FREE STORY: CRABS

 


Crabs

Some boys love football. Other boys love girls. Darryl Hatchett loved crabs. He felt an empathy with them. Locked in their shells. Scuttling off to hide under seaweed-strewn rocks at the first sign of danger. Appearing from nowhere to nip and pinch the toes of innocent rock pool paddlers with their nasty pincers. Darryl was fascinated by them, ate them up as pink crab paste on buttered wholemeal toast for breakfast. Dined out on crab and crayfish cocktail at pub lunches across Essex, when there were pubs. When there were crabs, washing around the club pontoons on the murky estuarial Crouch.

He used to ‘crab’ as a boy. In those days, every Friday evening from March to October, Ted drove May, his fair, rosy-faced wife and their only child to the caravan park beside the Crouch. They set-off early to beat the rush hour traffic, stopping off at the Smuggler’s Retreat for a beer shandy and crisps en route, returning home on Sunday night. Friday night meant fish and chips at sunset! The Hatchetts always ate at sunset.

After supper, Ted, May and Darryl stood outside their clapped-out caravan and stared into the starry night sky, wishing they could afford a boat to navigate by starlight. Then, like crabs, the poor family retired to their shells. Darryl hugged himself to sleep in his damp bunk bed, and dreamed of catching crabs the next morning.

The next morning, it was up with the lark, a chilly-cold shower or cat’s lick, crab paste on toast, and a milky cup of tea. Then it was off to the sea wall to watch the lucky boys and girls launch their Cadets, mummies and daddies pushing their little darlings off the pontoon in their Oppies.

Only when the coast was clear, when the parents had ventured into the clubhouse for breakfast, did Ted, May and Darryl descend the pontoon, armed with carrier bags of beef bones wrapped in bacon and plastic pails, sit down, and catch crabs. Darryl always sat with May because she loved him dearly and wrapped her warm arm round his shivery shoulders to stay the chilly sea breeze. While Ted filled up the pails with brackish water and unravelled the bones-on-strings.

They seldom caught more than seven crabs between them. Darryl’s jobs were to shake May’s crabs off her bone into the pail and gently pour the clawless, broken crabs into their safe haven before they plodded back to the caravan to play cards, drink squash, and eat lots of crab crisps.

At first, the sailors, eating breakfast on their sunny clubhouse terrace, looked down on the family as if they were miscreants trespassing on their pontoon in their shabby tee-shirts, grubby shorts and sandals. But after a while they started to feel sorry for them. They took them into their hearts.

Darryl’s proudest memory was helping Ted bacon-up butcher’s bones for the children’s annual crabbing contest in August. The afternoon before the big day, Ted spread all the bones out in an orderly fashion on the freshly-mown grass. May tied on cheap bacon bits from the kindly butcher. Darryl drew out the strings like kite strings, nice and straight.

Do you believe in black magic?

As soon as the strings were drawn, the sky turned grey, dark clouds rolled over, and it poured. He was drenched, soaked to the skin. As May took off his wet things, and towelled her little boy dry, Darryl imagined the crabs lying in the mud, waiting for the happy children to catch them in the morning, and wished he could play. He was five-years old at the time…

*****    

A Cambridge University student broke open a door of a plane and jumped to his death after overpowering a fellow passenger while in mid-air, it is claimed. Darryl Hatchett, 19, a redhead with curly hair, fell from a Cessna light aircraft as he travelled back from a remote lodge where he was studying crabs as part of his natural science degree.

The tragic incident happened 15 minutes after the plane took off from the remote Analalava region in northern Madagascar on July 25th.

Darryl is understood to have fought off British tourist May Hatchett before plunging 3,600 feet into the Madagascar savanna below, the newspaper reported. The pilot, Joe, also grappled with Darryl's leg and manoeuvred the plane from side to side in a desperate bid to prevent him from flinging himself from the tiny aircraft. Both eventually lost grip of Darryl after becoming exhausted in the life and death struggle. Authorities have launched a major operation to locate his whereabouts, but have not yet been able to recover his body.

Darryl was studying the rare red pin head crab on the grey sandy beach in Madagascar. It is believed that this tiny crab can enter the human eye and blind its victim, causing hysteria. Police officers investigating his death have recreated events on board the fateful flight after taking statements from the tourist and the pilot, Pierrot Rabetsitonta.

Local police chief, Biclair Henri Razafinrandriafsimaniry, said: ‘The Cessna C168 aircraft was taking off from Anjajavy with three people aboard, including Mrs Hatchett the tourist, Darryl and the pilot, Pierrot Rabetsitonta,’ adding that Police have recreated the incident but not found his body, ‘After 10 minutes of flight, Darryl undid his seatbelt, unlocked the right door of the plane, and tried to get out. Mrs Hatchett fought for five minutes trying to hold him, but when she was exhausted and out of breath, she let him go.’

Investigators have interviewed the staff, Irene Boto and Imerina Zafy, and scientific research team leader, Professor Tovonanahary Andrianantoandro, at the beach hut where he was staying.

Razafinrandriafsimaniry added that they read through his documents and he may have been suffering from stress or mental health issues related to his obsession with the red pin head crab.

He added that police were working under the assumption that it was an intentional fall and said that they are working with British authorities to establish the exact circumstances surrounding his death.

Earlier today, Darryl’s family paid tribute to the talented Cambridge student. In a statement released by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, they said:

‘Our son Darryl was a bright, independent young man, who was loved and admired by all those that knew him. He was always so kind and supportive to his family and friends, which resulted in him having a very special connection with a wide network of people from all walks of his life, who we know will miss him dearly.’

‘Darryl grasped every opportunity that was offered to him with enthusiasm and a sense of adventure, always seeking to extend his knowledge and experience of crabs in the best ways possible. He was particularly excited to be embarking on the next stage of his education, on an internship in Madagascar complimenting his studies in Natural Sciences.

His family later paid tribute to the teenager again:

‘Darryl was also a talented sailor, a respected member of the Crouch sailing fraternity, and he embraced the active side of his talents with joy and commitment. His thirst for discovering more of the world of crabs ensured that he made the most of every second of his action-packed young life. We are heartbroken at the loss of our wonderful, beautiful son, who lit up every pontoon he walked onto, and made the little children smile, just by being there...’


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