In the beginning there were thirty of us, maybe more. We crawled over top of each another, vying for space, our battles reduced to clubbing as our pinchers were tied and bound.
There was no room to roam for a loner like me. I missed the frigid waters of Nova Scotia. Back when I had some time to think. With these guys crowding the joint, a guy didn’t have room to molt.
And then the hands came. Pointing, reaching. Without warning they’d approach and soon after came the rake, plunging down, pivoting, scooping up its prey. We’d watch as one of our own was placed in a plastic bag. A sticker was slapped on the bag and then the humans would walk off with it. With one of us.
One or two at a time. Point. Scoop. Bag. And that was it. We bid our farewells to those taken. Soon twenty were down to ten. Then eight. Until the strongest, the biggest, the fattest were gone. And then it was us.
Harry and me.
Harry was missing an eye. I was missing my antennae. We weren’t much to look at, which is what helped us survive. Now we spent our days waiting, watching the little kids wander up, tilt their heads with wonder. Some would stick their tongues out at us. Harry liked to clunk me in the head, give ‘em a show. But I wasn’t so entertaining. I had a bad feeling about this. How it was going to end.
“Look at this one, Hank. This one here.”
Our tank was facing the deli section. Harry liked to play a game called Turkey or Ham.
“Oh yeah. This lady is ham all the way.”
He claimed to have a eighty percent success rate. It was more fifty/fifty, but again, the guy was missing an eye. I let him think what he wanted.
It had been over a week by then, and I was starving, not to mention stressed. I wasn’t sure if it was better to be taken or better to sit here and rot. Harry had said some awful things about what was happening to the ones placed in a bag. He said we’d fared better than the turkeys but we sure as heck weren’t going back out to sea, nudge nudge. Harry was a close talker. Drove me nuts.
So there we were, playing Turkey or Ham when a young lady bounced up to our tank. She had long, brown hair and big eyes that widened as she closed in on us. She set her hand on the glass, her lips moving and tucking her hair behind her ears. Ears, so freakishly strange.
Anyway, Harry went ballistic, started screaming. “Here it comes. The rake! This is it, Hank. This is it!”
Sure enough, the rake came down. They took Harry and I watched him as he was carried upwards, screaming like a seahorse.
In the bag he went. I backed to a corner, forgetting my pinchers were wrapped tight. The rake came that was it. Harry was right. We were done.
Blinding lights as we were bagged, then scanned, then bagged again. But this girl, she was talking to us, cooing almost. Even as Harry kept screaming.
The rest was a blur of darkness and jostling. It was like the giant net all over again. I closed my eyes and thought of my family, my early days.
Light! The box came open and light poured in. I was picked up and the blurs came into focus and it’s when I saw Harry. He was moving! And his pinchers were unbound. Mine too. It was a miracle.
It really was, and I thought I was dreaming when I sensed something familiar. Something like home.
The girl and some others handled us with care. We were taken to the shore. She patted us along and imagine my shock when we were back in the water. Harry was skittering around, knocking me on the head asking me if I believed it. I didn’t. I took one look back to the surface, saw the figures watching us and then we got on our way.
I was just happy. Happy to be back. Happy to roam. Happy to be alive.