Island Life

An Essay By Ezra // 6/27/2008

I remember that it was a bright night. The full moon cast ghost-like shadows of leaves and palm branches onto the hard-packed sand and coral road. On any normal night of the year, I would not have ventured up there. The trees of the jungle were tall and dense and silent, and seemed to harbor everything in the way of nocturnal creatures that my ten-year-old mind could dream up.

On that night, however, I felt relatively safe in the company of my father and older brother. We strolled down the road, following close in the beam of my father’s long, heavy-duty policeman’s flashlight as we watched for our next destination. A breeze from the near-by ocean sprung up, whipping through my hair and causing a soft, rustling noise in the trees, whose top most leaves reflected the moon’s light like a glittering sea.

We were crabbing that evening, and had already done some work in that respect, as was evident by the clawing and scratching coming from the large laundry detergent buckets which my brother and I carried. I had been on several night-time crabbing excursions before, but this one was different. Usually, they were led by a friend of my father’s from Papua New Guinea, who would take a group of students in the school’s large, white truck up the road to various good crabbing spots. It was an occasion which I looked forward to every full moon; the crabs would come out onto the beach in droves, scrambling around and searching for mates.

Tonight, however, was different. My father’s friend was away, and my father had decided that we would go crabbing ourselves. We had, in my opinion, been successful so far, with several large catches scratching around in the bottoms of our buckets. And we had one more place to go before we planned to call it a night

“Here it is,” my father said, stopping and shinning his powerful flashlight into the jungle on our right.

We peered in the direction of the beam, and saw a small dirt path leading away from the road and down toward the beach. It was rather narrow and dark, and was surrounded by shadows which shifted eerily in the flashlight’s glow. My father stepped onto the path, with my brother and me following as closely behind as possible, and the darkness of the jungle closing up behind us as we moved.

After a couple of minuets of shuffling through bushes and dead leaves, we arrived on a narrow strip of sand, overhung by several trees which formed a low ceiling and blocked much of the moonlight. The distant roar of the Pacific could be heard as it crashed into the island’s reef, about a quarter mile off shore. In between the reef and were I stood, the water glistened with the moon’s luminescence as it crept slowly up the beach with the flowing tide.

Immediately, I spotted several crabs scuttling across the powdery sand. Choosing the one closest to me, I began the chase. He dashed up the beach, over several ragged pieces of drift wood and some exposed tree roots, and into the edge of the jungle. I was in hot pursuit, clearing the above mentioned obstacles and cornering him shortly after we entered the trees. I set my bucket down carefully, and made ready for the catch.

“Come on, get him,” my brother urged from behind.

I reached down slowly, maneuvering my hand to be able to catch him just right. He took a couple steps back, rustling the dead leaves as he did so, and lifting a large, cruel-looking right claw in a menacing gesture. I hesitated.

“Come on,” my brother exclaimed again.

The crab began to scuttle sideways. With a sudden movement, I reached down with the intent of catching him right behind his pincers, where my fingers would be safe. I brought my hand back up to place him in the bucket, but suddenly felt a sharp pain in my index and ring fingers.

I screamed in pain, letting go of the crab and shaking my hand in a sharp movement.

“Don’t let him get away!” I heard my brother saying.

I have often heard that once a crab closes his pincers on an enemy, he will never let go. I must assume, however, that this is not entirely accurate, because the big beast let go of me after just a couple of shakes, and scuttled off into the waves, leaving me to nurse my wounded hand.

Just then my father came running up from the water’s edge, the beam from his flashlight bobbing up and down.

“Ezra,” he questioned, coming to a halt, “what happened?”

“He got my fingers,” I replied in a small voice.

My father paused for a second, allowing the sadness of the fact to sink in. Then he continued in a firm, slightly softer voice.

“Let’s see them,” he said, holding up his flashlight.

I slowly unwrapped my good hand from the fingers in question, and held them shaking up to the light. There were obvious deep, bruise-like impressions where the claw had clamped on, and the skin was broken and slowly oozing red in several locations.

“Are you alright?” he questioned, peering over the tops of his glasses as if he were making a careful examination in an operating room.

“I think so,” I replied.

“Let’s get back out on the beach,” he said, picking up my half-full crab bucket for me.

We stepped out on to the sand again. The waves were much higher now, reaching almost to the bank of roots which formed the barrier in between the jungle and the beach. There were still several crabs on the beach, but my father’s attention was focused elsewhere. Raising his hands slowly, he took a cautious step backwards, and motioned for us to do the same.

On the sand in front of us, a black and white banded sea-snake was making its way slowly up toward the tide line. The moon glistened evilly off its smooth, wet scales, and in my imagination I could see the small, deadly fangs hidden inside its mouth.

Suddenly, a particularly large wave rolled up the beach, covering me up to my knees and causing me to freeze in terror at the thought of being in the water that close to a coral snake. As the wave receded, every piece of debris, every bit of sand which touched me seemed to me to be the snake rubbing up against my legs in preparation for a bite. Then, as soon as the wave had come, it was gone. The snake, I found, was just the same has he had been, only a little farther up the beach.

My relief, however, was short-lived.

“There’s another one over there,” my brother exclaimed with dismay, pointing excitedly behind us.

I turned to look, and to my horror the wave had brought up and deposited with it another such snake; only this one was bigger and longer. Before any of us had time to react, another wave rolled in. It again came up to my knees and caused me to freeze in terror.

“Let’s get out of here,” I heard my father shout above the roar of the waves, snapping me back to my senses. “Hurry.”

Still wincing at the thought of the snakes in the water, I scrambled out of the water and up the bank of roots into the jungle. My father and brother did the same, and we walked quickly back through the trees and to the road, where we set our crab buckets on the ground. The three of us were silent for a moment before my father spoke again.

“Well, I think that’ll do it for tonight,” he said with slight smile. And we were off back down the road, headed home.

It had been a fairly harrowing night for me; although I would not have then described it as particularly unusual. Life as a missionary’s son in the south pacific has its twists and its unique experiences, and I am glad that I had the chance to partake in them.


Sharp Memory

I remember that night, but not all of the details that well. Boy, you make me sound so cruel, only concerned about the crab getting away and not your poor fingers!

James | Fri, 06/27/2008

"The idea that we should approach science without a philosophy is itself a philosophy... and a bad one, because it is self-refuting." -- Dr. Jason Lisle

Ezra, this sounds really

Ezra, this sounds really cool! I'm glad you shared it on Apricotpie...I enjoyed it a lot.
I remember how hard crabs are to catch from when my family went to the beach when I was twelve.
Oh yeah, I kinda know how you feel on the fingers, big crawdads hurt too. :0)

Heather | Sat, 06/28/2008

And now our hearts will beat in time/You say I am yours and you are mine...
Michelle Tumes, "There Goes My Love"

I once threw a crawdad out

I once threw a crawdad out of the water, my dog went up and sniffed it and it grabbed her nose!! Poor Katie...............

I liked the story, at first I thought it was going to turn into a thriller of some kind!

Sarah | Mon, 06/30/2008

"Sometimes even to live is courage."

Blogging away!


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