MR. CRAB’S GREAT ESCAPE
Mr. Crab lived in a fish tank on a dresser in the bedroom of two small people. He shared his tank with another crab named Patty and two Puffer Fish named Puff and Smokey. The puffer fish were bullies who took every opportunity to tease Mr. Crab. Although Patty was friendly and seemed kind, Mr. Crab knew he was different and didn’t see how Patty could truly understand him when she was so…normal. You see, Mr. Crab was a male Fiddler Crab, and unlike Patty, who was a female and had matching claws, Mr. Crab had one huge claw and one regular sized one.
Most of the time, Mr. Crab felt awkward. He felt silly looking. He felt lonely.
Every morning, Mr. Crab awoke to a loud noise followed by sudden bright light flooding the bedroom and the fish tank where he lived. He watched from atop his favorite rock while the two small people shed their colorful shells that they’d donned the night before and put on new, often more colorful shells. Then they’d leave the room, not to reappear for a really long time. Sometimes, they’d come into the room, pick up a box of blocks and dump it out onto the floor. They would sit on the floor and build towers and buildings with their blocks until larger people came to tell them it was time to pick up and get ready for dinner. Other times, the small people would come in and shed their colorful shells and put on white shells with a colorful stripe in the middle. Then one of the larger people would come in and they would all move around the room together while the larger person called out words Mr. Crab didn’t understand. The moves were beautiful to watch, and Mr. Crab worked hard to learn them himself.
One morning, Mr. Crab was standing atop his favorite rock practicing his ‘White-Shell-Moves’ as he’d come to call them, when he noticed that the faces of the two little people and one of the large people were pressed up against the glass of the tank watching him. Fearing the people were going to tease him for wanting to learn their moves and feeling a little embarrassed for being caught in the act, Mr. Crab hurried into the cave in his rock and hid there for the rest of the day.
Every once in a while, the puffer fish circled by and called out “Hey there, Kung Fu Crabby…Won any trophies lately?”
Patty, who lived in a log on the other side of the tank, heard the puffer fish taunting Mr. Crab and came out into the open to scold them. “How DARE YOU tease Mr. Crab? Just who do you think you are?
Yes, he has a big claw. YES…he has a harder time getting around the tank because of it, but he’s perfect just the way he is. Have either of you looked at your own reflection in the tank lately? You’re both getting pretty round in the belly these days and we haven’t been making fun of you!”
Puff hollered out “WE’RE NOT FAT…JUST PUFFY!” and swam off to sulk in the plants with Smokey.
Mr. Crab heard a sound outside his cave. It happened several times before he turned towards the opening of the cave just in time to see a piece of gravel come flying through.
“Oops…Sorry!” he heard Patty say as she peeked her eyes around the corner of the opening. “I was just trying to get you attention. I’ve been worried about you all day. Are you are o.k.? May I come in?”
“Thanks for your concern, Patty, but I really just want to be left alone.” said Mr. Crab.
“You can’t let THEM get to you, Mr. Crab. They’re bullies, and you can’t let bullies win! Besides, they’re just jealous of your white-shell-moves.
Mr. Crab turned his back to Patty and stayed facing the back of his cave until he was sure she was gone. “There’s got to be more of MY kind out there somewhere…far away from this tank” he said to himself.
He stared out of the opening of his cave towards the place where the light poured in each morning and began to plan his escape.
Early the next morning, before the loud noise and light came to awaken the residents of the bedroom, Mr. Crab surveyed the tank to find the best escape route. The Puffer Fish were sleeping in the plants, and he was especially careful to not knock into anything with his claw for fear of waking them. As he walked along the back of the fish tank, Mr. Crab came upon a large black object that shot bubbles out of the bottom with a waterfall at the top. There were ridges along the side that he hoped he could use as ladder rungs to climb up. He quickly looked around the dark tank to be sure nobody was awake and watching him, and then he took a great leap to the bottom rung. Mr. Crab began to climb.
Towards the top of the waterfall, Mr. Crabs‘ giant claw got caught on a ladder rung and he began to fall. He let out a yelp of surprise that startled the Puffer Fish awake. Puffer Fish do not wake up nicely on any morning, but when they realized who was responsible for waking them before the bright light and loud noise that usually heralded the start to the new day (and of course the cue that food would soon arrive through the magic hole in the sky), both Puff and Smokey were down right angry. Mr. Crab lay in a heap where he fell with his giant claw covering his eyes. He was shaken and in a bit of shock, but that didn’t stop the Puffer Fish from starting trouble.
