I know it’s a lot of reading, but I’ve put a chapter from my novel “The Wind Weeps” here, below the photo of these wonderful dungeness crabs the Captain brought home yesterday.
The chapter tells a bit about how the crabs can be caught and cooked, but it also shows the dark side of Robert’s abusive character and Andrea’s response to it.
The part about how to pick up the crabs comes directly from my own experience, but the rest is fiction.
You can find the novel “The Wind Weeps” on amazon and on smashwords.com. Just click on the book cover image at the side of the post or visit my web page at http://www.anneli-purchase.com
The e-book is still FREEEEEEEE. Sequels of this coastal novel (“Reckoning Tide” and “Marlie”) are also available.
“I’m going to pull the crab rings. You coming?” Robert was friendly. You’d think yesterday hadn’t happened.
“No thanks. I don’t think I’d be much help. I’d only be in the way.” And I have no desire to go out in the skiff with you again. Ever!
“Well, at least put some water on to cook the crabs.”
I slammed a big pot of water on the woodstove to heat up. I grabbed the binoculars and watched him. Maybe he’d get caught in the coils and fall overboard. He stopped the boat by the farthest marker, reached for the float and started pulling the line in, coiling it in the bottom of the skiff as it came over the side. When the ring came up, he set it on the seat in front of him and gingerly grasped the two crabs that were now trying to clamber out of the netting. He tossed them into a bucket in the front of the skiff. He repeated the process with the closer ring, this time pulling up three crabs. After tossing them into the bucket as well, he pried loose a starfish that had settled on the fish-head bait and chucked it back into the water. With the second ring securely on board, Robert scooted the boat over to the dock again. I threw down the binoculars and tried to look busy as he came in the door.
“Put that pot of water on the propane stove now. Set it up on the porch or it’ll stink up the house. I’ll have those crabs ready to throw into it in a few minutes. Lots of salt in the water?”
“A good handful,” I said. “Is that enough?” He nodded and went back to the dock.
Once I had the water set up, I watched him tear the shells off the live crabs and crack their backs on the edge of the dock, breaking the bodies in two. Then he leaned over the float, swished out their guts in the water, and put the halved bodies in another pail.
“Get me another crab out of the bucket, will you?”
I reached in to pick one up, but it turned its beady black eyes on me and stood up on its back legs, front claws open, ready to do battle.
“Ah … er … how do I pick it up without losing a finger?”
“From behind. Like this.” Robert reached in and picked it up. “Fingers on top, thumb underneath. That way they can’t reach your fingers with their claws.” He tossed it back into the bucket and said, “Okay, go ahead.”
I started to reach in and again, the crab stood up tall on its back legs, holding its claws towards me. I turned my hand this way and that, trying to picture how to pick it up. Thumb on top, fingers underneath. Or was it fingers on top and thumb underneath? I made a move towards the crab and it went into action facing off with my hand whichever way I planned to grab it.
“Oh …” I wailed. “I can’t do it.”
Robert easily picked up the crab. I thought now he’d be angry again but he was trying to hide a smile. I took that as my cue to get away while I could.
“I’ll go check on that water.”
It was a brutal business, boiling a potful of live crabs even in halves, but later, when I tasted them, I forgot all about that, and how intimidating they had been when still alive. We laid the cooked crab on old newspapers on the porch to let them get a good chill. That didn’t take long in the December air.
“They’re really meaty this time of year,” Robert said, wiping at the crab juice that dripped down his chin.
“You mean they aren’t always?” I picked at the meat of a claw using the small end of one of the crab’s own legs.
“They stop eating when it’s time to molt and grow new shells in summer and early fall. While the new shell is still soft, the crab hasn’t grown enough to fit into it yet. They aren’t as meaty then as they are later.”
I let Robert tell me all about it. He liked showing off his knowledge. I had to feed that need for my own sake; keep him happy.
“I bet even millionaires don’t get to eat this much crab at once.”
“And for sure not as fresh as these.” Robert reached across and wiped my cheek. “You had a bit of crab flake there.” He smiled.
“My wrists are dripping with crab juice.” I dried my hands on some paper towel and picked up a piece of garlic bread.
“This is great bread,” Robert said with his mouth full. “Really good. I didn’t know you could bake bread.”
I almost said, “Janine taught me,” but swallowed the words quickly. Janine had baked goods for the restaurant at Hope Bay. I didn’t want to turn our thoughts back to that time. “Yup. I can,” I said lightly. “You like it?”
“Fantastic. Goes perfect with this gourmet crab feast.”
After the last crab leg was picked clean we pushed away from the table, groaning.
“That was good,” he said, “but I’m so stuffed, I never want to eat crab again.”
“Yeah, me neither.” I laughed. “Till next time.”