How To Get Crabs

There are things you must learn before you can fall in love.

By Snowden Wright

It will take years of mistakes with women — not returning phone calls, forgetting their names, not wearing a condom — before you finally learn a valuable lesson: you have to get crabs before you can truly fall in love.

Over the spring semester of your sophomore year, you and a friend, Rick, live at your family's vacation home in Florida. The night it happens you are twenty years old. At a beachside bar that, given your age, will remain anonymous, the bartender gives you a beer. Your friend Jessica stands beside you, sipping one of her own. Tonight is her idea. Earlier, on the phone, after you claimed to be too tired to go out, she said you and Rick were turning into such babies. So you told her you'd be here.

Near the bar, waiting on the arrival of Rick, whose shift ends in an hour, you notice a woman giving you a look. She's in her mid-forties.

The first person you ever masturbated to was the White Witch in the animated version of The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. Perhaps the event has something to do with your attraction to older women. Not everyone produces their first come stain to the thought of a thousand-year-old cartoon queen.

On the roof of a restaurant, the beachside bar overlooks the Gulf of Mexico, nothing separating it from the thick gulf breeze. A metronomic thrashing of waves on the shore competes with the band playing blues in the corner. You and Jessica talk about your work schedules while going seven beers deep. On your way to the restroom, the older woman grabs your arms and says, "How does it feel to be the best-looking guy in this bar?"

You tell her, "It feels great," but you feel nothing.

Come back from the restroom and ask the woman to dance. She is as drunk as you. Wonder for a second who is seducing whom. You will remember that her name is Sharon because MTV's The Osbournes is popular this year and she bears a passing resemblance to Ozzy's wife. On the dance floor, Sharon gets explicit about herself, including the fact she has a husband and two children, ages six and eight. She also gets explicit about what she wants to do to you. While attempting to hide an erection, you notice Rick talking with Jessica, both of them pointing in your direction. Rick finds the band's lead singer, whispers into his ear, and walks back to Jessica.

Cue the music. Those guitar chords stumbling over each other, that harmonizing of one man's voice with another's: The opening of Simon & Garfunkel's "Mrs. Robinson" is unmistakable. You find this hilarious. Oh, Rick! You laugh all the way back to Sharon's place, where the two of you make out by the pool.

"Do you want a fuck," she says, "or do you want a suck?"

"Both would be nice." Only later will you realize why she insists the two of you do it in the swimming pool. Must be tough to get old. Sure is tough to be naïve.

Hours later, back at the house, you creep into Rick's room, jump into bed with him, ignore his moans to be left alone, and say, "Guess what I did tonight!" 

"Had sex with a woman twice your age."


"Please get your nasty ass out of my bed." 

Dry-hump Rick for a bit, lift up his shirt, and give him a raspberry before going to your room, turning out the light, and falling asleep. Your dreams are tinged with chlorine.

Over the following days, you and Rick begin to notice small, itchy, red bumps on your bodies. They're no worse than razor burn. Although most are confined to your arms and legs, some of them appear dangerously close to your bathing-suit areas. That weekend, your parents arrive for a short visit, at which time you mention the predicament. You go to your mom first.





It is your dad who skips the innocent answer of bedbugs and jumps right to the conclusion of one who knows the guilty ways of men. His voice has a touch of Foghorn Leghorn to it as he yells something like, "The boys, I say, the boys got crabs." You and Rick deny his claim, both knowing he's probably right. "Both y'all look awful tired," your dad says that night. "Is something bugging you?" In the morning, you and Rick walk befuddled through the aisles of a drug store, arguing who will be the one to ask the pharmacist for crab medicine.

Your dad skips the innocent answer of bedbugs and jumps right to the conclusion of one who knows the guilty ways of men.

"I'm not the one who slept with that woman," Rick says. "I'm not the one who infested my bed afterwards."

Correct though he is, Rick eventually loses two out of three games of Rock, Paper, Scissors. He asks at the back desk, but the clerk hasn't a clue. (You would have thought a drug store located in such a popular spring-break destination would have an entire shelf dedicated to sexually transmitted pests.) At Wal-Mart, Rick discovers the solution to your venereal conundrum.

