- Vol. 02
- Chapter 06
“Can you see it Tommy? Look, there. See?” The tiny crab scuttles between the rocks and tries to hide from their peering faces. He scoops it up in his net and lifts it gently out the water. It is black and shiny as a pebble, barely bigger than the palm of his hand. Disappointing. Papa sees him frown, and misinterprets the reason. “Don’t worry lad, it won’t pinch you.” But that isn’t it. He simply wants to know why it isn’t red. In the picture books back home, crabs are red. They are fearsome things. Nothing like this. He picks it out of the net and examines its undersides, its soft, vulnerable belly. His disappointment turning to action as he throws it. It plops into a nearby rock pool. At least the splash is satisfying. Papa stares at him then begins to laugh. “You scared of a tiny crab?” he asks. He shakes his head. “I want to find one that’s big enough to eat. That one has some growing to do yet.” And Papa laughs again. “C’mon then” he says “We can buy a pot up on the boulevard, if that’s what you’re after.” It isn’t. “Where’s the fun in that?” he wonders. He wants to catch his own and cook it there on the beach. But he scrambles after Papa as they pick their way over the rocks, muttering that delicious new word. “Boulevard.” The fullness of it, rich and slightly unfamiliar feels good on the tongue. It’s a good word. A keeper. He hopes the crab tastes as good.
The fish stall is pretty, decorated with nautical paraphernalia. Lobster pots and sea shells, fishing nets and buoys. Contented customers sit on long benches in the shade of a blue and white striped awning, their bellies distended and satisfied. Seeing them makes him aware of his own hunger. But it is the emptied out shells of the crabs he is aware of most. They dangle on hooks and lines and sway in the breeze, as if they are alive still, all snapping claws and googly eyes. A macabre dance that has him reaching for Papa’s hand, though why he needs such reassurance, he isn’t sure. As they stand in line, a pungent salty odour wafts around him. A smell to make you salivate. A smell to leave you cooing “Ahhhh” in anticipation. And he remembers the pebble crab from earlier, how small and light it had felt. How effortless it was to launch it into the air and transport it to a new, unfamiliar pool. He imagines it sitting there now, crouched behind a rock, hiding from boys like him. Boys who stare down through the water and imagine only violence. The reflection of his own face rising up to meet him. The shock of it. He pulls at Papa’s sleeve. “Papa!” he cries. A glint of sun all he sees as he wobbles then falls.