A community recreation room- one of those YMCA type of spaces that you can rent out for your private occasions. By itself, the room feels stale, with white walls and floors only marked by dust and wear over the years. The vibrancy and life comes from the people in the space. On one of the white walls is a ‘Happy Birthday!’ banner, messily hung up. There are balloons set out, floating clumsily through the air or along the roof. The only one anchored down is a golden ‘72’ balloon, tied to a table. At this table sits the man of the hour, EDDIE (70s). He wears a party hat that’s close to falling off his head, and a Maryland Terps sweater. On his side of the table is a pile of crab shells, the meat plucked out. He is prone to coughing fits, the clogged up scary kind. Next to him is LEAH (17), his grand daughter. Her side of the table is bare. The rest of the family moves around the rest of the room, their chatter a comforting noise in the background.

LEAH

I’m not sure about this, Granddad. I didn’t really, uh. Think this all the way through.

EDDIE

Don’t need much thinking at all, it’s not complicated.

LEAH

Well, I mean, it’s a little complicated, there are all these, these bits and pieces and organs and stuff, and I’m having a few, uh, reservations-

EDDIE

Thinking. Thinking about what? It’s not complicated, see.

LEAH

Ok, alright-

EDDIE

You think too much. That’s your problem, you think too much, always, your mind
always, it’s always going, too fast, thinking so hard you’re not processing anything.

LEAH

Ok. Well. I don’t know where that came from-

EDDIE

You think too much! Some people, they don’t think enough, other people, they think too
much. Your sister, Leah, that girl, she don’t think enough. You sopped all the thinking
out of your mama so that by the time your sister came around and got popped out, wasn’t
nothing left for her.

(beat)

That’s not rude, see, that’s honesty. You can be a good person a smart person without
ever really thinking about anything.

LEAH

Granddad.

EDDIE

Huh?

LEAH

I’m Leah.

EDDIE

Eh?

LEAH

I’m Leah. You’re talking about. Claire. My sister.

EDDIE

Huh.

LEAH

You just called me a dumbass.

EDDIE

No, see, I didn’t!

LEAH

You-

EDDIE

What was the last thing I said, eh?

LEAH

Something about. Being smart but not thinking, or something.

EDDIE

See! There you go.

(beat)

If anything I called Claire a dumbass.

LEAH

OhmyGod.

EDDIE

Come on, now! Stop distracting me. Do you want to learn this or not?

LEAH

I’m not distracting-
I do, yeah, I do. Well. I mean. I don’t-

EDDIE

Thinking! Come on now, I’m hungry.

Leah looks at the pile of shells in front of him.

LEAH

You must’ve eaten like ten crabs, Granddad. You’re still hungry?

EDDIE

Hush up and grab your crab. How old are you now?

LEAH

Seventeen.

EDDIE

Seventeen. ‘Bout time you learned how to crack open a crab, get your own food.

LEAH

I guess.

EDDIE

You asked me to teach you this. You don’t want it now?

LEAH

Everyone else in the family knows how. And I-

Eddie goes into a coughing fit. Leah watches.

(low, something soft and sad in her voice)

You alright?

He waves her away. Picks up a crab.

EDDIE

Come on, now. First you-

LEAH

How about. You just show me, once. I’ll just watch one time.

EDDIE

Alright, then.

He yanks the legs out first, then sits the rest of the crab down. He cracks the shell of the legs, getting the meat out, dipping it in butter and eating as he goes. When he’s done he picks the crab back up and grabs it from the top, in the space in between where the shell meets the body. He digs his thumb in and pulls it apart, splitting it in two. Leah gags.

LEAH

Oh God, ok see, that-

EDDIE

Hush up, girl, I’m working.

LEAH

Ugh I hate that, I hate that stuff, the yellow-

EDDIE

You clean it out, see? Stop complaining.

Using a broken off piece of the leg, he cleans the crab out a bit, getting the yellow goop out the way, tearing away the tissue, getting to the meat. He starts taking pieces out, eating a bit as he goes and finishes the job.

It’s real simple from here on. You know, you know what to-

LEAH

Yeah.

EDDIE

Let me see you do it, then. Go on, grab one, get a good one, not one of them tiny female
ones.

LEAH

Alright, let me, let me make my choice-

EDDIE

Come on, now.

She reaches into the box of crabs and looks through them.

LEAH

Do you have to pee or something? Why’re you rushing-

EDDIE

Don’t get all snappy with me now.

LEAH

Sorry, sorry, look I got one, see, I got it. I’ll get you one too, ok?

Another coughing fit, shorter than the first. Leah waits it out patiently.

EDDIE

I got one already, don’t need-

LEAH

Let’s just do it together, ok? Let’s do one together.

She passes him one.

EDDIE

There’s still cake, you know. Got to leave room for cake.

LEAH

You can’t have cake. I don’t wanna have to shoot a bunch of insulin in you, or whatever you have to-

EDDIE

Stop all that, it’s sugar free probably, your aunts probably got-

LEAH

If it’s sugar free you don’t want it, that’s some nasty shit-

EDDIE

You got a crab yet or what?

