BEWARE THE BARNACLE
LOPEZ ISLAND, San Juans Talk, inevitably, turns smutty around a fire pit. And since these happy campers are studying coastal foraging, someone mentions barnacles.
No. No, please.
Barnacles scare me.
I don't say this lightly. I'm not the sort of person who shrieks over a mouse or spider or even that freaky skull-headed possum that lurks in the backyard. I have read enough Raymond Chandler novels to remain cool and sarcastic in a crisis. I can fight outside my weight class, confronted with men who take liberties.
But barnacles ... my god, the horror.
The University of Washington requires all graduates to stomach three science classes. I waited until my final quarter, then bolted through forestry, fisheries and evolutionary biology, hoping to learn something about the local apes and their environment.
One singular, startling fact remained with me from ten weeks of Marine Science 101. Barnacles, proportionately, have the world's largest peni$es, some 20 times their bodysize.
I could only imagine the lady barnacle's experience. She's grooving along a little sun, a little surf then, horror-movie style, something blots out the light. Arghhhhhhh! Cemented to the rock, the poor little arthropod can't even run. (Yes, yes, I know that barnacles do not get jiggy in so personal a fashion. But we're dealing with a phobia here, something inherently unmoored from logic).
Anyway, 12 years later, a seaweed forager on Orcas Island starts joking about the mighty tackle of Pollicipes polymerus.
"Don't. Just don't," I beg. "For the sake of the poor girl barnacles..."
"But they're hermaphroditic. They switch from male to female and back."
That rather changes everything, no?