Conte, a journal of narrative writing.

The Fruits of Our Labor
by Stephanie Marie Chizik


Once a year every summer, my sister and I return to our childhood home for a trip to the crab house. This past year we took our little motorboat from the neighborhood marina to Mike's dock. We rocked on the wakes to Jimmy Buffett, forever in the background of our lives, while we waited for an outside table. The water helped our bodies sway to the rhythm of the song and swished Killian's into our mouths. As the boat dipped in the valley of a wave, our bodies shifted lower than the bottle dropping beer down my throat. When the boat rose over the peak of a wave, our bodies floated higher than the bottle, breaking our lips from the rim.

The water promotes laziness. Maybe that's why crabs skitter sideways through the Bay: they're too lazy to turn head-on into the surf, willing to trade off seeing where they're going for an easier mode of travel. It's the Annapolis theme, too, keeping with tradition instead of foraging into something new. We go sock-less from spring to fall, we decorate our boats in Christmas lights and root for the Naval Academy, especially against Army.

The only time I've seen a crab go out of his way to be active is when he's clambering over his friends to get out of the cooking pot. The crabs climbing on top of each are like the Naval Academy plebes during the "Recognition Ceremony." For entertainment each May, the people of Annapolis come to Navy's campus by the air horn blast at 2pm (or 1400 Hours) when the plebes begin to climb a 21-foot statue. The goal is for the freshmen to replace the plebe hat they've worn this entire year with the hat worn by the upper classmen, the one they'll wear after the Commissioning Ceremony. Because Herndon Statue, which looks like a miniature Washington Monument, gets slathered in lard by the upper classmen before the freshmen touch the stone, it can take anywhere from one minute thirty seconds (the recorded time for the freshman class of 1969) to the freshman class of 1995's time of four hours, five minutes and seventeen seconds.

They pile on top of each other, climbing up stomachs and hoisting with hands. They slip off of shoulders and start over again. They sweat and stretch until they finally reach that hat, which they always do. They start off enthusiastic about their time, underestimating the effects of the melting lard, and end with a fading sigh. They're the crabs in the pot, clambering to get free, clicking the tips of their arms against the hard surface until slowly the tapping fades away and they succumb.