Enjoy Your Stay
18 12 17
In the moonlight
The stars are bright, the night is cool, and Crab lies down on the sand. She has been alone on this beach for all her short life, and though the night sky is always changing, hasn’t it always been the same?
Her legs are tired, but she pokes her head out of her shell and blinks her eyes in the brightness of the night. Moon is up above her, not a sliver or a crescent, but back to his full self again. Crab can hardly believe it. She snaps her claws and stretches her short neck up towards the sky.
“Hello, Moon!” Crab calls. “You’re back!”
Moon nods his head and smiles. “Yes,” he says. “Here I am.”
“Finally!” Crab cries, spinning in circles. “Won’t you come join me on the beach? We can pick coconuts from the trees and dig tunnels in the sand.”
“You know I can’t do that,” Moon says. “I would if I could, but I don’t have arms or legs, and I’m stuck here in the sky.”
Crab’s smile fades and she falls down to her belly.
“But I can light up the sand so you can find a new shell,” Moon says. Just as he does every month, Moon harnesses his light and focuses it all onto the beach, lighting up shells half-buried in sand damp from high tide.
Crab, delighted by the game, rushes out of her shell and finds a new one that snugly fits her.
“Thank you,” she says. “Will you stay this time?”
“I’ll only be here tonight. Then I’m afraid I must go back to sleep. But the next time Sun’s light washes over all of me, I’ll wake up again, and I’ll be here for you.”
“Just like always?” Crab asks.
“Just like always,” Moon says.
The next night, Moon is there, but he is not as round as before. Crab knows better than to call his name, but still she tries. “Moon, can you hear me?” She waits for a response, and she thinks she hears him say something, but it is just the sound of the wind jostling the fronds of the coconut palms.
One month passes, and Moon is full again.
“Hello, Moon!” Crab says. “You’re back!”
“Yes,” Moon says. “Here I am.”
“Won’t you come join me on the beach?” Crab asks. “We can build castles in the sand, and we can splash each other with water in the ocean.” Crab runs toward the waves and uses her claws to splash sea foam, dancing on all her legs to show him how much fun it is.
“You know I can’t do that,” Moon says. “I am old and I am tired, and I have been lighting up your beach much longer than you can imagine. But why don’t you find a new shell? Surely there are new ones waiting to be found.”
Crab stops dancing and pauses in the changing tide. She likes this game, but it was not the one she was hoping for. Just once she would love to roll Moon from one end of the beach to the other, to climb into one of his craters and fall asleep. But Moon likes this game, so Crab grabs the shell nearest to her and crawls inside it.
“You know, Crab—from up here I can see many beaches, and they are full of so many creatures. There are crabs like you, and pelicans and turtles. Those animals build castles in the sand. They play in the ocean. If you’d like to go meet them, I can light the way.”
Crab shrinks into her shell and shakes her head.
“You’re the only friend I need,” she whispers.
“I cannot hear you,” Moon says.
Crab clears her throat. “I said, ‘Maybe another time.’”
“When you’re ready, just let me know, and I’ll make sure you get there safely.”
Another month passes, and Moon wakes again from his slumber.
Crab can hardly believe it. She leaves her shell and shakes the sand off her back.
“Moon!” Crab says. “You were gone longer than usual.”
“Why, that’s impossible.”
But it seemed possible. For the past nights, Moon had looked so full that Crab had excitedly called his name. But the only response came from the waves crashing into themselves, the coconuts falling from the trees.
“I was lonely,” Crab explains.
“You should make friends.”
“But you are my friend.”
“And you are mine. But we live so far apart. I have to shout just so you can hear me, and I am old, and I cannot shout like I used to.”
Moon does not say that one day his voice will be too weak to reach the beach, and Crab does not pause to imagine it could ever happen.
“I am afraid I am too tired to play with you tonight, Crab.”
“But you’re full!”
“Yes, but I am tired. Maybe next time.”
Crab searches for something, anything, to make Moon stay awake. But she is so small, and she has never had to persuade anyone of anything in her whole life. And then the idea comes to her. She does not like it, but she thinks it will do the trick.
“I will walk to another beach!” she shouts. “And you can light the path! And we can tell each other stories along the way!”
But Moon is already fast asleep. He does not see Crab cry her saltwater tears.
Each night, as always, Moon gets smaller and smaller, and Crab hugs herself in her shell, staring up at her friend as he rests in the sky. The nights when his body begins fading into darkness are the longest. Crab knows it would be better to make other friends, but she could never leave this beach on her own. Even if she used Moon’s crescent light to guide her, they would still be so far apart, and if something went wrong he would not wake up and tumble out of the sky to save her.
So Crab does not leave. And for a while Moon’s shape changes as it always has.
But then one night, Moon does not appear. Even when Moon is at his darkest, Crab can usually trace his shape in the sky, but not tonight. No, there is not a speck of light shining onto the beach—even the stars have abandoned her.
“Moon? Are you okay?”
Crab has never seen clouds, and she has never seen fog, and so she does not know their power; as the next night comes and Moon’s disappearance continues, she cannot imagine that it is simply an overcast sky that separates her from her friend.
But she has an idea. Maybe if she plays their game, his voice will call out to her. Maybe just this once, when he is not full, he will take Sun’s light and shine it onto the sand.
She is nearly blind on a night as black as this, but she feels her way around the beach, searching for a new home. “I’m looking for a shell!” she says knowingly. “If only I had some light to help me!”
But if Moon hears her, he makes no signal that he does.
Crab finds her way along the seashore until she comes across a shell. It is bigger than any she has encountered before, but inside it she can curl her legs up and keep warm. If Moon ever returns, she will show him this home she found all by herself, and maybe this will impress him, and maybe he will tell her what a clever crab she is.
She is imagining the soothing sound of Moon’s voice when a real voice interrupts her.
“Get moving,” it says.
It is coming from on top of the shell.
Crab’s heart swells.
Moon! she thinks. You left the sky to be with me! And now you’re here!
His voice is harsher and raspier than usual, but that must be because he is so close. Never has he been this close. Crab nearly chokes on her tears. She can hardly breathe. She can barely say a word. All she can do is obey him. Proud in her new shell, she stretches her claws and stands up. She is ready to leave her beach now and never return.
“This is going to be so much fun!” Crab says and begins marching away from the only place she has ever known.
On top of the bathtub, Raccoon leans back, lets out a thunderous laugh, and pulls on the reins in the cloudy night.