The whole time she was at the coast, my mum (who is a worrier, like me) remained in a constant state of RED ALERT, perpetually scanning the horizon for the sight of the shark fins which she was convinced would signal the imminent death of every last one of us. We should never have let her see Jaws that time, seriously.
Now, I wasn’t the least bit worried about shark attacks, but I can’t really fault my mum for her CONSTANT! VIGILANCE! because the only reason I didn’t worry about being eaten by a shark was because I knew there was a far more dangerous enemy at hand: CRABS.
See, beaches can be difficult for me, on account of my phobia of crustaceans. (Ya don’t say!) Clearwater wasn’t too bad, because it’s busy and it’s clean, and it gets raked every night, so it isn’t exactly the ideal habitat for my arch enemies. A couple of days into our holiday, though, we decided to take a trip to Tarpon Springs, which is a little Greek community* just along the coast from Clearwater. We’ve visited Tarpon a few times now, but go back when we can, not just because it’s one of the few places outside Greece itself where you can eat a proper souvlaki, but because last time we were there we did a dolphin-spotting trip, and the dolphins put on such an amazing show for us that we just had to do it all over again.
(*When I say “A Greek community”, I mean EVERYTHING there is Greek: shops, restaurants, people… This time around, Terry, being Greek himself, caused quite a stir in some of the stores, where the people just could. not. get. over. the fact that he was a Greek who’d been born and raised in Scotland. “OMG, a SCOTTISH GREEK!” they kept shrieking. “CAN YOU BELIEVE IT, THAT IS SOOOO CUUUUUTTTTTEE!”)
This year, unfortunately, the dolphins were being shy, so we only got a tiny glimpse of them. To make up for it, though, we were taken to a little ‘desert’ island just off the coast, and allowed to wander around for half an hour, collecting some of the millions of shells that were washed up there. Now, I didn’t know this would be happening, because the island stop hadn’t been part of the previous trip we’d taken there, so I was a little unprepared for it, and didn’t have my swimsuit or anything with me. It was probably just as well, though, because as soon as I stepped off the boat and clocked all of the shells, I knew instantly that I was in the presence of The Enemy. They were close. They were all around, in fact. And so I passed a slightly uncomfortable half an hour scanning the sand for any sign of them, while my family all tried valiantly to pretend that, why, no, those holes in the sand weren’t made by crabs, definitely not, no crabs here, and my mind shrieked at me to “RUN! NOW! ENEMY SIGHTED OMG!”
As it happened, the enemy was only briefly sighted, in the shape of a large, dead crab which a girl from our boat picked up by its tail, and, OMG THEY HAVE TAILS, CAN YOU BELIEVE IT? I didn’t know they had tails. Next I’ll find out that some of them have, I don’t know, WINGS, or something, and then I’ll have to build me a crab shelter and live inside it forever more, and I’m not even joking.
The island was very lovely. The water was warm, the sand was white. And every single night that week I woke up babbling about how there was a CRAB! IN THE BED! and then lay half-awake for the rest of the night, convinced they were coming to get me. Once we got to the Orlando area, it took another few nights for my mind to calm itself and accept that they (probably) wouldn’t be able to travel that far inland.* Then again, prior to that, I hadn’t realised that some of them have TAILS, so really, there’s no telling what They might be capable of…
(*It was totally plausible that they’d manage to get into our 9th floor apartment, though. Like, they’d crawl out of the ocean, walk up the beach, use the key fob (HOW? Oh yeah, with their TAILS, obviously…) to get into the complex, march through the lobby and into the elevator, use their TAILS to press the button for the 9th floor and then use their own secrit key to get into our apartment. From there, it would be just a short, sideways scuttle to where I lay asleep, little suspecting what horrors were creeping towards me in the dark night. Seriously, why more people aren’t afraid of crabs, I will NEVER know…)
(‘Alcohol Dogs’ is totally going to be the name of my band…)
Me scrutinising the ground for the slightest sign of crabs…
Baby, there’s a shark in the water
There’s something underneath my bed
Oh, please believe I said
baby, there’s a shark in the water
I caught them barking at the moon
Better be soon…
-VV Brown, Shark in the Water