"Look right here on the back of the bottle," he says, holding treatment for lice of the head. "‘Also effective for the eradication of pubic lice.'"

"Guy at the drug store. What a fucking moron."

"Pot," he says to you, "kettle."

On the way to the checkout counter, Rick pauses at a rack of candy and picks up a Snickers bar. You ask about his diet. "When you've got crabs," Rick says, "weight just doesn't matter."

The two of you return to an empty house. Earlier that day, the appearance of a silverfish on the loveseat sent both your parents into a madcap frenzy to leave early. Rick volunteers to try the medicine first. Minutes later, you hear a horrific scream rise from a bathroom on the first floor, and minutes after that, you listen as Rick calmly tells you that the treatment didn't hurt much at all. Sweat covers his brow. You take the bottle downstairs, reading the steps of application. In the bathroom, you pull down your pants, straddle the toilet, and rub the foam into your crotch. You are supposed to leave it there for at least five minutes. The foam causes a very peculiar sensation, as though your cock has taken a sojourn in hell. You can almost hear a sizzle.

"How'd it go?" Rick says afterwards. The devil himself should take notes on Rick's chuckle. "You son of bitch."

Here's the real bitch of the story. Neither of you ever actually had pubic lice. Next week, an exterminator will come to check the house and say it is infested with spider mites, most likely the result of you and Rick leaving out food on the kitchen counter. 

Commentarium (40 Comments)

Jun 02 10 - 12:44am

Wow that was good! Still don't want to be the first of my friends to like it though.

Jun 02 10 - 12:57am

The writing style 'you do this' 'you say this' is irritating. There is a reason why this style isn't used very often.

Jun 02 10 - 2:39am

Some one was clearly fantasizing about Palahniuk when he should have been paying attention in English 101. YIKES.

Jun 02 10 - 7:48am

Perhaps, it may have been slightly clumsy in places.
But dear critical people, if this is so bad, please take the opportunity to do better.
I'd love to read something that's better than this. Because actually, I thought this was eloquent, funny and quite lovely.

Jun 02 10 - 8:56am

Until I got to the last sentence, I had to wonder if Nerve goofed and put some other story's page 2 onto this one's page 1. A little more continuity between page breaks would have been better. Or switch the order of the pages, which doesn't seem to matter.

Jun 02 10 - 9:33am

That was surprisingly good. I'd have to say this is the best one so far.

Jun 02 10 - 9:42am

Great stuff.

Jun 02 10 - 10:00am
J. Jewel

"Do you want a fuck," she says, "or do you want a suck?" Older women are so smooth!

Jun 02 10 - 10:45am

I liked this piece, but I agree with JCF - the problem with this story from a writing standpoint is that the first half doesn't have the connection to the second half that he was striving for. These two events happened to him, but he was trying to establish a symbolic connection between them and I don't think he did. Still, I liked the story and would like to see more thoughtfully written pieces like this on nerve.

Jun 02 10 - 11:01am

Fucking awesome! I didn't see Palahniuk in there at all. I can't wait to read more of Wright's stuff!

Jun 02 10 - 11:03am
constructive critic


Jun 02 10 - 11:07am

Funny and sweet. Without the supposed crabs it'd be sappy, without the sap it'd be bland. Good balance.

Jun 02 10 - 11:22am

This is awesome. I don't know why people are focusing so much on the style. The style fits the story and the story is great - I look forward to reading more by this author here in the future!

Jun 02 10 - 11:30am

This was a beautifully written, hilarious piece. I can't wait to read more by this guy!

Jun 02 10 - 11:43am

I enjoyed this very much!

Jun 02 10 - 4:12pm

aa, it isn't a "writing style". It's point of view; second-person at that. If you can't distinguish between style and perspective, you probably shouldn't be criticizing either.

Jun 02 10 - 10:22pm

Where are the Snowdens of yesteryear?

Jun 02 10 - 10:24pm

Second person? Behold, Nerve, the soul of shitty writing laid bare for the world to see.

