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Edible Nonfiction Challenge: Winner

Hunter-Gatherer by Crystal Chan

Entry from the winner of our Edible Nonfiction Challenge, Crystal Chan.

by Crystal Chan
Montreal, QC 

I was hunter and gatherer in one. I snarled as I pushed the screwdriver in and down with the weight of my ten-year-old body, from 90 degree-legs to squatting so that my bum skimmed the rocks.

The hinge to my lever was the stubborn crack in an oyster shell. Four pushes was usually what it took. I spooned the meat out and down my throat and it was like not-quite-set jello, fish flavoured. The sand bucket was nearly full. My parents wouldn't notice. I allowed myself one after I got three in the bucket. Or if I hurt myself - another chipped nail, another raw fingerpad stung by salt water - I ate one in return.

Mom explained we left the shells so that baby oysters would find a home. Dad said he wasn't sure that's how it worked. We left them just in case, and the torn-apart shells dotted the sand and rocks that went all the way to the tide-receded ocean and the sky, everything grey and brown and green like the oyster shells. When you ate the oysters it was like you were eating the view.

Back at the motel everyone had so many oysters that we had to throw some away. We stewed the big ones in ginger and green onions. The smaller, more delicate ones lay raw on a pretty plate for the grown-ups. Everyone sucked greedily, shouting as their insides flooded with saltwater and zinc. "Remember the oysters I got us at the Hyatt?" said my uncle, cheeks red. My grandmother said we were lucky because catching edible seafood was now impossible in Hong Kong, so that, ironically, what started as a fishing village was now a place where fish were imported.

We went back next year, but there was a sign: "Taking of Shellfish Prohibited."

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