Puff crossed the tank and attacked Mr. Crab with words while Smokey stayed in the plants glaring at Mr. Crab. “Do you have ANY idea how much sleep it takes to look THIS good? Do you? And you had the nerve to wake us up? Look at Smokey. Look at HiM! Now he’ll be ugly for the rest of the day. He probably won’t even have the energy to puff up and it’s all your fault!”
Then Smokey, who rarely spoke, yelled “Charge!!!” and hurled himself at Mr. Crab like a giant football spiraling across the tank. The force off the Puffer Fish’s impact flipped Mr. Crab onto his back. As the Puffer Fish swam away laughing, Mr. Crab hoped for a miracle.
Suddenly, the loud noise started, followed by a flood of light. Mr. Crab knew it wouldn’t be long until one of the people noticed him on his back and came to the rescue.
Suddenly, the loud noise started followed by a flood of light. Mr. Crab knew it wouldn’t be long until one of the people noticed him on his back and came to the rescue.
Patty had been sleeping in her log when she heard the Puffer Fish yelling. She peeked her eyes around to see what was happening just as Smokey did his football impersonation. She watched in horror as Mr. Crab was flipped onto his back. She froze in fear. Ashamed of herself for being unable to help her friend when he needed her, Patty waited until the coast was clear and then sprang into action. She ripped a plant stalk out of its rocky base and made her way over to Mr. Crab.
“Grab hold with your small claw” said Patty. “I’ll pull you up and over.”
Mr. Crab flipped onto his feet. “You shouldn’t help me, Patty. They’ll start attacking you if they see you” he said gesturing to the Puffer Fish. “It’ll only make it worse for you when I’m gone.”
“Gone?” asked Patty? “Are you sick Mr. Crab?”
“No, not at all, Patty. Nothing like that”. Mr. Crab said. “I’ve got plans, that’s all. I can’t stay here being bullied, and I feel it in my shell…there’s somewhere out there that I belong.”
“But how? How can you get out of the tank? What if there isn’t anything outside of this room? What about me?” asked Patty.
“When we came to live in this tank, you were such a young crab, not quite an adult. It’s no wonder you don’t remember life outside. I remember the fish store we lived in before we came here. It had lots of tanks with all sorts of fish in them. Patty, there are so many other water creatures out there…more than just Puffer Fish, so there have to be more crabs out there too! ” Mr. Crab paused while Patty tried to picture the fish store.
“I always thought I was just born here in this tank.” said Patty.
“I remember being put us in a plastic bag with water in it, then one of the small people carried the bag to a room that moved…the big people called it their “car.”. Inside the car, the small person held our bag up to the window and I watched as things passed by…other cars, large green things that look like spiky plants, some big rocks and then long windy looking water. I bet there are crabs in that water.
That’s where I’m going…soon.”
Patty sighed. She’d been worried about her friend for a while but now he was talking about making an escape from the only place Patty could even remember and suddenly she was scared for him. “Do you really think you should? It must be so dangerous out there…otherwise why else would the people keep us in this tank in this room…safe and sound?” she asked. She wanted to tell him that he was crazy to think of leaving. She knew Mr. Crab was frustrated with life in the tank…the daily routine of scavenging for leftovers …the constant taunting and bullying from the Puffer Fish. She thought he’d seemed happier since he’d started practicing his white-shell-moves, but he seemed so different now. Determined. She wished she had someone else to talk to about her worries, but Mr. Crab was her only friend.
“I think they keep us here to clean up after those filthy Puffer Fish, and I’m not going to do it any more!” Mr. Crab shouted. He was angry now, but Patty knew he wasn’t angry with her. He took a deep breath, then another. “Thanks for helping me up, Patty, but I have a lot of work to do and need to get back to my cave to work it out.”
Without even waiting for a response from Patty, Mr. Crab hurried home.
Late at night, while his tank-mates were asleep, Mr. Crab made his way back to the waterfall ladder. Very careful to not bang or catch his giant claw, he climbed his way to the top. As he stood on top of the waterfall platform with his feet in the tank and his body above it, Mr. Crab felt excited and nervous. He surveyed the dresser on which his tank sat and looked for a way down to the floor below. As he peeked his eyes over the edge of the dresser, he noticed the drawers below were slightly open and full of the little people’s soft shells.
