Selling Crabs on the Levee
“Here comes a car,” I told my brother, George, who jumped to pick up a pair of metal tongs.
We’d been standing on the road beside the levee all afternoon trying to sell a bushel full of crabs for Dad, and as soon as it was empty, we could go play.
These crabs were too small for the restaurant where he usually sold them. But, they were still pretty good eating.
Standing next to our sign propped against a stick, boasting ‘fresh crabs, 50 cents a dozen,’ we must have looked pretty shabby—a couple of grade schoolers, barefoot, with baggy clothes.
The car pulled over. A heavy set man stepped out with a grin on his face and looked into the basket of squirming crabs, bubbles oozing from their mouths.
“They’re kinda small.” He reached in his shirt pocket and pulled out a pack of Camels. “I’ll give you forty cents.” He shook out a cigarette and stuck it between his lips.
We looked at each other. “We gotta git fifty for ‘em. Daddy says,” George told the man.
“They’re really fat crabs,” I said. “Good and heavy. Wanna feel one of ‘em?”
The man lit up his cigarette, took a long draw, and threw the match on the ground, as he bent over the wooden basket, eyeing the blue critters, who were looking warily back at him with their pincers all aimed up.
George reached in with the tongs, grabbed one, and held it out. “Grab it by the back, or it’ll get ya good.”
“I know how to handle a crab,” the man said with his cigarette wiggling up and down as he talked. He held out his hand and took the crab by the back of its shell, as George let go. “He is pretty heavy. Guess I’ll take a couple doz…” His fingers slipped from the damp shell, and the crab fell to the ground.
We all jumped back, watching for where it would go. It happened to run sideways—like crabs always do—toward George’s bare foot.
“Watch it!” I pushed him out of the way, knocking over the bushel of crabs. “Oh no!”
Crabs began to scurry every which way, trying to get away from us—and the man that wanted them for supper.
“I ain’t got time for this nonsense!” The man flipped his cigarette toward the lake, jumped into his car, and drove away.
It took us the rest of the afternoon to get all those crabs gathered up and back in the bushel, while a few cars slowed down, folks gawking at us as they passed. No one stopped to help, or to buy any.
As the sun got low, we carried our basket back over the levee to where Mama would fixing supper in our small shack by the bayou. We made our way out to the end of the pier and dumped them into the gumbo colored water—to live another day.