Man the Crab

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2.

The next day, after service at the restaurant had finished, Alan cleaned down the kitchen as quickly as he could and hurried home. It didn’t take him long, as he lived in a poky little flat above the restaurant. He’d been musing over his bizarre experience with the crab and was very keen to find out whether or not he was completely insane.

He dashed into his tiny kitchen and began cooking a tuna steak, all the while wondering whether crabs would prefer them rare or well done. After he’d whipped up a quick side salad and packed it into a Tupperware box with the tuna, he made his way down the path to the beach. It was another grey day, which pleased Alan.

There was an old man on the beach, playing with his equally aged looking dog. The last thing Alan wanted to do was stand by the water and shout ‘MAN’ at the top of his voice. He tried a whisper, but to no avail. He said it a bit louder, but the old man seemed to notice and gave a confused look. Feeling self-conscious, Alan waited patiently on a nearby rock. The old man and his dog eventually tired of playing fetch, and as soon as their feet (and paws) had left the sand, a crab emerged from the water and made its way up the beach.

“Hey, Man!” said Alan, relieved he hadn’t wasted a perfectly good tuna steak on a delusion. The old man, still within hearing distance, shuffled away a little faster.

Alan made his way over to Man the crab, who had stopped about five feet up the shore and was drawing pictures in the wet sand with a claw. For a moment Alan felt quite awkward, and after a quick check over both shoulders to see if any one was around, he crouched in front of the crab.

“Hello again,” he said. Part of his mind was screaming at him, accusing him of being crazy. The other part of his mind could not be bothered with the debate. It was often the case that this lazy part of Alan’s mind would win any arguments. The crab finished its sand doodle and looked up at him.

“Hi,” it said, slumping back in the sand lazily. “Did you bring the tuna?” A hungry crab wastes no time with idle banter.

“I cooked it rare,” said Alan, relieved he wasn’t insane.

“That’ll do,” replied Man. Alan took out the tuna steak from his pocket and placed it on the sand, accompanied by the side salad.

“No plate?” complained Man. Alan was a bit startled by this request.

“I have a napkin,” he said.

“That’ll do.”

After the meal had been placed neatly on the napkin, Man tucked in. It wasn’t long before he had devoured the whole lot.

“That good, ’eh?” said Alan, smugly.

“So-so,” replied Man, as he picked the remaining crumbs from the napkin, leaving a shredded mess.

“Well, you didn’t stop stuffing your face long enough to taste it then!” snapped Alan. He didn’t take criticism very well when it came to his food. The only satisfactory answer to the question, ‘how did you enjoy your meal?’ was, ‘it was absolutely fantastic, you are a culinary genius and should be knighted immediately’. Man the crab didn’t much care for inflating people’s egos in such a way.

“I am a very hungry Man,” he said, and let out a little burp.

The two of them sat in silence for a while. Alan didn’t want to ask for his reward because he thought it would be rude, and being rude to a crab is no different than being rude to anyone else. Man started to doodle in the sand again, and after a short while of watching this Alan got frustrated.

“Well?” he said.

“Well what?” replied Man.

“Well, what about my reward?” said Alan.

“Oh, that,” said Man.

“I kept up my side of the bargain. You gave your word.”

“I did not; I think I’d remember something like that.”

Man the crab continued with his doodle. He was obviously reluctant to give Alan a reward for such a seemingly easy task, although it had been anything but easy for Alan, on both his mind and his pocket (a good tuna steak isn’t cheap). Alan bit his knuckles in annoyance. He considered squashing the crab, but if it could talk then maybe it had some magical powers that he didn’t know about.

“I’ll tell you what,” said Man after an awkward few minutes, “if you come back again tomorrow, same time and place, with a bit of bruschetta topped with tomato and mozzarella, then I will definitely give you a reward.”

The part of Alan’s mind which had refused to play any part in this whole debacle now emerged angrier than ever, but Alan’s lazy mind soon muffled the moaning. ‘Too much effort involved in arguing’ he thought.

“Give me your word this time,” said Alan, keen not to make the same mistake again.

“Very well,” replied Man, “I give you my word. Return tomorrow and you will get your reward.” The crab bade farewell to Alan, claiming the tuna steak had been pretty good after all, and returned to the sea. Once again Alan wandered slowly home. He didn’t have any bruschetta in his flat, or in the restaurant kitchen. A visit to the supermarket loomed; Alan hated the supermarket.

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