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Imrahil had noticed his nephews gazing with fascination at the fishermen’s children, dropping their lines off the edge of the quay to snare the crabs lurking below. Was it their simple lives that the boys envied, he wondered, or their utter fearlessness in handling those worrisome beasts?
With their Nanny’s collusion, he awoke them in the early morning dark. “Dress quickly, and come with me,” he whispered, as they rubbed the sleep from their eyes. They did not question, for had he not always plied them with wondrous surprises?
Barefoot, they padded through the silent marble halls, out the garden gate, and down to the beach below. Past the dunes, to the rocky outcrops the boys had seldom visited, deemed too dangerous for the young and unsure of foot.
In the moonlight the tidal pools glimmered, full of mysterious, fey creatures. Some, like living flowers, waved their petals as if in time to underwater music; others, hauling their homes on their backs, crawled purposefully along the sea-mossy rocks. Fiddler crabs scuttled and scurried away.
“Look,” Imrahil whispered, showing them how to snatch a crab from behind, avoiding the snapping claws. He pulled a featherweight net sack from his pocket and slipped the crab inside. “Let’s see how many we can gather, shall we?
Slipping and sliding in the squelchy mud, dancing and chasing each other with the nippy creatures, they laughed until their bellies ached; but still managed to fill their sack with lively, jostling crabs.
“That’s plenty, good! Now we just need to collect driftwood for the fire, and some seaweed to bury them in.”
“Why are we burying them, Uncle? We just caught them.” Boromir was still breathless with giggling.
“We’ll steam them in the seaweed, and then we’ll have them for our breakfast.”
Instantly all merriment ceased. “Cook them?” They stared at him, aghast.
Imrahil had certainly not expected that reaction. “Yes, of course. Nice and fresh, plucked straight from - ”
“But they’re alive. They’re alive right now.” Boromir poked the squirmy bag gingerly with his toe. “You can’t just…”
“But I thought you boys liked steamed crabs. You had them the first day you were here, remember? You cracked open the claws and - ”
“That was different. Those crabs were supper. These crabs are creatures.” Faramir looked woeful.
“Very well, then,” Imrahil suppressed a sigh, knowing when to concede defeat. “But what about our breakfast?”
“There were beach-plum bushes, back there on the dunes. We could have beach-plums for breakfast…” Faramir was already showing signs of a ranger’s resourcefulness.
“…and that would tide us over until we got home, and had some real breakfast.” Boromir always was the pragmatic one.
So they took the sack, full of fine crabs, and spilled them out into the water, watching as the crabs swam happily away.
“Goodbye, crabs! Have a good life!” Faramir chirped. Imrahil coughed, choking back his laughter.
They headed back down the beach, stopping to sample the beach-plums along the way. There weren’t very many, and they weren’t quite ripe.
“I hope there’s some breakfast left,” Faramir said in a small voice. “Beach- plums don’t really fill you up…”
“I hope Cook has fried some fish,” declaimed Boromir. “I love a nice, fried fish for breakfast.”
2007 MEFA Award Winner - Second Place in Genres: Humor: Children
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