Stephanie Katz :: Fiddler Crab Claws in the Moonlight ::

Flash Fiction

Southern Legitimacy Statement: I’ve spent my whole life living in Florida on an island south of Tampa. My mother, who grew up in the southern tip of Ohio, wanted to raise me by the beach, baptized by salt and sun. She rooted me here, like a sprig of beach daisy, and I crawled farther down the sand dune each year. Now I’m raising my own child alongside spoonbills and sunsets. Each year I watch his eyes grow bluer than the incoming tide.

Fiddler Crab Claws in the Moonlight

If you go under the boardwalk, you’ll see hundreds of fiddler crabs no bigger than quarters. They will hide in their burrows when they see you, but with time you’ll blend into the sand so you can watch their little lives in the ebb and flow of the tide. They’ll dig their holes and eat their food. They’ll find their mates and scurry to get to work on time so they can get their annual cost of living adjustment and maybe even get a promotion if they work hard enough.  

Some of the crabs will have one large claw that can fall off from fighting. While some crabs instigate fights, many crabs lose their claws defending themselves. Another crab may try to move into their hole or steal away their mate or their ideas for a new project. Another crab may feel self-conscious about their own flaws and attack a smaller crab to feel better. Sometimes the attacked crab will choose to flee instead of fight, but sometimes it will take a trembling breath and decide to stick up for itself. More often than not, the only result of its courage will be losing its precious claw.  

The crab will tell itself that everything is going to be ok, because a new claw will grow under its shell. The crab will eventually molt and shuck off its old shell to reveal a bigger, stronger claw it will use to defend itself. But the old claw will still be there, half-buried in the sand as a reminder of where the crab went wrong. For some unlucky crabs, they will regrow their claw only to have it beaten off them again, and then again. After each fight they’ll wonder if they should ask for a transfer to the other side of the boardwalk or if they should give up and go find a new beach entirely. They’ll wonder if they have enough to go to HR this time. 

During a full moon, you may see those unlucky crabs moving along the beach, quietly touching their disembodied claws as the tide rolls in and out. If you look closely when the moon is at its zenith, you may see my old claws, too, breaking apart into the sand.