The Squid Called Olivia

By J. Kaiserman '23

The following is a portion of the court stenographer’s report in the murder trial of Dr. James P. Clarke, M.D.:

JUDGE: Counselor, you may begin the cross-examination.


PROSECUTING ATTORNEY: Dr. Clarke, why did you break into the Plymouth Aquarium?


CLARKE: There was once a time when I went to the aquarium each day, since the girl whom I love spent her afternoons there, and I was able to gaze at her in silence.


PROSECUTING ATTORNEY: So, Dr. Clarke, this was for a girl?


CLARKE: Oh, yes. Her name is Olivia. I have been in love with her since I first saw her. She’s very beautiful. If you had only seen her, I suspect you might’ve taken to her just as I have.


PROSECUTING ATTORNEY: I’m not too sure about that.


CLARKE: You would. And not just physically. Her spirit is unlike any other I’ve encountered. She is spontaneous, yet reflective; rambunctious, yet humble. I once spent six hours staring into her dark eye. That deep gaze has taught me everything.


PROSECUTING ATTORNEY: Wait, hold on. “Eye?” Not “eyes?” What happened to her eyes?


CLARKE: Her eyes are fine. You just can’t see them both at once when you look at her.


JUDGE: Dr. Clarke, I’m afraid you’ve lost me.


CLARKE: Olivia is a squid.


PROSECUTING ATTORNEY: What?


CLARKE: Please don’t pass judgment. Olivia is a very talented squid. She’s writing a book of poetry.


PROSECUTING ATTORNEY: What? Poetry?


CLARKE: Oh, yes. She prefers to write Petrarchan sonnets and haikus. I’ve read them. Eloquent verses.


PROSECUTING ATTORNEY: And where exactly have you read these “poems,” written by — and please correct me if I misheard — a squid?


CLARKE: In her ink, of course.


PROSECUTING ATTORNEY: Of course! What are you talking about?


CLARKE: Olivia grew up in Manhattan. How do I know? It’s obvious. She’s cosmopolitan. Only New Yorkers could float as elegantly as she does. Surely, our Plymouth locals could not move like her. When she moves, she bobs up and down, willowing outward as if she was preparing to glaze the surface of some extragalactic moon. I imagine that the scientist who discovered that terrible Physalia physalis felt only an iota of the wonder that I hold for my Olivia.


PROSECUTING ATTORNEY: Physalia who? Is that the name of another squid?


CLARKE: No. The Portugese Man-of-War. You really must catch up on your binomial nomenclature, Counselor; taxonomy is truly marvelous.


Regardless, I suspect that Olivia first tried to make a career as an actress, but no manager would have her. How could they? A squid as alluring as she would get so many contracts that no manager could ever keep up. Imagine how hilarious it would be! My Olivia, flanked by a puny manager, submerged up to his stiff neck with papers. Now, she’s never confirmed this, but I believe that she graduated from Dartmouth. Why do you seem surprised? You should see the way she tears into fish; her beak would make an excellent bottle-opener.


JUDGE: I also graduated from Dartmouth! What year?


CLARKE: 2005.


PROSECUTING ATTORNEY: Your honor!


JUDGE: Right. My apologies.


PROSECUTING ATTORNEY: Dr. Clarke, please get to the point.


CLARKE: With all due respect, Counselor, you must appreciate that understanding her backstory is crucial to understanding my actions. A squid like Olivia has made me into a mere slave of Eros. You are flesh and blood, too. Have you not yearned?


PROSECUTING ATTORNEY: Excuse me, Dr. Clarke! I am happily married.


CLARKE: As was I! I once took my wife, Alexandra, to the aquarium. That was so scandalous: me, practically sweating through my wool cardigan, my wife grabbing my arm while I stared into Olivia’s dark eye. And Alexandra didn’t even notice! Olivia was jealous, you know. I could tell. Her tentacles turned up, and she flew to the surface. You can picture how titillated I was as I stole a look at her sumptuous beak. Then an attendant asked us to leave, since it was her feeding hour.


PROSECUTING ATTORNEY: Dr. Clarke, could you please recount the events of last Saturday for the jury?


CLARKE: For that, we must begin last Thursday.


PROSECUTING ATTORNEY: Is that really necessary?


CLARKE: Indubitably so. That was our fifth anniversary. No, not with Alexandra. Olivia and I. I sat on my usual bench across from Olivia’s tank. Since Olivia is so devoted to her artistry, I wrote a poem to celebrate. I’m sure that it was rubbish, but I can tell that she appreciated how difficult it was for me to compose it. Even Chillingsworth seemed impressed. Defeated, even.