Jun 02 10 - 11:15pm

say what you want but it made me feel something. it's been awhile since simple writing gave me that sweet sad feeling.

Jun 03 10 - 10:16am

I guess the husband and kids weren't taken into consideration before the suck and fuck fest?

Jun 03 10 - 10:21am

This was great. I like the description of the friend's relationship. I've been in that place the author found; the one where you are way more into the other person than they are to you...and you both know it...I really liked this.

Jun 03 10 - 10:57am

Silly confessional where is it going? Crab guilt assuaged by no love realization. This is a story?

Jun 03 10 - 11:20am

Putting my writing-major two cents in...I agree that the writer should've given the second person perspective a miss, but that does not make it shitty writing by any means. It's a lovely piece, good enough that I'm willing to forgive the perspective.

Jun 03 10 - 6:51pm

This article does suck. It doesn't even make any sense

Jun 03 10 - 8:39pm

I enjoyed it immensely.

Jun 04 10 - 8:54am

Liked this piece a lot. The whole "you" thing does read young, but so what: it's still tender, sweet and gently funny without being Saccharinely so. Well done!

Jun 04 10 - 9:27am

I agree with commenters, I think I would've preferred this story to have the two pages the other way around.

It was a good story, it was sweet and gross, like all good stories should be. And it will certainly have me itchy tonight *shudders at thought of spider mites and silverfish*

You guys were seriously, seriously dirty (like any good guy, I guess)

Jun 04 10 - 3:30pm

this article was a waste of fucking time.

Jun 05 10 - 1:56pm

This is really good. Really really good. Haters be damned.

Jun 07 10 - 7:11pm

that is twenty minutes I will never, ever, see again. Please stop writing, or go back in time and don't take the writing course at univeristy, and opt instead for business.

Jun 08 10 - 12:14am

I really didn't like this story. I thought the change up from "I" to "you" was interesting but wtf did part one and part two have to do with each other?! The part about "having crabs", I mean, he didn't even actually have crabs either. I felt like I was reading a badly written scientific paper. "If a then b" when a and b are only correlative, not causative and when a never actually happened in the first place. I feel like it was just a desperate grab for a cool headline to shock ppl and make them read.

Jun 08 10 - 12:36am

Vacation home in Florida? What's that?

Jun 08 10 - 2:58pm

Liked the story, disliked the second-person perspective. I think it would have been easier to read and more effective in first-person. Sometimes doing something to be different and to set oneself apart does so in unanticipated ways.

Jun 08 10 - 5:41pm

I liked it. Second-person can be such a bitch -- even Calvino, one of my personal faves, doesn't hit it out of the park every time -- and this does have jarring moments. But they pass, and the overall story is charming and well done. The second person is especially effective in the description of the realization of Tatum's feelings.

Jun 10 10 - 2:41pm

Everyone needs an older lady or man friend under his or her belt.

Jun 10 10 - 5:44pm

" back at the house, you creep into Rick's room, jump into bed with him, ignore his moans to be left alone, and..."

"Please get your nasty ass out of my bed." Dry-hump Rick for a bit, lift up his shirt, and give him a raspberry before..."

This was some of the best high-school composition written by a bisexual that I've read in a while.

Sep 30 10 - 1:14am

I remember reading this when it was first posted. It's written so well, and I don't know why some commenters hate on it because of the second-person. There are so many great lines:

"At that moment, you notice a look on her face that you realize is the result of, first, someone so reticent about revealing herself having someone else reveal himself so openly and, second, a woman coming to learn that her boyfriend feels something for her that she does not feel for him."

"Understand it doesn't matter that she doesn't reciprocate your feelings. All that matters is that you have them."


Oct 01 10 - 6:33pm

Your writing is simple great, Especially for beginners!

Nov 08 10 - 2:04pm
well done

i was really moved by this piece. and, although also jarred at points by the writing style, think that being able to genuinely get someone to feel something through your story is unique and rare and was very well-done here

Feb 18 11 - 5:41am

Hi, Can you share mr more info.