood, so the kids saw a chance to run. Barnabe screamed in rage and turned around, his mighty tail smacking the children down. Duncan found himself tumbling toward the toxic water!
Duncan saw Tricia hanging onto the guardrail for dear life. The Wheeler kids needed to hang onto something beneath the pier, so Barnabe couldn’t see them. Duncan had to convince his sister to let Barnabe THINK they fell into the water. Barnabe’s steps shook the pier, and Tricia was afraid of falling into the toxic stew.
Barnabe suddenly stopped moving.
And then a giant red claw burst through the planks, right near Duncan’s head!
Duncan hoped Barnabe’s claw was stuck once again, and whispered at his sister to maneuver towards the beach and away from the water. The kids had to hurry before they lost their grip, because Barnabe kept breaking through the planks to find them.
“You won’t escape me!” he groaned. “You belong to me!”
Well this just took a turn into Lifetime Movie of the Week territory.
Duncan and Tricia managed to throw themselves onto the sandy shore, away from the water and away from the pier. They couldn’t hear Barnabe, but now they had to run for help. But Duncan felt compelled to turn back, and saw the pier was deserted. Where did Barnabe go? Duncan dreaded the idea of Barnabe going back into the polluted ocean; how much more could the lobster change?
Tricia couldn’t see Barnabe anywhere on the beach, so he probably returned to the ocean. Her suspicions were confirmed when they saw a huge shape in the water moving towards the apartment complex where their grandparents lived. Barnabe emerged from the sea, looking bigger and grosser than before.
Duncan was at a loss for what to do. Barnabe was getting too big, but they knew they had to get him away from the building. Maybe they could wear Barnabe out. Fat chance. Barnabe seemed pretty determined to get his claws on someone to appease his unhappiness. And the lobster’s eyes spied two pretty deserving morsels on the beach.
The Wheeler kids were forced to run once again, but Barnabe had an easier time moving on the sand than they could. Dunc and Trish made it onto the road and Barnabe followed after them. God the sound of his tail screeching against the bitumen was agony to the ears. Pain shot through Duncan’s side but they had to keep running.
Tricia then came upon an idea of her own. The harbor! With all the boats, maybe Barnabe wouldn’t be able to find them in such a maze of ships. But Barnabe seemed to slow down. Maybe he didn’t want to be spotted out in the open.
Duncan figured they could use the phone in the harbormaster’s office to call for help when Tricia fell. She told Duncan she’d wait for him, but Duncan wouldn’t have that and started to drag his sister before Barnabe reached her.
Barnabe was starting to foam at the mouth as the Wheeler kids hid within the pier. Duncan and Tricia tried to go further in away from the lobster. Around them, some of the boats still had Christmas decorations on. Instead of being cheery, it felt ghostly. It felt like they were in some dark, lonely forest.
Duncan and Tricia tried to locate a better hiding spot, because if Barnabe did find them they’d be trapped like rats. But wait, look! The Slowdown Joe! The kids could hide in there. Just in time, because Barnabe expressed his frustration by letting out a bonechilling scream.
Well the kids were in the Slowdown Joe, and Barnabe was now on the pier. Now what?
Duncan realized they had three options. They could:
- Wait for Barnabe to find and murder them
- Jump into the water and get mutated
- Take the Slowdown Joe out for a spin
Duncan ordered his sister to untie the boat from the pier as he went to work trying to start the Slowdown Joe. God what was he supposed to do. Did Joe and Esther leave the key? He tried to remember exactly what Joe did the other night, recalling underneath the dashboard was YES! The compartment where he kept the key!
That does not seem like responsible boat ownership.
Then again Joe IS responsible for Barnabe mutating into a monster to begin with so…
Duncan managed to get the boat out of the harbor and away from Barnabe. Tricia looked back to see how enraged the giant lobster was at the moment. All Duncan cared about was getting away.
Out on the ocean, heading towards the Gulf of Mexico, Duncan briefly forgot about the pursuit of a mutated lobster. This is the kind of life Duncan wanted, to some day own a boat, have the wind in your hair, annnnnnd Tricia wanted to know where, exactly, they were going.
Duncan hadn’t thought of that.
Palm Grove seemed like a dot on the horizon, and the kids had no food or water. Tricia pointed out they couldn’t stay here or they might drift away in the current. And the tank was three quarters empty. They wouldn’t be able to head back to Palm Grove.
Duncan figured they could take turns sleeping until morning. Tricia would rest first, but Duncan found his eyelids getting heavy…
OH SHIT DID I FALL ASLEEP?
