Snow Crabs

In 1927 on a suitably wet morning in Port Talbot in the south of Wales, Philip Antony Quince let out an audible sigh. He had just been informed by his want-away Dutch-Filipino girlfriend, Punie, via the medium of a pair of used men’s underwear deposited into the glove compartment of their rented Vauxhall Astra that their relationship was to end. The underwear, salmon in hue and with two kaffir lime leaves made from felt stitched into the rear, bore a simple note: “Antony, I dislike you tremendously.”

The underwear were of particular interest to Quince, being as they were a gift from his late uncle, the self-proclaimed Duke of Wilmslow, who used them initially as a rudimentary parachute during his teenage years and then later as a flag, which were permanently flown at half-mast outside his boarding school dormitory. A simple mosaic made from breadcrumbs accompanied the flag, which spelled out the immortal line: “bastards.”

Quince had, at the time, been driving to his local supermarket, where he had hoped to purchase a pouch of smoked salmon trimmings, a bail of fluorescent garden twine and a rubber snake, in order to complete a high school science project that he had received a “C+” mark for seven years prior. The grade had troubled him, and he was adamant that he would finish the piece, tentatively titled: “The African rhinoceros and its breeding habits in the Sudanese delta.” He would present his new findings in person to Mr. Runslip, his former high school Biology teacher, thus validating the intervening years which were marked only by bitterness, disappointment and regret. The discovery of the underwear changed everything. Quince pulled the car over to the side of the road and turned the engine off.

It had been a trying week. The lush green valleys that loomed over the village that Quince had called home for over twenty-four days had been lashed by incessant rain. The force of the droplets striking the single glazed window panes of his modest two up two down rented accommodation had broken his concentration. The anxiety caused by his inability to finish the science project had been hanging over him for some time, like a glove filled with mud, and now the bulbous fingers were touching him, metaphorically, on the ears. Quince took an extra strong mint from his bag and pushed it into the fleshy pocket between his left cheek and his teeth and sucked hard. His disastrous attempt to impress his former tutor was not the only thing that had gone wrong recently.

Quince had been unable to secure work in the valleys since his arrival, and as such had promised to write for his landlord, in lieu of rent, a collection of short stories, the first of which was to concern a Japanese school office which is run entirely by a staff of snow crabs. He had not, however, been able to make it past the first page, which, by his own admission, contained only a list of different types of hats, and a small crude drawing at the bottom of a fist.

Antony had met Punie under duress four calendar weeks earlier. Not realizing his mistake, Antony had attempted to enter a local branch of IKEA whilst dressed as an Atlas moth, and given assurances to startled shoppers that yes in fact the shop was currently on fire and no, the Swedish meatballs are not made fresh each day but are actually mass manufactured by a subsidiary company and subsequently shipped to stores nationwide where they are reheated.

Punie, confused and swept up in a sea of flailing limbs and scatter cushions, had fallen into the arms of Quince, who had immediately proposed.

Antony’s best friend from school, Ren Bunda, a rotund Turk of farming stock, arrived at the scene sometime later with a large weatherproof halogen bulb, and attempted to subdue the amorous maneuvers of his longtime friend with its warm flickering glow. However, he had arrived in haste, and had forgotten his traditional Vietnamese conical raffia hat, (which he refused to travel without), his prescription glasses, the halogen bulb, and also some small porcelain mice that were given to him at Easter by a friend of his auntie.

Section A: Words and Phrases

Circle the correct word which paraphrases the second paragraph

(a) Cereal

(b) Stay up late

(c) Traffic jam

(d) I’m very glad to meet you

Section B: Focus Listening

Fill in the blanks in the following sentences


(a) Quince goes to the (    ) in his (    ).

(b) Do you eat breakfast every day in your home (    )?

(c) Rinsing the body has never felt that way (    ).

Section C: Pre-Speaking

Why didn’t the author finish the story?

Select an appropriate answer

(a) Intense malaise fuelled by job dissatisfaction

(b) Sweltering heat causing looseness in the bowel

(c) Jaw cramp

Scott Patterson

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