Reading 6 : The Crab Feast (Four women in the Hoffman kitchen as family and neighbors arrive for the crab feast)
Narrator: My crab feast’s pièce de résistance, Mary thought as she poured ten egg yolks into the top of a double boiler. She added a cup of dry sherry, and began to whip the mixture with a manual beater. Aromas of bacon, clams, garlic, and sherry wafted from the pot on the stove. Mike’s mother, Dottie Hoffman, a slender woman with glasses and graying brown hair, and Lonnie, who was married to Mary’s younger brother Randy, were sitting at the round kitchen table along with Mary’s mother, Beth. Lonnie and Beth both had blond hair—Beth’s in tight curls and Lonnie’s curving smoothly to her shoulders. Lonnie and Dottie wore shorts and Beth wore capri pants with a matching knit shirt. The kitchen in the Hoffman’s great room had ten-foot-high ceilings and large windows looking out onto a deck overlooking the woods beyond. Spices, celery stalks, rosemary, two fresh corncobs, some onion skins, and an empty can of clams cluttered the island bar, evidence that a masterpiece was in the works.
Dottie (to Mary): “I’m looking forward to meeting your neighbors.”
Beth: “I’m sure they’re very nice people.”
Mary: “We’re enjoying them.”
Beth: “Do you find that black neighbors tend to stay to themselves? I’ve always found that to be the case. They’re rather hard to get to know.”
Mary: “I haven’t noticed that, but you do have to reach out a little to make friends with anyone. We’ve already become pretty close to one couple—the Watkins. You’ll meet them today, Wilma and Ron.”
Narrator: She stopped beating the eggs, turned the flame to low, and resumed stirring the chowder pot.
Mary: “I don’t know what I would have done today without Wilma. She took Jeff and Jason to the movies today with her kids. Got the boys out of my hair, thank goodness.”
Beth: “Does she have boys or girls?”
Mary: “One of each. You’ll meet them in a little while.”
Beth: “You know how I feel about boys and girls of different races mixing like that.”
Mary: “Yes, Mom, I know.”
Narrator: Mary opened the refrigerator and took out a quart of whipping cream.
Beth: “That always worried me. Boys will be boys, and girls girls.”
Mary: “Yes, Mom. And before we know it, you’ll be holding brown great-grandchildren.”
Narrator: Mary poured the cream into a mixing bowl.
Lonnie: “Mary, be nice.”
Mary: “Well, that’s what she’s worried about.”
Lonnie: “Well … doesn’t that worry you?”
Mary: “Not in the least. These are beautiful, intelligent people, and I wouldn’t mind adding a little color to the family.”
Lonnie: “You’re such a radical — ever since you had that black girlfriend in college.”
Narrator: Mary took out an electric beater and plugged it in.
Mary: “I learned a lot from Danielle. She was witty and brilliant and cared a lot about people.”
Narrator: Dottie looked peeved.
Dottie: “I don’t think Mary’s a radical. I think she’s right. I used to teach in Baltimore, and I soon found that white and black and brown are all beautiful. It’s nastiness and hatefulness that are ugly.”
Mary: “Thank you, Mother Hoffman.”
Narrator: Mary smiled as she whipped the cream into clouds of froth.
Beth: “Frank and I really can’t understand why you moved here, when everyone else is moving out.”
Mary: “You mean white people.”
Lonnie: “That’s what we are.”
Mary: “I didn’t want to move away from where I grew up and where you live. Why should I? Mike and I have no problem living with African-Americans.”
Narrator: Beth raised her hands head-high, palms up.
Beth: “Yes, but what about property values? Frank says that they always go down when black people move in.”
Dottie: “It seems to me the property values have gone up here with all these big new homes.”
Beth: “Frank says that as soon as we have a few murders and robberies and drug arrests, values will go down fast. Don’t forget—he’s been in real estate for many years.”
Dottie: “I just hope we don’t get into a housing bubble like we had with the Internet.”
Narrator: She said this to blank stares.
Dottie: “They say that’s possible.”
Lonnie: “What about the schools? A lot of white people moved out because they want better schools for their children.”
Dottie: “Maybe they just didn’t want their kids going to school with black kids.
Mary: “Any kid who works hard here can get into a good college,” Mary said.