“Yo, Flori,” Dajon called. “Look at this big lizard.”
Flori stood up, reluctantly leaving behind the beautiful purple flower she was examining. Dajon was out of the city for the first time in his life and Flori pushed down her annoyance at his incessant need for her to experience everything he did. She was an old hand at camping, her mother made sure that she had a life outside the ghetto where she was raised. Flori had learned to appreciate nature as a child and was happier examining new things in her own time.
Dajon had grown up in the same ghetto but he had spent his youth hanging on the corner and being sucked into the world of the street gangs. He kept telling Flori that she was his savior, her kindness and eventual love had drawn him out of the spiral that so many young men of color fell into and never escaped until they either ended up in jail or the grave. She swore to tolerate his over exuberant glee at everything he saw because it was his first time seeing these things and to a man who only knew concrete and asphalt, trees and wild creatures were nearly mythical.
“What you got hon?” She said as she reached him and wrapped an arm around his slim waist.
“Look up in that tree. It’s a big ass lizard.”
Flori looked where her man pointed and there was a large iguana lounging on the branch of a sea grape tree. The lizard looked at the pair of interlopers with the lazy gaze that only a lizard can manage and twitched its tail before turning away to stare at a much more interesting cluster of sea grapes.
“It’s an iguana; you’ll see even bigger ones eventually. I’ve seen them as big as four feet.”
“Holy crap.” Dajon’s eyes went round. “They dangerous?”
Flori chuckled and stood on her toes to give Dajon a quick peck on the cheek.
“Only to the plants; they’re herbivores.”
“Cool,” he said and then snapped his head to the right. “Did you see that?”
Dajon disengaged from Flori’s arms and sprinted several yards in a crouch. He stopped at a hedge and squatted on his heels staring intently at a mound of sand.
“C’mere, c’mere,” he said in a loud whisper.
Holding back a chuckle, Flori strolled up to Dajon’s position. He was crouched in front of a mound of sand surrounding an oval hole going down into the soil. He was as focused as a laser, staring into the dark hole.
“I saw something run into the hole,” he said. “It was really weird lookin.”
“Well I don’t see anything, hon.”
Flori’s voice trailed off as movement further in the brush caught her eye. She raised her hand and pointed.
“Look over there.”
Dajon shifted and looked where Flori pointed. He yipped in surprise and fell onto his butt.
“Is that a crab? Jesus, what’s a crab doin’ outta the water?”
The crab was a dusty blue and shifted nervously from side to side. It’s larger claw lifted either in salute or warning and then the crustacean ran sideways into a hole in the sand.
“I don’t know. I never seen one before.”
Dajon scrambled to his feet, anxiously gathering his pride from its tumble and wrapping it like armor around his body.
“I think there’s a bunch more of these holes through the hedge,” he said. “I wanna go look.”
“Well that ain’t gonna happen,” Flori said. “The ranger said that we couldn’t go off the trail or bother the wildlife. Didn’t you see that sign back there? It’s a crime.”
Dajon screwed his face up. Flori knew that look well, it was his street face, the image he presented to the world to show that he was tough and not afraid of anything. She knew it was an act he put on for the other toughs in the neighborhood to keep himself from being a victim but she also knew that it was a sign that he was about to do something stupid.
“C’mon, what’s the harm,” he said. His voice actually dropped half an octave to show his manliness. “We just squeeze through and take a look. I want to see more crabs.”
Flori heard clicking sounds beyond the brush and imagined hundreds of the blue crabs roaming beyond their view. She shuddered at the thought; the one she had seen was almost eight inches wide and she had no desire to be surrounded by dozens of the chitinous things.
“As honey,” she pressed herself against Dajon and wrapped her arms around his neck. “Forget about the stupid crabs. Let’s head back to the tent and get ready to go out to dinner. I might even give you some desert before you eat.”
She wriggled her body, rubbing her breasts across his chest. Flori wasn’t proud of her blatant sexual manipulation but she really didn’t want to wander through the woods after weird crabs. A tumble in the hay and then going out to dinner was much more fun in her mind than wandering through the woods and possible arrest by the park ranger.
Dajon’s face relaxed and she could feel him respond to her ploy.
“Yeah,” he said. “That’d be fun.”
Flori led her man back down the trail, holding his hand the entire way. Their camp came into view and she went into the tent, turned, and pulled her bikini top off. Dajon wasted no time following her inside, shedding his own clothes as he went.
Later, the sweat on their bodies almost dry, Flori lay wrapped around Dajon and tickled the curly hairs on his stomach.
“You wanna go out for dinner now?”