AND OH FUCK WHAT IS THAT IN THE WATER?!
AND WHERE’S THE KEY?!
Duncan violently woke up his sister and the two tried to find the key while Duncan bemoaned his stupidity. Tricia certainly agreed with him on that. She checked and realized Barnabe was circling the boat. Then he was gone! What was Barnabe planning? Well Duncan was more worried about finding the key. Tricia suddenly came upon a solution.
“Of course!” she shouted. “I think I know where it is.”
“I bet it is in your pocket. You always put your keys in your pocket.”
She looked at him triumphantly. Duncan, a bit ashamed, put his hand in his right pocket… and found the key.
[Wing: This is a bullshit false scare worthy of Stine.]
Taking the key back, Duncan went to start the boat again and took off like a shot. Maybe they could get away from Barnabe, wherever he was. Duncan didn’t even know where they were going, when Tricia asked if they could just go back to Palm Grove. Realizing his sister was right since, Duncan started to turn the boat around (they’d been going in a straight line ever since they left the harbor) and suddenly found himself thrown to the side!
Wow, turning a boat around was more difficult than Duncan knew. As the Slowdown Joe spun in circles, Duncan fought to get control of the wheel. This was getting more and more difficult, so maybe it was better to wait until morning when the sun was out. The Wheeler kids decided to maybe rest for a bit.
They did, but the sunlight did little to help because…
They’re where, now?
Great, now the kids really ARE lost in the middle of the ocean with a giant, talking lobster wanting to murder them.
Without food or water, being eaten by sharks or drowning seemed preferable to starvation.
“What?” asked Tricia when exiting the cabin.
“I was thinking it would maybe be best to throw ourselves in the sea. Maybe we’ll be eaten by sharks. It would be better than slowly dying here.”
“We’re really lost?” Tricia whispered with an anguished voice.
Tricia felt they should just keep going, then. It wasn’t safe to just act like a sitting duck, and reasoned they could use the sun to guide them. It rises in the east, and sets in the west. Duncan looked up to see the sun was right in the middle of the sky. Which means they’d have to wait until it sets. The sibs were starting to get pissed at each other, with Duncan asking if Tricia wants to die “burned and blinded” from staring at the sun while Trish demands her brother come up with an alternative plan. Their only hope was to wait for the sun to set, since Florida would be in the east.
Tricia started to search the boat’s cabin on the off chance of there being food. Luckily the kids caught a break and found a small fridge with cheese and sparkling water. There was also a cabinet with some chips and dry cakes. Dunc and Trish were careful not to eat and drink everything, but their sun plan was about to be ruined.
On the horizon they saw thick, black storm clouds approaching.
How is it they managed to escape Barnabe only to suffer a worse fate? God he just HAD to steal the fucking boat! Tricia was frightened by the approaching thunder and lightning, terrified they would really die as the wind rocked the boat. Duncan pleaded with his sister to be brave as the ship was tossed here and there in the water. After eating all that food, the kids now felt like they would puke as they were thrown around the inside of the Slowdown Joe. Tricia was violently slammed against a wall as Duncan screamed at her to hold onto something.
That’s when they heard the growling.
Oh shit was Barnabe back?
Duncan had to crawl on all fours up the steps to reach the cockpit of the boat, but when he got there he saw the front of the ship was covered in shells, seaweed, and fish. No monster lobster. Sigh.
The storm calmed down and somehow the Slowdown Joe and the kids survived the onslaught. Tricia literally looked white with fear, and unfortunately the cloudy sky meant they could figure out where the sun was positioned. With no other options, Duncan had to pick a random direction and start the boat forward hoping it would lead to salvation.
Duncan had to assure Tricia they were headed for home, even though he didn’t know where they were going. The rode the water in silence for a while until Tricia finally asked how her brother knew where they were going if they can’t see the sun. Trish and Dunc began screaming at each other until they saw in the distance a ship! A cruise ship! They were saved!
Duncan turned on Slowdown Joe’s headlights and brought the boat towards the cruise ship. The Wheeler kids tried to get the attention of the cruise goers when someone finally noticed the Slowdown Joe. A crowd formed near the railing of the cruise ship when the captain stepped forward with a megaphone. The kids explained they were lost and were helped onto the cruise, while the captain had his men secure the Slowdown Joe near the lifeboats.
Duncan and Tricia explained they got lost, alone, on the Slowdown Joe, when the captain apologized for not immediately getting them water.
