Singer Island, Florida.
Bob had spent the morning on the beach while I stayed in the condo doing crosswords with my ninety-three-year-old father-in-law who was accompanying us. Now it was my turn to soak in some sun.
I gladly paid the beach boy five bucks for use of a chaise lounge and umbrella, spread out my towel, sloshed on some sun screen, and pulled out a book.
Fragmented lines from Lewis Carroll’s “The Walrus and the Carpenter,” trailed through my mind:
The sun was shining on the sea,
Shining with all his might
He did his very best to make
The billows smooth and bright.
The sea was wet as wet could be,
The sands were dry as dry
You could not see a cloud, because
No cloud was in the sky
Yes, it was a glorious afternoon, and I intended to absorb every moment of it.
No sooner had I settled into my book when I was distracted by movement directly in front of me. Two coal black dots rose up over a hump of sand. Like enemy seeking periscopes, they swept the beach before the rest emerged: a sand-colored hockey puck of a body suspended in the center of angled legs.
Slowly I reach for my camera, but it is wary, this one who has survived long enough to gain a three-inch wide girth and scurries back to its tunnel. I wait.
A few minutes later it emerges again, surveys the surroundings and edges sideways about three or four feet from its hole before a movement sends it fleeing once more.
I don’t know if it needs to eat or drink or wet its gills, but I scan the shoreline and see an opening—the next beachcomber is hundreds of yards away. The crab reappears. I will it to go, run, get whatever it’s after on this tourist-trodden beach day. “Go, go,” I cheer. “You have time.”
But it freezes, full alert, then scampers back to safety.
Annoyed, that I’m distracted by the fretful comings and goings of a ghost crab, I go back to my reading.
I see her coming from yards away, this large lady in a black bathing suit, plastered with pink and orange flowers,on a direct course with the crab’s entrance. My worries are compounded by the hand-holding couple following her, also oblivious to the melodrama beneath their feet. I want to yell, “Watch out. You’re going to crush a crab hole there.”
But I think it’s the cluster of tow-headed toddlers who do it. I gasp as they race by with their red buckets flapping and sand flying.
There is no use in pretending I don’t care. I close my book and rise.
Just as I feared, the spiral of a tunnel has disappeared, erased and filled with mounds of toddlers’ footprints and sand’s shift.
Oh well, I think. I can’t worry about everything.
I dive into the surf, wash away my silly preoccupation, and settle in my chair, once again book in hand.
A movement eight feet to my right catches my attention. Two black eyes pop up and look at me.
I wave, smile, and snuggle deep in my chair.
"You could not see a cloud because
No cloud was in the sky . . ."