Tradition

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 dock’s shadow, she eased the net into the water and scooped it up.

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 oven’s 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 she’d been waiting for, the year when the chosen one would appear at her door as prophesied in the ancient books.

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."





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