Sunday, February 05, 2006

The Demise of Buster the Crab

February 5, 1988

Last weekend my friend Zil told me a story. By day, Zil’s an hourly worker at the Board of Trade, and she lives with her parents in the southwest suburbs.

One evening Zil was up in her room when she heard her father bellowing from downstairs, “Look at it!” he exclaimed. “Have you ever seen anything like it? Don’t worry, I’ll get it.”

He was telling Zil’s mother, in the excited tones he usually reserved for football games on TV, that a tarantula was crawling across the kitchen floor. In short order he mobilized against the threat, rummaging through kitchen cabinets, knocking things over in search of Raid.

Zil’s mother was skeptical. “Tarantulas don’t usually come this far north, do they?” It was also about zero degrees outside, no weather for a spider invasion.

“I read once that they can get into your house by hiding inside a bunch of bananas,” Zil’s father said. “You bought some bananas yesterday, didn’t you?” The Raid can he was holding went psssssssst.

“I only bought four bananas. I think I would have noticed…” Psssssssssssst.

Everything was quiet for a moment. Then Zil’s father gushed, “It’s still moving!” The thrill of battle was in his voice.

Before long he’d given up on chemical warfare and was wielding a cast-iron skillet. “Stand clear! I’ll get him before he crawls behind the refrigerator.”


At this point you need to know that for many years, one of Zil’s hobbies has been maintaining an aquarium. Unfortunately, she’d never quite gotten the knack of keeping her sea creatures alive. Her angelfish died young. Her guppies floated. Even her snails checked out before long.

Lately, though, she’d acquired a small crab that seemed to be doing well. She called him “Buster.”

Soon after her father had dealt the final blow, Zil arrived at the kitchen door to see the ruckus for herself. Her father was now examining the mess stuck to the bottom of the skillet.

“You should have seen him,” he said to his daughter. “He was a monster.”

All at once a horrible feeling came over Zil. Without a word she rushed to her aquarium, and sure enough, Buster was gone. Crabs, it seems, crawl out of their tanks now and then. Back in the kitchen, a quick look at the underside of the skillet—as her dad was scraping it off—told her that Buster had met his maker then and there.


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