A small, gray-haired woman, carrying a net and bucket, marched up
the dock gazing into the pea-green water. Spying a sand crab poised
in the docks shadow, she eased the net into the water and scooped
Once the woman had a dozen crabs in her bucket, she returned home
and dumped them into the oven. She turned the heat up to 450 degrees
and listened to the frantic tapping of legs and claws against the
ovens sheet metal floor. The air grew thick with a swampy, seaweedy
odor. When the tapping ceased, she turned off the heat, opened the
oven door and removed the dead crabs one at a time with tongs and
an oven mitt.
The old woman dropped them back into her bucket and carried it down
the basement stairs. She threw the crabs onto the pile with the hundreds
of others, where they would remain until late October.
Her chore done, the crab lady sat in the high-back purple chair, feet
propped on the ottoman, and sipped warm chamomile tea from a china
cup. She closed her eyes and drifted off to sleep hoping that this
would be the special year shed been waiting for, the year when
the chosen one would appear at her door as prophesied in the ancient
At long last, her day arrived. Children made up as ghosts, superheros
and hobos stared in horror as she tossed the stinking crabs into their
little candy bags. One little fellow, dressed as a cowboy, actually
began to cry. It was delightful.
Finally, when the crowds had come and gone and the old woman was about
to give up, a little girl came to the door all by herself. She was
dressed, lo and behold, in a traditional witch costume with a pointed
black hat, cape and broomstick. She even had a black kitten following
her. The old woman tossed the last crab into the little girl_s bag.
the girl smiled. She reached into the bag, raised the crab to her
mouth and took a big bite.
"Well, well, well," the old woman said. "Come in, my
little darling, come in."