Dancing in the Dark
    George Simone
Goa. On the beach. He leaps out of his hole, rushes a few feet, stops, spreads, and rises tall. Making big. Eyes extended, scanning, body poised for motion. A foamy wave advances. He digs in, is knocked over just the same. The wave recedes. He rights himself. Stranded minnows flip and flash nearby. He dashes forward and crushes one in a pincer. Tremors announce a huge approaching IT.

Hiding from IT, he crouches, eyes withdrawn, dun of his back turned up, blending with the sand. Making small. IT stops overhead.

Hole’s too far away. He crouches lower yet.

Narada, twelve years old, dark-eyed and lean, a beautiful Hindu boy, extends a graceful arm and catches the crab between his thumb and index finger. He lifts it, turns it over, holds it out, turns it some more.

The crab hangs limp, reflexly feigning death.

"Amazing!" Narada shouts. "Eyes on stalks!" He’d seen a picture in school, but here they actually are!

Patak, hovering nervously behind his big brother, peers around Narada’s waist, shrills, "Oh, his pincers look sharp!"

Narada, laughing, teasing, advances the crab toward Patak’s nose. Patak shrieks, ducks, and runs off.

Narada scoops a pit in the ground, puts the crab in its center, and dribbles wet sand on it. The crab digs out. Narada dribbles more sand. The crab digs out again. Narada pours a mountain of sand over the crab. The crab tunnels in the dark with all ten feet. A pincer pierces the sand. The pincer waves to and fro—opening, arcing, closing—opening, arcing, closing—a dancer’s extension, creating a visual surround.

A flurry of legs, an avalanche, and the crab emerges from the dark. Eyes bend east—scurries that way—stops at Narada’s hand. Eyes bend west—scurries that way—stops at Narada’s hand.

"Sideways!" Narada squeals, "It runs sideways!"

Narada carries the crab down shore to where Mumtaz—his promised, a delicate beauty of eleven—lies reading beneath a parasol. He stops on the way and scans the trees that limit the beach. He bows in the direction of Mumtaz’s mother, who sits in the shade of a palm. She smiles, nods, and discreetly turns back to her book.

Narada sits next to Mumtaz and puts the crab down on the edge of her blanket. Mumtaz, kneeling, leaning close, casts a shadow over the crab. The crab tilts its eyes. Mumtaz and the crab stare at each other—life watching life across the realms—waiting to see what the other will do.

Narada, displaying for Mumtaz, pushes down on the crab. Its legs rise high, its carapace cleaves the sand. Mumtaz grimaces. Narada lets the crab go. It springs up and spreads its limbs in bluff.

"Watch!" Narada shouts, as he pushes the crab down more gently and releases it. The crab springs up and bluffs again. Another push and release, and the dance is enjoined: push, release, spring, bluff; push, release, spring, bluff; push, release, spring, bluff, until finally the crab slides flat to the ground.

Patak, excited, jumps forward, stick in hand, ready to strike. Narada raises a hand. Patak stops, advances slowly, and gently pokes the crab. It does not respond. The children exchange looks of concern.

Narada, reaching for the crab, is distracted by a splash from behind. A cormorant, having crashed into the surf, is struggling to swallow a fish that is much too large for its beak. The boys run seaward to watch.

Mumtaz, seeing her chance, searches the shoreline. She spies a likely hole, scoops the crab into her hat, and carries it to the lip of the hole. It lies motionless on the ground. Mumtaz gently blows on the crab. Its eyestalks drift toward her, but its body remains inert.

Mumtaz goes to the surf, fills the bowl of her hands with water, and pours the water over the crab.

The crab stirs, extends its legs in sequence and stands high. It scuttles left, right, backward, forward, and dives into the hole.

Mumtaz claps her hands in joy and begins to dance in delight.

George Simone is a native Parisian who lives in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Simone’s recently published novel, YELLOW CAT, iUniverse.com—the story of a warrior-shaman fighting for the survival of the Apaches during the Indian wars of the nineteenth century—is available from Amazon.com, B&N.com, and Borders.com. His most recently published short story appears in the February, 2001 issue of FUTURES magazine.


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