Oh hey mom how’s the cruise going?
Mrs. Wheeler ran up to her kids, confused and terrified, wanting to know how and why they were here. Were they hurt? Was something wrong with their grandparents? Dunc and Trish knew no one would believe them about Barnabe’s pursuit, so they lied about feeling abandoned and followed after their parents.
But just as the Slowdown Joe was being hoisted up, someone screamed about a horrible sight!
BARNABE HAD BEEN CLINGING TO THE BOTTOM OF THE SLOWDOWN JOE THE WHOLE TIME, AND NOW HE WAS CLIMBING ONTO THE CRUISE SHIP!
Duncan and Tricia’s dad finally joined his family, demanding to know what was happening when he finally saw the hideous lobster.
The repulsive head of Barnabé could be seen over the rail. Its greenish shell was covered in putrid boils. Its claws had doubled in size. Its eyes were bloodshot. A strange noise came out from its throat. Duncan recognized this sound: it was the strange purring he had heard at the end of the storm, that he couldn’t identify.
The captain ordered all the women and children get to safety while the men try to fight off the creature. [Wing: Fuck this noise.] Mr. Wheeler immediately ran to join the men, and Duncan followed after out of guilt towards this situation. Duncan’s father wouldn’t hear of his son in danger and told him to stay with Tricia and their mom. Even though Duncan hid, he knew if Barnabe recognized him the lobster would probably go after him first. It would distract Barnabe from everyone else.
Barnabe shrunk back from the men and crew members on deck; he didn’t want them, he wanted Duncan and Tricia.
The mutant lobster had reached one of the lower decks and was going straight for the back of the boat.
Duncan was also going to the back of the boat, on one of the upper decks. He didn’t want to meet with his father and to be sent back inside. He passed near a metallic staircase. At the end of the deck was a metal door, with written on it “ENTRANCE FORBIDDEN”.
I’ll just go back and take the stairs, he thought.
At this precise moment, he smelled something foul. He recognized it immediately. It was toxic products. It meant that… !
He turned back, but it was too late. Ten meters away, Barnabé stood up. The monster was now so corrupted it perpetually mutated. A thick slack of pus dripped from its shell. Its eyes were as big as basketballs. He slowly walked towards Duncan while growling deeply.
Cornered, Duncan thought his only other choice was to jump into the water. But they were located at the back of the ship, near the propellers. Duncan could be sliced to bits. Barnabe exclaimed Duncan wouldn’t escape him again, that he tricked everyone else into thinking he was still in the front of the boat. He told Duncan he would now die.
Duncan saw a nearby door and, though it was heavy, managed to get on the other side before Barnabe grabbed him. The lobster screamed and cursed on the other side as Duncan found himself in the ship’s engine room. As soon as Duncan moved away, the door violently slammed open and Barnabe followed after him.
Duncan could hear Barnabe after him, but all Duncan was focused on was finding another way out. One side of the room held monitors to control the ship when at last Duncan found another door.
It was locked.
Duncan’s life flashed before his eyes. It was a short life, and he started banging on the locked door and trying to open it. He could smell Barnabe’s noxious odor and knew the lobster was here. Duncan begged Barnabe to spare him but Barnabe didn’t care. Seeing Barnabe’s foul, ugly, spiky, poisonous claws, Duncan wished he would faint so he wouldn’t have to feel the pain of death’s brutal sting.
An open formed thanks to the captain’s voice on the ship’s loudspeaker system briefly distracting Barnabe. Ironically, the captain announced the mutated lobster was nowhere to be found as Duncan began screaming where they were. Duncan had managed to evade Barnabe when he got distracted, but he still needed to flee. He made it up the stairs and through a doorway, but had nothing to block it. Now he had to warn the passengers Barnabe was still on the boat.
Wait he couldn’t just run up to everyone! Barnabe was after him; he’d be leading the monster to a veritable buffet of victims. It’d be a slaughter!
Duncan had to lead Barnabe to a place where there weren’t that many people around. Maybe the upper deck wouldn’t be so crowded. He had to hurry before Barnabe caught him. Damn, there were plenty of people on the upper deck.
And a swimming pool.
Duncan stared in disbelief at everyone swimming, relaxing, having fun, not realizing their lives were in danger. Well they sure knew NOW because the giant, half-rotting lobster emerged on the deck for everyone to see! The people started to flee for their lives as Barnabe screamed he would murder them all. Duncan didn’t know how much more of this nightmare he could take. When would Barnabe finally stop?! Duncan realized he couldn’t run. He’d have to fight Barnabe or die trying.