‘Perfect for a safe landing’ he thought. Once more he peered around the room to make sure that all was quiet, then he made a leap over the edge of the dresser into the first open drawer. Soft landing, just as he’d predicted. Down two more drawers, then onto the floor with a quiet clank of his shell. ‘No gravel here’ he thought. Smooth hard ground. Mr. Crab crossed toward the pale light he could see under the bedroom door then slipped under and into the hallway.
The other side was a strange place full of new noises and objects. The ground here was soft, and his claws and legs snagged on it as he walked. He listened for a moment before moving on. He was in unfamiliar territory now, and needed to learn as much as he could about this out-of-tank area before he could make his big escape. He saw other dim lights in another area of the house and made his way toward them. Again the ground changed. This time it was like that in the bedroom but he could see places where the ground was coated with the soft snaggy covering similar to that in the hallway. He decided that for the sake of safety he should avoid this for fear of getting stuck or worse…in a bad snag he could lose a leg! He followed the hard smooth path around the snaggy ground that led into the kitchen. Here the ground changed again, and Mr. Crab was surprised at what a difficult time he had walking on it. The surface wasn’t snaggy at all…instead it was slippery and hard. Clank! Clack! Click! Clang! He skidded to a stop over a scratchy line on the ground that reminded him of the tank gravel followed by more hard and slippery areas.
Mr. Crab decided to follow the line. If he were careful, he could keep himself balanced on the line for traction. Crossing the kitchen floor, Mr. Crab saw what looked like a smaller door inside the large door that appeared to lead outside. Suddenly, the smaller door flipped up and the family’s huge dog came bounding through. Paralyzed with fear, Mr. Crab stood still as a statue while the dog looked down at him. The dog was hideous and its mouth seemed to never fully close. A pool of water was forming around Mr. Crab, and it occurred to him that the dog was leaking from its face. The dog bent his head down to sniff at Mr. Crab and he instinctively used a blocking technique from his white-shell-moves. The dog seemed to think this was a fun new game, so he sniffed again and Mr. Crab poked him with his claw. The dog was getting excited now, and Mr. Crab feared that he would really be hurt if he didn’t get out of there right away. The dog pounced in front of Mr. Crab and bent down with his huge tongue to lick him.
“Oh no! He wants to TASTE ME!!!” shouted Mr. Crab as he stuck his giant claw into the air and snapped it shut in self defense. Suddenly he heard the dog yelp and then he was launched into the air. His giant claw had clamped down on the tip of the dogs tongue and now he was swinging wildly from it as the dog ran through the house and into the hallway.
A light in the room across from his tank bedroom came on and Mr. Crab heard large people voices. He let go of the dog’s tongue and scurried back under the bedroom door. He could hear the dog whimpering on the other side, but his only thought now was on getting back into his tank before the people realized he was out. He used his giant claw for support and climbed the cord from the fish tank’s air pump back up the dresser. Then he climbed the air tube leading back to the top of the waterfall. He stood atop the waterfall looking around the room in the early morning light. He could hear the large people scolding the dog out in the hallway. Mr. Crab smiled to himself as he jumped off the waterfall and back into the tank. He knew he still had much to do before he could truly be free, but he believed he had passed the biggest hurdle of them all. No, Mr. Crab hadn’t yet reached the windy water or even the outside of the house, but he was well on his way!
Patty and the Puffer Fish didn’t see much of Mr. Crab for the next few weeks. Patty heard Puff whine to Smokey that he hadn’t anybody to tease in way too long, and he feared he was losing his touch. Smokey hurled himself in slow motion at Puff which made Puff laugh so hard he puffed up and floated to the surface of the tank. That got Smokey laughing until bubbles came out of his nose, then he puffed up himself and joined Puff at the surface.
Knowing that deflating takes a bit of time, Patty took the surfaced Puffers as an opportunity to go visit Mr. Crab and find out what he is up to without fear of interruption from those bullies. “Knock knock”
Patty said peeking into the cave. Mr. Crab jumped and quickly scattered the gravel he had been stacking into some sort of picture.
“What are you working on in here, Mr. Crab?”
Mr. Crab was slow to answer her. He thought for a moment about whether or not it would be safe to tell her the truth or if he should make up a story. “I’m finishing up the details of my escape plan, Patty. I was using the gravel to mark points in the area outside of the tank so that I don’t get stuck or off track.”
