E. M. Stormo
After school, we rode our bikes downtown to watch the crabs. Stacks of cubes showed them fighting and feeding off each other. We stayed for hours watching, even when the owner told us to scram and our asses were sore from our bike seats. The window featured older tube models, VCR combos with worn tapes, giving the crabs a vintage feel, like an ancient species of proto-crab. It wasn’t quite a nature documentary, or even what could be considered “natural.” There was no sound, but you could hear them without sound, grinding their hard bodies into each other. When we got home, their crabbiness had rubbed off on us and spread to the rest of the family. Sisters with crab-heads idled out of the bathroom like obscure Egyptian goddesses. Aunts bunched up on the couch ready to snatch us up with their entire bodies. Mothers clawed our eyes out with a single disapproving glance. They all knew what we’d seen as if projected from our brain onto the walls, but the next afternoon we were back downtown in a row of sore-ass bike seats watching nature documentaries on Crab TV. Sometimes we wished we were crabs, if only we could mimic the proper position of the head upon the legs. We hunched over and entered rooms pelvis-first. We wore shards of glass to harden our flesh. Our teacher warned us, “Crabs are a virus. Once infected, you no longer need a television to see them.” Soon everyone transformed into their true crab selves— the crossing guard, the lunch lady. People you never suspected had been crypto-crabs all along. Under a microscope, the virus itself looked like a tiny robotic crab. Our teacher didn’t know what kind of crabs we meant. “Crabs” was our codeword to hide our extracurricular activities from our sisters, aunts, and mothers. “Let’s go watch the crabs,” we’d say, implying we were down by the river, hosting crab cockfights in sandy dungeons, which would’ve been more acceptable behavior. Eventually one mother would figure it out and tell another. Once the hundredth mother knows, all of motherdom knows. Our small mouths gave us away. The unclean hand grown twice its normal size. And the biggest clue: the first molts on our underwear. Our moms read these signs like cancer. A disease would’ve been preferable. One she found out, there was no reason to go downtown now. The crab was in our bedroom. After school, we rode straight home to find everything ripped to shreds.
E. M. Stormo has recent stories in ‘Fresh Anthology’ by Montag Press, The Conium Review, and Thrice Fiction Magazine. For complete works, visit: emstormo.wordpress.com.