Sexually shellfish

A herpes-like virus has infected up to 10 percent of baby lobsters in the Florida Keys, leading some fisheries experts to wonder whether the disease explains recent dips in lobster catches. Biologists doubt the disease can be transferred to humans, but have alerted the national Centers for Disease Control and Prevention just in case.

— Associated Press, Aug. 31, 2003

TO: Ted Rafferty, executive director, National Institute for Abstinence Awareness

FROM: Bud Lee, vice president, public relations


Been thinking a lot recently about new-and-improved ways to promote our message of sexual abstinence before marriage. As we've discussed before, I really feel we need some sort of mascot -- a costumed character who can appear in public to teach kids the benefits of refraining from carnal activity.

For weeks now, I've been racking my brains for a killer concept. But I hadn't come up with anything I was really in love with, until I saw a fascinating article roll off the A.P. wire. (I've attached it for your perusal.) As soon as I was done reading, an idea hit me like lightning from the skies above. Our new spokesman is none other than:


Picture it, Ted. A lovable lobster with herpes, hauling his cartoonishly exaggerated, heavily scabbed carcass onto the national stage to warn kids that an STD is a heavy price to pay for fleeting minutes of physical gratification.

Nobody can reach these at-risk kids better than poor old Lloyd. He's a natural. He's been around the block. His briny little heart is full of love for every creature of the land and sea. And he has herpes.

"Kindly uncle" is the image I think we want to go for here -- augmented with a heavy dose of "sadder-but-wiser U.S. Navy midshipman." Elementary-school health teachers will welcome Lloyd with open arms as he shuffles unsteadily into their classrooms, then sinks into a seat to read aloud from his best-selling kids' book, "Oh! The Places You Don't Want to Go." And Sunday-morning TV will become synonymous with the sound of the diseased-but-triumphant Lloyd hacking out the chorus to his hit anthem, "Keep Your Feelers to Yourself."

Now, I'll admit that the whole concept is kind of a leap of faith. In reality, the Florida lobsters are only exhibiting a "herpes-like" virus. And if you read the article to the very end, you'll notice that, in all but two cases, the affected animals have not yet reached reproductive age. So we're taking some liberties. I don't think that's anything to be ashamed of. We've had to play fast and loose with scientific fact before. (Remember that study we "found" that linked fellatio to emphysema?) And it's never hurt our relationship with the Surgeon General, that's for sure. I don't see any of that changing here. Heck, he's probably going to want to be the first one to have his picture taken with Lloyd. (Oh, what a Christmas card that would make!)

I don't have to tell you, Ted, that the time to launch this campaign is right now, before the Florida lobster story becomes yesterday's news. Plus, the kids are crazy about fish stuff these days. How much did that "Nemo" picture clear? A king's ransom, right? Thanks to my kids, I've seen that movie three times now, and I'm still not sure what the moral was. "Follow your bliss, but watch out for nets?" Was that it? Am I close? In comparison, Lloyd offers a personal philosophy that's as tightly focused as a laser.

This thing could take on a life of its own. I'm even thinking that, when the initial ads run their course, we can keep the franchise going by outfitting Lloyd with a whole "posse" of undersea friends -- ocean-floor "homies" who could help him broadcast his message of self-denial, rap-style. I ran the idea by my own kids, and they loved it. They quickly came up with a name for Lloyd's crew: L.W.H. -- Lobstas Wit' Herpes. My oldest, Joshua, pitched in by reciting an impromptu set of lyrics:

Here's a little somethin' 'bout a lobsta like me
Never should have given up my damn virginity
M.C. Lloyd would like to say
That I'm a runny mollusk-f***er and I'm ruein' the day

Now, Ted, I'm far from overjoyed with some of the language in Joshua's little rhyme -- at least, the parts I can understand. We'd obviously have to hire an editor from one of those rap magazines to prune our scripts of any objectionable references before they hit the airwaves. But my kids say that hip-hop is the way to get their generation's attention, and I believe them. They say that anybody over the age of 30 who comes at them rapping gets 10 points for credibility, right off the bat. It shows that we're "down," as they call it, with today's youth culture. And they were choking back laughter even as they told me this, so I could tell they were just dying to get back to brainstorming the whole delightful concept.

That's how we all ended up tossing around ideas for some more sidekicks we could introduce if the budget permits it. My kids proposed a gang of pesky adversaries called Da Krabz, who Lloyd could keep running into in public lavatories and along the midway at state fairs. My youngest, Kyle, then suggested the idea of giving Lloyd a girlfriend, who Joshua immediately christened Bearded Klam. I don't know why an obviously female character would have a beard, but when I asked, it set off yet another round of hearty guffaws, so clearly the idea makes sense to today's youngsters.

If you'll allow me a mixed zoological metaphor, Ted, I think we've got a tiger by the tail here. Let's take a meeting with an ad agency ASAP.



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