PROSECUTING ATTORNEY: Who’s Chillingsworth? An employee of the aquarium?


CLARKE: What? Absolutely not. The mere suggestion that Chillingsworth contains half as much honor as an aquarium worker is uproarious. Chillingsworth is a flounder.


PROSECUTING ATTORNEY: And why does he matter?


CLARKE: He whiles all his days away in the tank with my Olivia. I see his beady eyes ogling her. I’ve told him off before, of course, but each day he returns, each day more licentious and lecherous than before. But when I read my poetry he slumped away and hid behind one of the larger rocks. I’m sure that he conceded to my imperturbable prowess then.


PROSECUTING ATTORNEY: Sure. Please continue.


CLARKE: Olivia and I enjoyed the silence for a few hours. The familiar aquarium attendant then sat beside me. He noted how Olivia seemed particularly upbeat that day; I chuckled and told him about our celebration.


PROSECUTING ATTORNEY: And how did he respond to such a ridiculous relationship?


JUDGE: Objection, Counselor. I do beseech you to keep your intolerance out of my courtroom.


PROSECUTING ATTORNEY: You can’t even obje—


JUDGE: Please continue, Dr. Clarke.


CLARKE: Charmed, your honor. The attendant, in fact, uttered a phrase that stamped out my heart. He remarked how the aquarium would miss Olivia when she left. I was stunned. He told me that Olivia was to be traded to the Boston Aquarium that Saturday. She hadn’t mentioned it before. I pressed my hand against the cold glass and gazed into her dark eye. Olivia told me that she simply would not leave. She would miss me too much. And how was I to live without her?


I returned the next day and, when we were alone, hatched a plan to save Olivia. It was all her brilliance; for none of it can I be thanked.


PROSECUTING ATTORNEY: And, Dr. Clarke, what might “Olivia’s” plan have called for?


CLARKE: How dare you taint my Olivia with such tasteless sarcasm? I said she was a talented squid, and she is far more intelligent than either of us.


PROSECUTING ATTORNEY: Your honor, do we have to put up with this?


JUDGE: Counselor! Do let the gentleman finish! Proceed, Dr. Clarke.


CLARKE: Charmed.


PROSECUTING ATTORNEY: Are you serious?


CLARKE: I found my way into an employee locker-room and stabbed the first attendant I found with a rusty steak knife that I had hidden in a bouquet of roses.


PROSECUTING ATTORNEY: What? Did you just confess?


CLARKE: Yes. He stood between Olivia and me. What was I to do?


PROSECUTING ATTORNEY: Not kill him?


CLARKE: Then my broken heart would have surely killed me. I can assure you that my actions were morally justified. Do you not follow the logic? A life would have been lost either way. Best kill one to ensure happiness for two than doom an unrequited lover to perish from an eternity without his squid.


PROSECUTING ATTORNEY: Dr. Clarke, she’s just a squid. You could have visited her in her Boston Aquarium, or done honestly anything else.


JUDGE: Counselor, Dr. Clarke makes a fine point.


CLARKE: Charmed. Counselor, you are a charlatan. You are a fool. How was I to resist the magnetizing pull of her tentacles, the midnight lakes of her black eyes? She told me that she would not leave me. I realized then that my freedom was an illusion. My life belongs to the squid called Olivia.


PROSECUTING ATTORNEY: Your honor, this man is clearly insane. I bet he didn’t even go to medical school!


CLARKE: Please, let me recount my tale. Once I scrubbed the attendant's blood — a rather tedious task — from his uniform, I donned my disguise and waited by Olivia’s tank for the aquarium to close. All that I needed to do was to free my Olivia. Now, you must recognize how deathly afraid I am of the ocean. But some fears must be faced. I dove into her tank and flailed about until I reached her. The seclusion in her tank was romantic. It was daringly transgressive, and is there anything more enticing than forbidden love?


JUDGE (softly, entranced): Nothing.


CLARKE: I cup her mantle in my hands and swim to the surface. I know that Olivia feels safe with me. Her tentacles wrap around my arm. I assure her that no one will ever harm her.


PROSECUTING ATTORNEY: Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, the prosecution rests. Thank you, Dr. Clarke. Please stop.


CLARKE: I carry Olivia to my apartment. I lay her in my bathtub. She floats as she always does but now she floats for me and I am overwhelmed by a passion that I never once felt.


PROSECUTING ATTORNEY: Please stop.


CLARKE: I dive into the bathtub and caress her syphon in my trembling hands and I tell her that I love her and her dark eye tells all.

The jury found Dr. James P. Clarke guilty of murder. The patrons of the Plymouth Fish Market found Olivia delicious.


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