And he better move fast because Duncan saw Tricia and their parents heading towards the pool. They didn’t even see Barnabe yet! Duncan began screaming vulgarities at Barnabe, getting his attention, and then jumping into the pool. He dared Barnabe to come after him, asking if he even knew how to swim.
As Barnabe made his way to the pool, Duncan quickly swim to the other side where his family was. When Barnabe jumped in the water, Duncan got out.
And ran for the floodlights.
Duncan got his dad to help him, and Barnabe screamed in realization and horror as Wheeler father and son threw the ligths into the pool!
“No! No! NO!” Barnabé screamed, in the middle of the pool;
But it was too late for him. The surface of the water was covered in a thousand sparks. The water crackled under the electric power. A foul smell of burnt flesh filled the air. Barnabé was thrashing around with agonizing screams.
Duncan put his fingers in his ears and closed his eyes. It was a horrible sight.
When he opened them back, a few seconds later, the body of the mutant lobster was floating, lifeless, at the surface of the pool.
People came from everywhere, shouting with joy. They carried Duncan and his father around the pool in triumph.
Duncan did not understand right away what was going on. It was so unbelievable! And yet it was true.
They had vanquished the monster. Barnabé was dead, and for good!
R.I.P. Barnabe for real this time.
But after Barnabe’s death, something weird happened.
Duncan and Tricia were in their parents’ cabin, discussing how Barnabe’s body had reverted to its original form after he died. Duncan wondered if it was another chemical reaction brought on the chlorine in the pool mixing with the toxic gunk and the electricity. I dunno. He’s dead. Who cares?
The ship’s captain allowed the Wheelers to use the radio to contact Grandma and Grandpa, who were beside themselves wondering what happened to the kids. Duncan assured his grandma they were fine, and told her to tell Joe his boat was okay as well.
And now it was time for a special Christmas dinner.
YES THE SHIP’S COOK ACTUALLY PREPARED BARNABE FOR EVERYONE TO EAT LIKE WHERE ELSE WAS THIS GOING TO GO.
Apparently the chef tasted Barnabe and promised he was good to go. You don’t waste a lobster of that size!
Duncan, having absolutely no appetite, moved to cover Barnabe’s dead eyes with pieces of lettuce.
I finished it.
I FINALLY FINISHED IT!
I’m sorry this took so long to complete, even with everything else going on the past year. I feel like it’s harder to focus on recapping a book I have to read on my computer because there are more distractions. With a physical book, it has all my attention. But a document from online there’s the ease of being lost in other tabs and shit.
I was basically working on this recap as I was reading the story, so you’re all seeing my first experience with “Here Comes Sandy Claws.” I seriously did not expect Barnabe would start speaking nor did I figure the parents would be brought back into the equation. My guess was that the kids would have to fight Barnabe alongside Joe since he crashed into the restaurant. My other guess was Joe would’ve been the cause of the chemical spill when he crashed into the boat carrying the toxic crap.
Duncan’s selfishness at the beginning was understandably grating, and at times the kids made a couple of stupid decisions, but I loved how they constantly thought about the safety of everyone else during Barnabe’s pursuit. And that Mr. Wheeler was willing to fight off Barnabe both times.
Yet can we please discuss that this is the second Bone Chillers book so far where the antagonist is an evil animal, and it just so happens to be one people can EAT? WHICH THEY DO. Yet Duncan, unlike Kyle and Annie Duggan from “Frankenturkey,” is understandably disgusted by the notion.
This overall reminded me of the eco horror craze of the 1970s, when people were becoming more aware of pollution’s effect on the planet. Films like Prophecy and Frogs where animals were either mutated and went on a rampage, or simply decided they had enough of humanity’s shit and took revenge on greedy rich people.
I, you know, I did feel bad for Barnabe but I also felt bad for Duncan and Tricia. Because, like, Barnabe is going after them specifically even though it wasn’t their fault he got mutated. And they did both stop eating lobster in front of him when Barnabe expressed his anger and they grew uncomfortable so it’s not like they were deliberately antagonizing him. Oh but they did tap the glass and shit.
So we’ve been visited by SANTA Claws and SANDY Claws.
Hope you guys enjoyed this experience and let’s have a much better holiday season than last year!
[Wing: I had a lot of fun with this! Until that ending. Why the hell would you eat the formerly toxic talking lobster?! It’s bad enough the restaurant kept him in a too-small tank for far too long but to end up like this? Disgusting.]