Something flickered in his eyes and Flori knew he hadn’t given up.
“I want to go back to see more of those crabs.”
“Jesus Christ, Dajon, do you want to get arrested?”
“Come off it Flori. That ranger is probably watching TV in that little shed of his. When’s the last time you saw him go by? Just a quick look.”
Flori sat up, indignant.
“You want to wander through the woods looking for crabs? You got a fine woman like this who just rocked your world and now wants dinner and you want to go hunting for critters?”
Dajon’s eyes flicked to her breasts and then up to her eyes. After a brief moment they flicked to the side, staring back at the trail, invisible beyond the tent wall. Flori’s shoulders sagged, she had lost.
“But,” he began.
“Fine,” she said, stopping whatever gambit he was about to try.
She stood up and began tugging on her clothes.
“You go wander through the stupid woods looking for your stupid crabs; I’m taking the car and driving to town to have dinner – alone.”
“Flori,” Dajon said.
His plea fell on deaf ears. Flori tugged a tee shirt over her head, snatched the car keys from her backpack and stormed from the tent.
The car started and pulled out of the camp with a spray of sand. Dajon stood outside the tent, still naked, calling after his departing girlfriend.
“Damn you fucked that up boy,” he said after the sound of the car receded.
Dajon got dressed and stood in the tent for a while, hoping that Flori would calm down and come driving back any minute. After twenty minutes it became painfully clear that she was not coming back.
“Well hell,” he said. “No dinner for me. I wonder if the crabs taste good?”
Dajon pouted for several minutes longer and then his pride reared its ugly head. He’d be damned if some woman was going to tell him what he could and couldn’t do. Didn’t he just give her the big O face? Least she could do was let him check out the weird crabs one more time before they went out.
He stood up, resolved, and stomped down the trail to the hedge where he had seen the crab. He could hear clicking beyond the sheltering leaves. He found an opening in the leaves and peered through. He could see at least a dozen crabs wandering around. He rustled the leaves and they all scuttled into their holes. Grinning ear to ear, Dajon found an opening in the brush and pushed his way through. It was like entering another world. The dappled sunlight of the trail instantly dimmed to the level of twilight. He could see mounds of sand everywhere; it was a veritable crab city.
He walked among the mounds peering into holes but the crabs stubbornly refused to show themselves. Dajon wandered aimlessly as the light became dimmer. He realized he was having a hard time seeing and it occurred to him that he had been walking for a long time, possibly miles. Dajon turned around in a circle. Which way led back to the tent?
“It’s a narrow island dummy,” he said. “If I just keep moving I’ll eventually hit the beach again and then I can work my way back to camp.”
Dajon faced what he believed to be east and began walking. The sound of crabs behind and to the sides followed him but each time he looked, they ran into their holes.
Dajon spotted a large dune; it had to be the edge of the beach. Grinning he jogged up the mound of sand. At the top, the sand avalanched forward catapulting him over the top. He fell and slammed to the sand below. A loud crack occurred as he hit and burning pain shot up his body. Dajon screamed and clutched his right leg. He screamed louder as he discovered that it was covered with blood and a jagged point of bone was poking through the skin.
“Help,” he screamed.
Damn it, why didn’t he go with Flori? He could be eating dinner and getting ready for round two in the tent but here he was with a broke ass leg. A part of his mind that wasn’t whimpering in pain noted that at least he had found the beach.
The beach was turning dark quickly as the sun set behind the trees. Dajon tried to stand but his shattered leg dragged him back to the sand. Even crawling was too much agony.
“Somebody help me!”
Where was that fat assed park ranger? Wouldn’t he ever stop watching the boob tube and patrol? Dajon laughed that for the first time in his life he actually wanted the cops to show up.
He was going to have to wait for Flori to come back. She’d come looking for him and then he could shout for her. She’d fix everything. Clicking sounds intruded on his self pity.
Dajon looked upward and saw dozens of crabs perched atop the dune.
“Now you show your crabbie asses,” he shouted and hurled a handful of sand toward the crabs.
The sky over the ocean was turning a deep purple and he could see the sky beyond the trees burning red as the sun set; it would be dark soon.
Where the hell was Flori?
The clicking sounds grew louder. He could see movement on the dune and to the sides on the beach. Dozens, no hundreds, of forms moved across the sand. Some were no bigger than his thumb while others were easily the size of his head.
The light fled the beach like a coward as the clicking sounds grew louder and closer. Dajon screamed frantically for Flori. Thousands of crabs surrounded Dajon and moved closer as full darkness descended. He screamed as the first of thousands of claws ripped into his skin.
The crabs obviously had wondered if humans tasted good.