Wednesday, September 21, 2011
Crawdads make poor granters of wishes. Emily Steen, who was quite content with her life, discovered this while digging for gooey ducks one fall afternoon. Her favorite spot for digging was along Chimicum Creek, especially on clear mornings. Emily would finish her chores, watch the last of the infomercials while eating cold cereal, and then dive into her galoshes. By 5:00 AM she was completely oblivious to anything non-gooey duck. Except for the morning she helped the crawdad.
He was a most peculiar crustacean, bearded, bespectacled, and bearing a beret. And he was huge. He was obviously stuck in a shallow mud hole next to the creek. At first Emily thought a spawning salmon was trapped in the muddy hole. Her next inclination was that a lobster had been dressed up and forgotten in this slough. Though she was unsure of what the creature was or who had dressed him up this way, she lifted him and tossed him into the stream. As she turned to trudge up to her favorite digging hole, she heard a gravely voice ask "how may I reward the lady to whom I owe a life debt? Shall it be riches, fame, or happiness"? Shocked, Emily whirled to stare into the sincere face, if crawdads can look sincere, of the large crawdad. He twitched one large claw as if to reinforce his question. Emily gaped and then, caught up in the queerness of the moment, replied "Why, riches, I suppose".
The next morning galumphed up Chimicum Creek and settled around Emily's house with a clap of thunder and 2 inches of rain. Rather than battling the elements Emily armed herself with a thick book and a thicker blanket with which to spend the morning on the front porch. As she stepped out, she blinked in surprise at what lay in her yard. There seemed to be one of everything. Piles of bottle caps, old bike frames, fishing line, beer bottles, old shoes, and especially bits of styrofoam. Before she had time to wonder, a small voice at her feet said, "The Chief Merdad returns the sum of his accumulated offerings from humans as a sign of his gratitude for delivering him from a unmentionable and inescapable demise. Please, accept these riches". The harbinger, a crawdad the size of an almond bowed and scuttled off into the grass. Emily's dad made her pick it all up and haul it to the trash.
The next morning was brilliantly sunny and Emily tromped right outside in her galoshes. She stopped dead in her tracks when she stepped onto the porch. The yard was filled with what seemed to be one of every animal. From foxes to fruit flies, from beavers to bombardier beetles, the front yard had become a frantic, fragrant mass of fauna. Again, a small voice addressed her from the ground. "The Chief Merdad offers his most sincere apologies for displeasing his rescuer and offers the perpetual adoration of all his subjects henceforth. Please, accept this new found fame". Emily stood and stared. Then, without a word, she walked down to the stream and pretended that the only thing in existence was gooey duck hunting. The menagerie followed. All that morning they crowded around her, jabbering and genuflecting until she felt her last shred of sanity give way. She faced her would be subjects and shouted, "Take me to the Merdad, right now"! The animals shied away but with obvious intent moved up the stream toward a nearby pond. As Emily followed, the animals began to file away into two ranks, forming a tidy path right down to a dock that reached out into the pond. There, at the end stood the Merdad. With no hesitation, Emily walked down the dock. And lifted the large creature so that she could look it in the eyes. Looking abashed, if crawdads can look abashed, it asked "Might I offer you lifelong happiness"?
"Yes, you can", Emily replied.
The Merdad straightened up and seemed pleased. Emily pulled back and hurled the writhing arthropod into the pond. She smiled, now quite happy, and faced the timid ranks of creatures. For one awkward moment no one moved or made a sound and then Emily threw up her hands and shouted "BLAAAAAAAGGH, Go AWAY"!. And they did. And never came back.