LEAH

Yeah, here. What do I do first?

EDDIE

The legs, see, the-

LEAH

Oh, yeah, ok.

She breaks them off, slower than him. She tries cracking the shell using only her hands, like he did, but she can’t and uses a hammer instead.

EDDIE

Be careful with that, now.

LEAH

Uh-huh.

She works to get the meat out, moving slowly.

Are you having fun?

EDDIE

Huh?

LEAH

Do you like the party?

EDDIE

Sure I do! Nice seeing everybody together.

LEAH

Lot of love all in one place.

EDDIE

Where’d you get that from? That’s a nice line.

LEAH

Probably a Tyler Perry movie or something.

EDDIE

Ha!

He coughs again, needing a napkin this time. When he’s done he crumples it up and puts it to the side. Leah peeks over at it. There’s small dots of red on it. She finishes with the legs and moves onto the rest of the body.

LEAH

I hate the organs, all the gooey parts.

EDDIE

Got to get through a little mess first to get to the good stuff. Work for your food! Killing
a whole creature, one of God’s creatures, that’s not easy work, that’s not, it’s not simple,
you hear me? Can’t get mad at it for being a living thing, having organs and things, with
us sitting here feeding from it. Just ‘cause we were the bigger thing, we’re not the ones
getting scooped out. Not until something bigger comes along, at least. Gotta get grateful
for that.

(beat)

Your Aunt Loni eats the eggs, you know. The eggs, in the females-

LEAH

What?

EDDIE

Sure enough.

LEAH

Freaky shit.

EDDIE

Stop all that cursing now, damn it.

LEAH

I got it from you!

EDDIE

I might’ve gave it to you but I didn’t say you could use it!

LEAH
(laughing)

What, that doesn’t even make sense. I learned it from you, least I can do is use it around
you.

(beat)

Hopefully I’ll get to learn some other things from you, too.

EDDIE

I ain’t gettin scooped just yet now.

LEAH

That’s not, that not what I-

EDDIE

Well

He picks up the tissue from earlier, looking at it. Then puts it in the trash pile, with the empty shells.

I’m sure I’ll see it soon. That bigger thing.

Quiet. Leah rips into a shell a bit too rough, cutting herself.

LEAH

Ow! Shit-

EDDIE

What’s that now?

LEAH

The shell, I. Shit, I cut myself.

EDDIE

Go on and rinse it out now-

LEAH

No it’s. It’s fine, I’ll just.

She grabs a clean napkin and wraps her finger in it, pressing down.

I hate when you talk like that.

EDDIE

You’re dripping all over the place girl, don’t get blood on my food-

LEAH

It’s not that bad. I really hate it, Granddad, it’s fuck- it’s rude.

EDDIE

To who?

LEAH

To. To me! I don’t want you getting scooped!

EDDIE

Scooped, what’s that now-

LEAH

(frustrated

You, earlier you said, with the crabs.

I don’t want you dy-
Leaving.

EDDIE
(a short cough)

Not all that comfortable staying, you know.

LEAH

Well. I don’t. You didn’t want to stay in the hospital, do the treatment or anything-

EDDIE

There’s only so much poking and cutting a man can take, I’m old girl-

LEAH

Well you’re not. You’re just. Letting it happen. I don’t get that.

Eddie looks at her for a long moment

EDDIE

That’s good, then.

LEAH

Grandad I’m saying I don’t understand, I don’t-

EDDIE

You’re not meant to! I told you, all this thinking you do. Live life, do something, fight for
some things. At a certain point you’ll be old and grey and coughing and look around and
feel your bones, the weight of them. You get tired, but only after you’ve been doing,
living through something. Why would you understand? You shouldn’t! Wouldn’t want
you to.

LEAH

I. Ok, but. I don’t. Think I’ll be like that, ever.

EDDIE

Alright well this ain’t about you really right now, is it? Greedy.

LEAH

Don’t you want to be here? For us?

EDDIE

Course I do. I’ve been here for you before there was a you, been working for you before I
knew you.

LEAH

Ok, so then why-

EDDIE

Don’t be selfish, now.

Quiet. Eddie sets another crab in front of her.

Again, now. Without the hammer.

She starts again.

Come ‘round to the house tomorrow and I’ll show you how to change your tires, check
your oil.

LEAH

Ok.

EDDIE

Alright.
Some things you gotta know. Things I gotta tell you. Got enough time left to do it.

LEAH

What about Claire?

EDDIE
(dismissing it)

Eh. She’ll be fine.

LEAH

Ohmygosh-

Niara Mae is a playwright, actress and director from the Washington, D.C. area. Most recently, she’s written for Here We Go’s 24 Hour Play Festival, and worked with The Language of Us podcast. She graduated from The New School for Drama in May. 

More of Niara’s Plays in Mixed Mag:

Terra Tries to Have a F*cking Conversation (Issue 9)

Water Your Plants (Issue 7)

I Signed Another Petition Today (Issue 6)

Hair (Issue 5)

Remarkable (Issue 4)

Getting Married Today (Issue 3)

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