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Fries, E. (2019). The Oyster Thief. Psychoanal. Perspect., 16(3):357-358.

(2019). Psychoanalytic Perspectives, 16(3):357-358

The Oyster Thief

Ellen Fries, LCSW

We entered Wellfleet’s outer harbor under sail, an early evening August storm surrounding us, the angry sky black, long before sunset. Relieved to have missed the fierce winds, lightning, and drenching downpours, our anchor set deep in the muddy bottom, we settled in for the night. Despite the howling wind and not-so-gentle rocking of the boat through the stormy night, we slept deeply together, and shared wild dreams.

Awakening early to the contrast of the stillness and warmth of morning, a hazy sun, the surface of the water now transformed to reflective glass. The smell of low tide disagreeable in another setting, drew my attention to the shoreline, dramatically altered from last evening’s view, as the waters receded, sucked out by the pull of invisible forces that transform the land twice every day. Along the water’s edge, a fleet of pickup trucks, and an army of sunrise worker bees were harvesting oysters. I quickly climbed into my tender and rowed ashore to an island they couldn’t access with their trucks – it was just me, and the mud, and the oysters.

Endless oysters! Quickly, I realized that wild oysters are like humans in the way they congregate, in fact, most seemed to grow in clusters that I knew would make the difficult task of shucking fairly impossible, at least for a novice like me who has watched in awe at oyster bars at the pros who gracefully and effortlessly pry open these glistening creatures, leaving them bathed in their sublime liquor, without wasting a precious drop.

I set about gathering those loners who hadn’t attached to others. Digging my fingers into the mud, the sharp edges occasionally sliced into my hands, but the excitement of my oyster-thievery was an intoxicant that numbed the pain. Just one more, oh there’s a perfect one. I kept going until there were more than the two of us could ever eat. And then, just one more!

I rowed back in my little oyster-laden tender, the sun still low and most of the world still sleeping, and I piled my bounty onto our boat’s transom. Cleaning my little treasures was next, after first diving into the sea to rinse myself of blood, sweat and putrid mud.

[This is a summary excerpt from the full text of the journal article. The full text of the document is available to journal subscribers on the publisher's website here.]

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