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Albert Camus

Don't walk behind me; I may not lead. Don't walk in front of me; I may not follow. Just walk beside me and be my friend.

Saturday, August 29, 2015

How To Catch Crabs (Turbulence and Triumph) by Demelza Carlton

A tale of crabs, cricket bats and catching your heart's desire in Jazz Age Western Australia.
Love and babies: two things Lucy doesn't have time for in her life. It's 1926 and this young West Australian woman is happy as an accountant. And she intends to stay that way.

Description:

Published: June 15th, 2015

Love and babies: two things Lucy doesn't have time for in her life. It's 1926 and this young West Australian woman is happy as an accountant. And she intends to stay that way.

Until Giorgio, an Italian migrant fisherman sent to Australia in disgrace. The moment their eyes meet across the fish market, he knows Lucy's the girl for him. If it weren't for his reputation as a rake, he's certain he could catch more than just her eye - perhaps even her heart, too.

A tale of crabs, cricket bats and catching your heart's desire in Jazz Age Western Australia.

EXCERPT

Motion through a shop window caught my eye and I focussed on the source – Mr Paino, peering over a pile of potatoes. When my eyes met his, his waving turned to beckoning as he enticed me inside.

"What are you doing up from the farm?" he asked as a gust of wind slammed the door shut behind me.

"Buying fish. Mum's got another bun in the oven and she's insisting on fish for dinner."

Mr Paino laughed. "Sounds like my Maria was with little Sam. She wanted fish every day. Good thing our shop is only a few streets from the fish markets – she'd walk there in the morning with the children while I worked." He eyed me. "So when are you settling down and having children, Lucy?"

"Doesn't that usually require a suitable husband?"

His smile died. "For a respectable girl like you, yes." Without lightening his dark tone, he continued, "My brother has arrived from Italy. He's just started working at the fish markets for Merlino, though I don't know how long he'll last. Last night he came home swearing that crabs and sardines were the spawn of the devil."

He wasn't far wrong, but even if they were, I'd have the devil to pay if I didn't bring that spawn home. "So your brother and Mr Merlino have crabs and sardines today?"

Mr Paino choked. "I don't know about Merlino, but I wouldn't be surprised about my brother. He was quite the troublemaker back home in Sicily, which is why Mama sent him to Australia. She seemed to think that sending him over to the other side of the world might make him turn over a new rock."

"Leaf," I corrected without thinking. "Turn over a new leaf."

His smile turned rueful. "Whatever the expression is, I doubt my brother is capable of changing. The girls all loved him back home and he loved them right back."

"So you're warning me that your brother is a rake, Mr Paino?"

He chuckled. "I don't think you need warning, Lucy. You're not silly."

No, but there were plenty of girls who were. I glanced outside and was surprised to see a lance of light pierce the cloud, reflecting off the footpath in blinding white. "Looks like the rain's let up. See you later, Mr Paino."

I slipped out of his shop and hurried toward the fishing boat harbour. The market hall was so busy, no one noticed an extra body – least of all one as skinny as mine.

"No, my boys don't have crabs. With weather like this, they're off catching big fish and not messing about in the shallows!" a laughing voice cut across the hubbub and all sound seemed to quieten. Maria's unmistakeable voice was music to my ears and everyone else's, too, it seemed.

I'd never envied a woman so much in my life. She was the same age as me – but that's where the similarities ended. Blonde and curvy like some sort of Italian painting of an angel, Maria Speranza was a young widow who could do as she pleased. She worked for the Basile family, but you'd never guess that she was anyone's subordinate. As Merry D'Angelo's niece, she had no parents to answer to, and as long as Merry approved of her, she had all the respectability any woman in Western Australia could muster. She'd arrived three years before and showed no sign of taking a second husband, nor needing one…though every man who saw her seemed to think otherwise. She was the uncrowned queen of the fish market.

In the dim recesses of my mind, I registered what she'd said: the Basiles didn't have crabs. But Mr Paino had said that Mr Merlino did, so I headed for the cramped corner of the market where his counter stood. Like everywhere, there were hierarchies and as Mr Merlino was new here, with no relatives to vouch for him, he had to build his own reputation. Much like my parents had – and many of the other migrants here.

As I approached the counter, he rose from beneath it, unfolding to a height several inches taller than me. And my eyes met…a pair that were much darker than Paolo Merlino's. Then one of them winked.

I blinked furiously, backing up to put some distance between me and this…rake, I realised, as I took him in. Well-muscled arms strained at his shirt sleeves as he folded them across his chest, making his knitted jumper tighten just enough to show the outline of more muscles beneath. He said something in Italian, his voice rich and deep, though he looked much younger than his brother.

His voice felt like it rumbled through my chest as much as his and his second wink said he knew it, too.

Don't be silly, I told myself. Rakes are good for gardening and that's it.

"I don't understand Italian," I told him. "Where's Mr Merlino? I need crabs and I understand he can help me."

His eyes seemed to widen as he heard my broad Australian accent. Had the fool thought I was Italian? "If it is crabs you want, streghetta, I will give you those and much more besides."

"English," I insisted. "If you're going to insult me, then I'll go elsewhere." I turned to go, but I had no idea if anyone else stocked crabs. If Maria didn't have them, I'd be lucky if anyone did.

"I called you a little witch, miss, because you have enchanted my senses. I am at your service."

About the author:
Demelza Carlton has always loved the ocean, but on her first snorkelling trip she found she was afraid of fish.

She has since swum with sea lions, sharks and sea cucumbers and stood on spray-drenched cliffs over a seething sea as a seven-metre cyclonic swell surged in, shattering a shipwreck below.

Sensationalist spin? No - Demelza tends to take a camera with her so she can capture and share the moment later; shipwrecks, sharks and all.

Demelza now lives in Perth, Western Australia, the shark attack capital of the world.

The Ocean's Gift series was her first foray into fiction, followed by the Nightmares trilogy. She swears the Mel Goes to Hell series ambushed her on a crowded train and wouldn't leave her alone.

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