Thankless Crabs

I stood on the beach, the sand was velvet. The sun was high, but the clouds kept it from blinding us. The sea air kept the heat from stifling our fun. My friend stood next to me, watching his daughter paddling to a suitable wave on her board. She was sixteen. Her body gave an instant response the moment she decided to go from flat to standing on the board. She rode the wave in back and forth motions, then followed the board sideways into the frothing waves. A moment later, she was flattened out on it again, paddling once more to find another wave. I asked my friend if it was weird. If seeing her only a few years away from being an adult was strange for him. He looked back out at her, up on a wave again, her arms out for balance, doing the closest thing to walking on water.
My friend and I made our way back to the patio, washed the sand off our feet, and slipped into the pool. His other two kids pointed at something at the bottom of the pool, and his son managed to get the golf ball-sized crab into a net. I suppose it had made its way from the ocean a few hundred feet away to this concrete island with its chloride oasis. It scurried out of the net and into a corner, behind a green plastic bucket, and stayed there for the next several hours as we laughed, swam and ate. I wondered what would happen to it if it couldn’t find its way back out to the shore.
The sun began to dip into the ocean and we began gathering our things. My wife looked at me to see if I were ready to leave. I started to go, but frowned, thinking about that stupid crab. “Hold on,” I said. I walked over and picked up the bucket the crab had been hiding behind and held it up. “I’m going to take him down to the water.” My wife laughed and said she’d go with me.
The crab scurried behind a rock, under the table, and finally against the wall where I managed to tip him inside the bucket. When I drop him into the sand, I thought, he’ll understand. But as I looked down into the bucket, as we walked along the beach, I realized how naïve that thought was. He was curled into a fist, tucked as far into the bucket’s bottom as he could. I knew that he’d never understand. He’d only ever fear me. He’d only ever think, in his crabby way, he’d somehow managed to escape some giant overfed predator. And, as I let him tumble from the plastic bucket onto the beach, he proved me right. He scuttled away, turning after a safe distance, and raising his claws, ready for a fight if need be.
“I probably saved your life, you ungrateful sucker,” I said, smiling.
Earlier that day, watching my friend’s daughter surf, he’d said to me that it wasn’t easy. He talked about how difficult it was to let them make mistakes. How difficult it was to get them to understand that sometimes you’re trying to save them from themselves; save them from becoming you. How, sometimes, you even want to give up so you won’t get your heart broken, but you can’t. 

I think of me. I think of God. I wonder how many things I’d seen as his judgment and anger that I’d unwittingly brought on myself; the consequences of my own arrogant actions. I wonder how many times I’ve fought him as he saved me from myself.



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