'The Crab' by Martin Day
The surface of the water rippled and danced just a few inches above him. The waves lapped gently overhead as he rocked back and forth in the delightful warm shallows. It was the first time that the Crab had ventured so close to shore. He had spent his whole life in the cold murky depths beyond the cove, but now he was drawn by the light that became ever brighter. He was middle-aged for a crab. We won’t be so insensitive as to number the years, but needless to say he had taken some knocks in life. With each bump and blow his shell had grown thicker. Now it was so thick that it was as hard and as cold as a stone.
Although it seemed like nothing could hurt him, he held soft and tender parts deep inside that still felt every jolt - not that it showed from the outside of course. No one would ever guess that he felt anything at all; unless, that is, they stopped to consider why it was that his shell had grown so thick and dark in the first place
But now the Crab was captivated by the sunlight and he thought nothing of the risks of the shallows. He just wanted more of the sun, the sun that was lighting his dreary existence, the sun that warmed his heavy armour, the sun that even seemed to filter in through his gills. It gave him the hope of a new day in the warm bay and a better way to live. Something was happening deep within his craggy shell.
“Haven’t seen you in these parts before,” said the Prawn.
The Crab was startled - not that it showed of course. He hadn’t noticed this translucent stranger who seemed to blend in with the sandy floor. He wasn’t sure that the comment needed a reply, so he pretended not to hear and carried on his way. The Prawn, however, seemed delighted at the opportunity to socialise.
“What brings you up from the dark depths?” he asked cheerily.
The Crab felt threatened by such a direct question but he was giving nothing away:
“What’s it to you?” he said gruffly. And he held his claws a bit tighter to his chest, like a careful boxer.
“It’s just that you don’t look quite comfortable up here in all that heavy armour.”
“It’s not armour and it’s not heavy,” snapped the Crab, lying twice. It was very heavy, uncomfortably so, and it certainly was armour. But the Crab wasn’t going to let his guard down: “And I’m quite comfortable. Thank you.”
“But you don’t need to carry that weight around in the shallows. It’s so warm here.” And the Prawn flitted from side to side across the Crab’s path to demonstrate the benefits of a light flexible body.
The Crab swiped at the Prawn as he passed. He was irritated by his new companion, and he was a bit hurt by the comment on his weight but he wasn’t going to let it show, so he decided trade insults:
“I’d rather have a presence than be swept about like a useless piece of flotsam,” he retaliated.
“Oh, I’m sorry. Have I hit a nerve?” asked the Prawn directly.
“No, no,” exclaimed the Crab, squirming on the inside. “You say what you want… just say it somewhere else.”
“Don’t be grumpy,” replied the Prawn. “I am sorry. I’m sometimes too direct, I know. I was hoping that we could be friends.”
At that the Crab’s heart softened. It was a long, long time since anyone had offered him friendship, and he at once realised that friendship was something he craved. But he was careful not to appear too enthusiastic:
“Well I suppose you could hang around, as we seem to be going in the same direction.”
“Oh that would be so much fun,” gushed the Prawn. “You’ll get used to me I’m sure. I do tend to wear my heart on my sleeve.”
The Crab wasn’t quite sure how to respond to gushing and he wasn’t sure either as to what a sleeve was, having never had one. But he was pleased to have made a friend, although friendship didn’t sit that comfortably with him. As they walked and talked together the Crab started to relax again and enjoyed the warm sunshine of the shallows.
As he studied the Prawn he noticed that it was not just the Prawn’s manner that was open and transparent, his body was too! He could actually see the Prawn’s heart beating through his see-through skin and some other organs, that he couldn’t quite place, were doing their thing as well.
“Don’t you feel a little vulnerable with all your insides on show?” asked the Crab curiously.
The Prawn was delighted that his new friend seemed to be overcoming his self-consciousness and was asking such a personal question.
“Oh no,” he replied. “I find that others respond more honestly if I’m just myself. What you see is what you get with me,” he beamed.
By now the Crab was feeling tired and a little odd. Everything seemed quite different here in the shallows, and all that his new friend had told him was making his head swim.
“I think I’ll stop here now,” said the Crab not wanting to let on that he was feeling a bit wobbly.
“OK,” said the Prawn. “maybe I’ll see you later?”
“It could happen,” replied the Crab as warmly as he could, still not wanting to appear too keen.
The Prawn flitted from side to side off into the distance.
The Crab sighed, breathed in the sunshine deeply and rested. He considered the Prawn and how different they were. How he’d love to be light and soft and free … and then it was as if the warm sun spoke to him:
“You can be.”
“I can be?” he thought. “I can be.”
He was now aware of why he had felt odd. There was a feeling of release from the pressure inside that he had grown used to. The sun had caused a split in the back of his shell and the casings on his big pincer claws were splitting too. Was there an inner him that could be free of his outer shell? He wriggled and pulled and bit by bit he came free from his old shell. It was hard for him to wrench away from everything that he'd been before. It was difficult and very painful. But the promise of a new freedom was tantalising. Suddenly he was out, he was free. He felt the gentle caress of the warm currents flowing over his supple skin. And the Sun beat down on his soft and tender body warming him through. It felt wonderful. It felt like nothing he’d ever felt before. He rubbed his eyes and hugged himself with his soft cuddly pincers. And for once he didn’t bruise himself with his own heavy claws. They were now soft and smooth and hairless. He noticed too that they were a lovely light green colour unlike the hard black claws he’d left behind. He hadn’t been this light since he’d been a little nipper. Excitedly he rounded to the front of his old shell. It felt like he was looking in a mirror. But now his old self had no life in it. It sat there glowering, black and horny. It looked so much like him, but it wasn’t. He saw, as if through new eyes, how rough and hard and ugly he had grown to be.
“But now I’m free,” he thought. “I’m light and flexible and see-through. I’m a creature of the shallows.”
Then a wave rolled in. The warm water swirled and lifted. He found himself tumbling over the rippling seaweed. It felt so silky against his naked skin. It was delicious. But then the wave sucked him back against a large pebble with a smack:
His skin felt bruised and he rubbed it with his soft claw as he paddled back to his old shell.
“There are some downsides to being this free, I guess,” he confided to his old shell.
“Hello Crab. Are you still here?” came a voice.
Suddenly the Crab felt very vulnerable floating there in all his nakedness.
“Hello-oo?” It was the Prawn again.
He couldn’t be seen like this. Although the Prawn had been friendly before he hadn’t seen him unclothed. The Crab found the prospect of being naked before another unbearable. So he quickly floundered back to his old shell and started to desperately wriggle inside again.
“Ah, there you are,” said the Prawn. “Some of the guys have found a dead bird on the beach. I was just wondering if you would like to join us for dinner.”
... to be continued!
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© M Day 5-June-2007