“How do you know what to put where? The only time you’ve been out there was when they brought us here from the fish store, right? Maybe things have changed or been moved since then?”
Mr. Crab thought again for a moment. He had a nagging feeling that he needed to bring Patty with him, but didn’t see how they could both make the escape safely. “Actually, I’ve been out there much more recently than that,” he said. Then he proceeded to tell her all about his first adventure outside the tank. He told her about the way the ground changes. He told her of the sounds and the light. He told her of the smaller doors he had discovered in both the back and front doors, and how one of them was much smaller than the other. Then he told her of about the dog, and he wondered some more about how that giant creature could fit through that smaller door at the front of the house when he seemed to barely fit through the one he’d come through the night Mr. Crab first met him in the kitchen.
Patty sat listening carefully and didn’t say a word until Mr. Crab finished his story. Finally she said “When do we leave?” Mr. Crab didn’t hesitate. “I leave tonight. I’d take you with me, Patty, but if this doesn’t all go as planned, I couldn’t forgive myself if something bad happened to you. You understand, don’t you?”
Patty walked to the entrance of the cave then turned to face him.
“Mr. Crab, you are the only friend I’ve ever known. You’ve said it yourself…the Puffer Fish will pick on me as soon as you’re gone. Take me with you. If we’re both missing, the people will probably think the Puffer Fish did something to us and hopefully won’t bring any more crabs to live with the Puffers in this tank. It’ll be like getting back at the Puffers for all the bullying they’ve done to you! What do you say? I’m faster than you think and I could help you if your claw were to get tangled again.
Mr. Crab hated the idea of leaving Patty behind and had even imagined returning to rescue her with the other crabs he was sure to meet once he got to the windy water. “Patty, this trip is going to be dangerous and once we leave the tank, there’s no turning back. I’ve been doing a lot of work planning all of the details and none of them are up for debate. If you come along, you will have to do exactly what I say when I say it. Are you sure you’re up for this?
Later that night when the house lights were dark and the people were all in bed, Mr. Crab again climbed to the top of the waterfall platform. He stood for a moment looking back down into the tank. He could just make out the shape of Patty below. He waved to her, then watched as she swiftly climbed to the top where she joined him. They silently started the descent of the dresser to the floor below. They navigated the snaggy ground quickly and then were back onto the hard smooth surface. Mr. Crab told Patty to wait while he checked to see if the coast were clear.
Mr. Crab moved toward the front of the house where he had seen the small door in the bottom of the big people door. When the door was in sight, Mr. Crab‘s heart began to race. He could smell freedom…or was that something else he was smelling? In his excitement, he hadn’t noticed the family cat sneaking up behind him.
“Hello Dinner!” Maxx the cat sang out.
“Eeek!” screamed Mr. Crab as Maxx lunged toward him.
“What’s the matter, Dinner? Couldn’t you remember where they keep my bowl? Don’t worry…I’ll just eat you a la carte.” Maxx said laughing meanly.
“My name is Mr. Crab, not Dinner. I don’t want any trouble. I’ll just be going on my way now,” and with that, Mr. Crab started again toward the front door.
“Just where do you think you’re going, anyway? Shouldn’t you be in the fish tank looking delicious? You don’t want any trouble? Then you should have stayed where the PEOPLE put you!” Maxx sneered.
“I really didn’t want to have to do this…” Mr. Crab said as he jumped into his best kicking stance and began demonstrating his most fierce-looking white-shell-moves.
Maxx fell over laughing and rolled onto his back. “What is THAT?!? I’ve never seen anything so funny in all of my life! You actually think you could take me on with your moves? You must be crazy!”
“I’ve been crazy for putting up with bullies like you for most of my life, but I’m thinking very clearly now. Fight or get out of my way…I’ve got somewhere better than here to be and you’re wasting my time” Mr. Crab said bravely.
Maxx the cat laughed even harder at that, and Mr. Crab knew it was time to take action if he was going to get outside before daybreak. Mr. Crab saw Maxx’s tail swooshing across the floor as the cat lay there laughing. He remembered his ride on the dogs tongue and got an idea. Mr. Crab signaled to Patty, then they both moved as quietly as they could manage towards the swishing tail. With his small claw, Mr. Crab grabbed onto Patty. Then in one swift movement he clamped his giant claw down on Maxx the cat’s tail.
Maxx the cat stopped laughing.
