Digging for Sandcrabs

Submitted into Contest #194 in response to: Write a story inspired by the phrase “Back to square one.”... view prompt


Contemporary Coming of Age

When I was younger, I used to go to the beach and look for the little sandcrabs after the tide washed up– Stuck my hands down as they crowded up into my palms, tickling my fingers– Toddling over the edges and through the cracks of my cupped hands, they’d crawl out as I watched them fall. One by one by one by one. While I was doing this, the others were building sand castles and jumping over waves. I liked the sandcrabs. 

Years later, I had the opportunity to dig again. For bio class, we picked our favorite animal and presented it. I decided to stay faithful to my childhood favorite. I couldn’t quite figure out how to properly show the wonder of the sandcrabs because all the pictures I found online were synthetic. So, I decided to bring one in. Put one big one in a mason jar with sand and water, poked holes in the top so it could breathe. 

I went to dig in the morning. I liked the crisp feeling of the ocean breeze as it slowly woke up to the sunrise, casting a gold reflection upon the water. The waves danced and swirled until they crashed down and faded back into the ocean. It was the perfect time to hunt.

I approached the ocean

I placed down my bucket

I squatted down

I rolled up my sleeves

My jeans became salty and dark

It was the perfect time

Waves crashed

Hands in sand 

I felt the tickles

I was so close

I felt a big one coming

“You need help?”

What the fuck.

I knew the perfect strategy. The perfect squat, the perfectly cupped hand. I don’t need help. I don’t need some random ass man telling me how to catch my fucking sandcrabs. 

“Do you need help?”

“No. I know how to catch a fucking sandcrab.”

“Oh. Okay.”

And then he just stood there 

Back to square one.

The wave was coming

Crashed down

Fingers digging in the sand

Tickles on my fingers

Felt a big one start digging into the trap I had created

“Can I catch with you?”

What the fuck? Why would this grown man want to catch sandcrabs with me?



“Go away.”


I tried to ignore him and go back to catching the sandcrabs.

A wave was coming 


Back to square one.


Waves crashed 


Hands in the sand


Tickles on my palm


“Fine. Just stop bothering me.”

He squatted down next to me. And out of the corner of my eye, I saw a slightly sunkissed hand, not much bigger than mine. And I looked up and he wasn’t a random old creep trying to kidnap me. He was my age. He was this average looking nerdy asian boy– With glasses.    

Okay. No problem. I’m just catching sandcrabs with a man, no, a boy, who probably doesn’t even know what a fucking sandcrab is, much less how to catch one. I saw the wave approach.

Back to square one.

I stuck my hands down in the sand 

Perfectly cupped

Perfect tickles

Smaller tickles

Tiny tickles

Not nearly big enough.

I lifted up my hands, seeing the holes where they dug. I let them go. 

“I caught one!”

“No shit, Sherlock.”

“No, a big one.”

“Lemmie see.”

And sure enough, this random ass man had caught the biggest sandcrab I had seen. It looked just like a shell that he had picked up, but it was teetering and toddling over his hand. You could see its pearly skin with orange tints. The alien eyes popping through its skill. The rectangular pupils, begging to go home. I needed that sandcrab. 

“Gimme that.”


“I need it.”

“You didn’t want my help.”

“Yeah because I don’t need it.”

“But you clearly do.”

“No I don’t.”

“Then stop asking me for this sandcrab.”

“No. I need that sandcrab.”

“No you don’t.”

“Yes I do.”

“No you don’t.”

He let it go back into the ocean, swimming to the sand and creating a huge hole. The abyss curled in toward the crab, creating lips for the ocean to kiss. I looked at it for as long as I could, the hole covering the sandcrab in all its glory. Its abyss quickly washed over with ocean kisses and sand hugs, leaving the sandcrab safe in its new home.

“Why did you do that?”

“You don’t need help.”

“Yeah, but I needed that fucking sandcrab asshole!”

He moved his hand out of my sight and pushed up his glasses. I think he was hurt. 

“But wouldn’t that be me helping you?”

“No. It would be giving me what I need.”

“That’s literally the definition of helping.”

“Okay. Well. Fuck you. I’ll just do it myself.”


He looked away.

“Because I don’t need help.”

“Okay. Whatever you say.”

I hated him. I wished he would just go away. But another wave came. And another. And another. He continued getting these giant gargantuan sandcrabs and I got these tiny little ones. He must’ve been some sandcrab magnet or something because how the fuck did this man catch all the giant sandcrabs and not me. I was catching the giant ones but then he distracted me. Why did I let him catch with me? 

“So what’s your name?”

“What’s yours?”

“I asked first.”

“Okay? I asked second.”

“You answer the question first.”



“Well, I hate you Teddy.”



I could tell those words stung him, just a little bit. He had gone out of his way to talk to some random girl looking like a soggy piece of wheat bread left at the edge of the beach, catching sandcrabs. I would have never done that. No matter how alone I was or felt, I could never just walk up to someone and say hello. I could never just talk to someone, no matter who they were. But he could. Teddy could. Somehow, this random ass man suddenly had a name and made me think about what I was going to say. What I was going to do. Who I was going to be. And it made me feel alive. It made the breeze calmer. The briskness had disappeared. It was ebbing and flowing back and forth, fly aways started floating. Slightly dry sand chilling my feet.

“I’m sorry.”

He didn’t look at me. He just continued catching sandcrabs. So I went back to catching them too.

A wave came

Back to square one.

I stuck in my hands 

I felt the tickles

I felt a big one

I scooped it up

I placed it in my bucket

I picked it up

I started to stand

Walk away



“Can you stay here with me?”


“I can’t be alone right now.”

I looked up at the city looming over me. It was slowly becoming day. I knew the beach was about to get fuller and fuller until I couldn’t leave. I needed to go.


“Thank you.”

I squatted back down next to him. He had stopped catching them and was just looking at the waves coming and going.

“I like the holes the sandcrabs make.”

I thought that was the weirdest thing.


“I like seeing that the sandcrabs had found a place, even if it was temporary. Seeing them burrow into the sand, dig themselves a place to live, it makes me happy.”




“No, what?”

“I just like catching them.”


“I like the tickling on my fingers. I like seeing them crawl out of my hand and watching them teeder and toddle over the edge. People think they’re scary with their pinchers and exposed guts, but they're just helpless little creatures looking for a home. I like seeing them swim into the ocean and actively search for a place to rest just for a second before they drift away to the next beach.”

“So yours is just a torture-y version of mine?”

“I guess”

We just sat there. In silence. Watching the waves crash upon the shore. Watching the sandcrabs burrow as they finally found a home.

April 22, 2023 01:36

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Aurora Malerba
19:02 Apr 23, 2023

Interesting concept. I enjoyed the poem bits. Keep up the good work!! 🤩


20:02 Apr 23, 2023

thank you!


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