Sheltered Islander

Sheltered Islander: Below Shelter Island, Keep One Eye Skyward

Somewhere under the waters of Shelter Island, a big meeting is being held…

“All right, gather round, push in, crawl over, make sure you can hear me. I’m Chris Crabowicz, president of SICA, Shelter Island Crab Association. I’ll introduce the board. This is Crab Dinkle, in charge of allocating family lots. Clark Crab, in charge of the sea turtle ferries that take us to and from deeper waters. And Officer Crabsmith, in charge of the unpleasant duty of throwing criminal crabs into the Nets of Death that appear out of nowhere by the bridge, and once they are in the Net, we never see them again.

“For those of you who are new here, we need to educate you about the bridge. Pieces of delicious food, dead worms, rotten chicken, fish heads, are tied to strings that magically descend from above the water. But while we are enjoying these tasty tidbits sent by Neptune, we must keep both eyes out and circling in different orbits to watch for the Net of Death. We all know that criminal crabs get thrown into the Net of Death, but many times the Net catches some poor unsuspecting hungry young crab who was only guilty of staying too long at the pork rind.

“We urge you to eat from the strings in pairs. Take turns, one eats, one keeps watch.

“The Nets of Death are especially dangerous this time of summer when we are all start shedding our shells. As we know, we pair up, hook back legs and take turns shedding our shells. The freshly shed soft-shelled crabs are weighted down and protected by their hard-shelled buddy. After the first crab’s shell hardens, the other buddy takes his turn.”

(The sound of crying is heard through the water…)

“Billy, I hear you crying. You’ve just got to harden your shell and get a hold of yourself.”

“I couldn’t help it! The tide was pulling us along the bottom and we hit a rock! I was stunned for a few seconds and when I looked up I saw Betty floating to the surface. So soft she couldn’t even wave goodbye. I can still see her face, one eye looking around, and one eye just straight! She never could master the double-eye swivel, but I loved her anyway! I swam as fast as I could to rescue her! But the Net of Death shot down from above and took her away…Oh the crustaceanity!”

“These things happen, Billy. Every crab here has lost someone to the Net of Death. I think it’s how Neptune tests us. He sends tasty tidbits on strings to tempt us and those who stay too long get the Net.”

(A voice is heard from the sandbar)

“Better tell them about the Pillars of Doom, Chris.”

“Yes, the Pillars of Doom. In the shallow waters, we must all watch for the twin columns, some brown, some white, some smooth and some hairy. The columns move in pairs, slowly, as if they think we can’t see them. Whenever you see the twin columns, the Net of Death isn’t far behind.

“We only know of one crab who escaped, Ol’ Flabby Crabby as he’s known now, who in his youth was taken by the Net. He was being washed in something called a kitchen sink. The 11-year-old of the human woman who caught him pleaded for his life. The woman relented and the girl took Ol’ Crabby in a basket on her bicycle to the water’s edge and freed him. He hid in the seagrass for days. And still suffers from PTND, Post-Traumatic Net Disorder.

“So everyone be safe this summer. Swim with a buddy. Only partner up with someone you really trust to hang on to you when you shed your shell. And above all, keep one eye to the sky.”

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