Maxx the cat let out a “Yeeeeeeeeeaaaaaarrrrrrrrrrooooooooowwwwwwwww”. He jumped up running at top speed toward the small door.
“Hold on!” Mr. Crab shouted to Patty.
Maxx the cat burst through the cat door with Mr. Crab and Patty dangling from his tail. In his panic and pain, Maxx didn’t realize he had hitch-hikers. He ran down the front steps of the house and into the bushes that separated the front yard from the neighborhood park. Maxx kept running. He ran through the playground and did not stop to play, even when he saw his favorite place, the sandbox. Maxx kept running because his tail kept hurting. Maxx the cat ran through the sprinklers and down the hill where his hitchhikers saw a great place to end their ride. As Maxx leapt over the stream and headed towards the woods Mr. Crab let go. Mr. Crab and Patty plopped into the stream and caught a hold of a leaf that was floating by. They climbed on top and floated down stream. Maxx the cat realized his pain had stopped and he himself stopped to examine his tail. “Nothing? There’s nothing there?!?” He licked his tail for a moment, then grumbling, he headed for home.
Mr. Crab looked at Patty who was beaming back at him. “You’re a GENIUS!” she said.
Mr. Crab laughed. “I’m just so grateful to Maxx the cat for panicking and getting us so far! And here we are on a leaf floating down the water…who knows where this stream ends? Who even cares? We’re FREE Patty! Free!”
Patty stared up at the night sky for the first time in her life.
“It’s so sparkly and beautiful! If we got caught tomorrow and put back in the tank, I’d always be grateful to you for the memory of this night and this adventure. Mr. Crab, you are a true hero! You rescued me.”
The two friends sat quietly on the leaf as it moved downstream. The stream was becoming wider and seemed to be moving faster. The leaf began to take on water. Mr. Crab spotted something floating near them. When it got close, he and Patty leapt aboard. Their new ‘raft turned out to be a float from a crawfish pot, but Mr. Crab and Patty didn’t need to know that. They bobbed along happily as the stream became a river.
The two crabs watched in wonder as the magical color of sunrise filled the sky. First in gentle oranges and yellows, then in shades of purple and pink…finally, blue sky as far as the eye could see. The two passed a fisherman in his boat. The fisherman didn’t notice them floating by, but went right on casting his line into the water.
With the bright blue sky overhead, the two crabs basked as they bobbed along. The river had gotten quite wide now, and Patty began to wonder where they were going to make their new home. Their raft passed under a bridge, and as they emerged on the other side, Patty could hear music, laughter and some voices calling out to them from the shore. Mr. Crab couldn’t believe his eyes! There on the shore were dozens of crabs that looked like Patty and many more that look just like Mr. Crab! Mr. Crab plunged his giant claw into the water steering the raft to shore.
“Howdy strangers! Where did you two come from? We haven’t seen you before, have we?” said the crab with the largest claw in the group.
The crab was trying to read the expressions on Mr. Crab and Patty’s faces. Both were so surprised to see so many crabs like themselves on the riverbank that their expressions were a mix of confusion and wonder. The big crab spoke again. “Where are my manors? My name is Clawd. Come join the party!”
“It’s so nice to meet you, Clawd. My name is Mr. Crab and this is my friend Patty. We just escaped from a fish tank in a people house.”
The whole group gasped, and then everyone seemed to be talking all at once. People were shouting questions and the crowd seemed to be closing in on the pair. Patty and Mr. Crab looked nervous, and Clawd banged his giant claw on the ground to get their attention. “I’ve never met anyone who got away from the people. They used to come when we lived upstream and collect us. Those that were picked up never came back. We haven’t had any trouble with people since we moved here. You’ll be safe with us. Heck, anyone brave enough to escape from the people are friends of ours. Will you two stay?”
“Here, Here!” cheered the crowd.
Patty smiled at Mr. Crab and held his small claw in hers. “I’m with you. Wherever you are, I am home”.
“We’d love to join you here. Thank you all!” Then a small tear rolled down Mr. Crab‘s cheek. Mr. Crab smiled. He’d never felt so happy or so loved. Best of all, he knew he’d never feel alone in the world again.
“We interrupted a party, didn’t we? What are you all celebrating?” asked Patty.
Clawd whacked himself on the head with his big claw. “I almost forgot! It’s Independence Day! Let’s get this party started!”
Mr. Crab smiled and said “Independence Day? It sure is, Clawd. It sure is.”