The Rebbe from the Black Lagoon: A Sci-Fi Tale in the Life of Oliver Sacks

Oliver calls me, tremendously excited: “I’m in a Precambrian bliss!” he says. It develops that he was out swimming in the Sound and was returning to shore when, putting his foot on a rock, it moved! That rock, and then its neighbor, and then the neighbor’s neighbor—the whole field of rocks turned out to be a horde of horseshoe crabs, beached for mating.

“My people,” Oliver proclaimed, “my people have come!”

Oliver’s birthday is July 9, a Saturday. He will be 50, and he is throwing himself a party, his first since he was 21, and he has gone hog wild. After days of shy withdrawal, he has stoked himself up with a pint of rum and has been calling everyone in sight. “And to my astonishment, far from dismissing the invitation out of hand, everyone is being tremendously kind and responsive.”

On the Fourth of July, we stand on the beach watching the fireworks: “I don’t know what got into me: I invited the entire block!”

A few days later, as we drive out to the party, Oliver’s doctor colleague and friend Mark Homonoff recounts having been out on City Island during last week’s invasion of the horseshoe crabs: “A neighbor was standing on his lawn, skewering caterpillars. ‘These creepers!’ he complained. ‘They’re bigger than ever this year. It’s the weather. First these creepers, and now the crabs. Things are really weird with nature this year.’ ” It was, says Homonoff, like the classic beginning of one of those 50s sci-fi flicks. In the car we fantasize about the rest of the film—the mad scientist on the other side of the island, who was carelessly emptying plutonium into the strait, and how now everything was converging on Oliver’s party: us, the neighbors, the whole Towering Inferno supporting cast, the huge mutating horseshoe crabs.

A few minutes later, I describe it all to Oliver by the beach. Looking out, he says, “Yes! Yes! And I’d be here fending off the hysterical neighbors, trying to calm their fears, to disarm them of their picks and shovels and rifles, trying to explain how these are good creatures, our fellows. And then I’d be turning toward them, the giant crabs, and saying, ‘Yes, welcome, eat us, eat us all—the world is yours. Lord knows we’ve made a complete botch of things!’ ”

Read more here here (click here).

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