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A meek hermit crab is fed up with the bully crabs at school

I wake up to the mechanical beeping of my alarm clock. I sit up rubbing my eye stalks. I climb out of bed and take off my scratchy abdomen cover.

I quickly put on a moss-cotton and coconut fiber one, and then I put on a white shirt with a tree on it, and the four-legged jeans I always wear on my visible legs, and I shove on my blue socks with lobsters on them. Then I scuttle into my comfortable green shell with Norfolk Island stickers all over it.

I grab the lump of wax sitting on my dresser and lump it onto my deep purple claw.

Next, I try to straighten my crimped antennae, but to no avail.

I walk, or rather krt, over to my mirror and put on my blue glasses.

Then I shove my visible legs into my recently knitted slippers (they’re really cozy), and I walk out of the door of my bedroom. I tiptoe out across the hallway to my little brother’s bedroom.

Perfect. The mealworm brain is asleep. I krt downstairs to the kitchen.

I open the cupboard to get some freeze-dried mealworms and pour some into a bowl. I quickly gobble them up and then retreat into my shell. I’m usually not allowed to play video games on weekdays, but my friend Kerm gave me her Game Crab over winter break. I’m on the fifth world of my favorite game, Explorer Sandbar, when my mom says, “Kermie, can you wake your brother up?”

Saying that as a question is her basically saying, “Kermit, wake your brother up right now.”

I look back to the screen of the Game Crab only to find that it says “Game Over.” I sigh and put it back in my jeans, and I walk up the stairs to my brother Jerry’s room.

Now, from Jerry’s secret stash, I grab the ingredients to wake him up. One can of spinach juice, one tin of calcium powder, one washcloth drenched in saltwater, and three mealworms. Then I take Jerry out of his bed and push him into his shell. He’s already a little awake, and before he has time to react, I open the tin of calcium powder and sprinkle some into his face. Then I carefully drizzle ice-cold spinach juice, causing him to wake up suddenly.

His claws start flailing everywhere, and one slices the bridge of my glasses. I hand him the salt water-covered rag to clean himself up, and I quickly grab some Krabos tape and wrap it around my broken bridge. I throw him the three mealworms.

I feel as powerless as I would have been in the cold without my shell.

“Breakfast!” I shout.

I quickly throw him a blue polo shirt and khaki pants. While he’s getting dressed, I lump some wax onto his claws. Then I hurry downstairs.

I check the clock. Fifteen minutes! For once, I’m early for school. I quickly pack our bags and pull on my blue coat, gray hat, and black mittens. As soon as Jerry’s down, I hand him his coat. Our mom firmly places thermoses of warm freshwater with calcium powder mixed in it on our claws. I quickly run outside, pulling Jerry.

I run into the alley, and I leave Jerry behind as soon as he starts playing with ice as usual.

It is snowing outside, and most hermit crabs would be shivering, but us purple pinchers are a lot hardier than those tropical softies. As soon as I get to school (I’m one of the first crabs there), I hear some all-too-familiar voices.

I quickly bury my nose into Mosses of the Midwest and read. Suddenly, a deep voice says, “What do we have here?”

I grimace. Slowly looking up, it’s the Stonestock twins and their posse. “I’m reading this wonderful book,” I say.

Suddenly, before I can stop myself, my voice gets high-pitched and fast. “It’s about mosses. They’re nonvascular spore-bearing plants. They’re not pteridophytes! Those are vascular spore-bearing plants.” My voice trails off.

Theo, the meaner of the twins, snatches it and throws it in a snowdrift. “But— ” I begin.

“What, Four Eyes?!” Theo yells when I don’t answer.

He opens my backpack and spills out the contents. I start to need to pee really badly (I do that when I’m nervous) because the first thing he sees is my best knitting needles. “The dweeb knits?” he asks, holding them up, and to my dismay, he starts to break them.

He then drops them into the snow along with my newest knitting project, a hammock. He laughs. Then he snips my broken glasses’ tape. I feel as powerless as I would have been in the cold without my shell.

My friends arrive, and soon Lucy’s computer and sketchbook, Kerm’s eraser collection and giant calculator, and Stanley’s craft knives and history book set join my stuff in the snowdrift. Kerm has some tape to fix my glasses, and Lucy can get her computer back, but we’re pretty much powerless. Then the bell rings. I sit through the morning subjects until recess. I hurry to the place where my friends meet outside, behind a few dozen boulders. I’m late, and my friends seem to be discussing what we should do about the mean crabs. “We should hack into their computers!” exclaims Lucy.

“No, carefully planned battle would be better,” puts in Kerm.

“Full-blown war would actually be way more effective,” argues Stanley. “What about you, Kermie?” asks Kerm.

“Oh, I don’t know,” I say, shifting my legs uncomfortably.

But inside I do. And maybe Kerm won’t have to be the crab with the plan. I will. Soon everybody is arguing. The bell rings for lunch, and tempers have flared, except mine of course. Lunch is OK, but my mealworm sandwich is soggy, and everybody is still arguing. The rest of the day comes and goes quickly, with the exception of gym class. Finally, the school day is done, and me and Stanley walk out the door together. “Bye, Stan!” I yell at Stanley. “Bye!” He yells back.

I meet Jerry by the bike racks. “Tell Mommy and Daddy that I’m playing at school,” I say, gently pushing him toward the sidewalk.

He nods. I walk toward the athletics field and sit at the old rickety second playground. As usual, Theo and his gang are playing exoball. Usually, I’m here to draw the native plant life, but today this crab has a plan.

I sit up, slowly walking towards Theo. “What do you want, weirdo?!” he exclaims.

“I—I want payback,” I stammer.

“All right. Exoball. Four on four, in four days.” He smirks. “See ya after school!” he yells as I walk away.

“Yeah, see you later weird-a-gator,” Ollie, one of his posse members, shouts. “After a while, Jock-a-dile!” I shoot back. I can’t believe I said that.

“Oh, you are going to pay, nerd turd!” yells Peter, another one of his goons.

I go home only to find that I have to babysit Jerry and his friend Eddie. My pedagogy is to lock them in the playroom with animal crackers and juice boxes, and they will mostly be fine.

Then I work on my exoball outfit. Eddie has to go home now. Phew. And of course we have to have swim lessons and, later, piano. The next few days are a blur, training and school until the big day (and, of course, convincing my friends that we can win the exoball game).

*          *          *

Crowds of siblings and friends have gathered on the bleachers. The game suddenly starts. I wasn’t paying attention before, and the last thing I see before I face-plant is a banner that says “Go, Indiana Vader.” A weird name, but that’s our team’s name, and I also see the kid who has managed to get control of the scoreboard. I get back up and someone throws me the ball. The force of it makes me tumble backward. Even though I know the sports shell will bounce, I close my eyes. Strangely enough, I find myself to be floating. I open my eyes and look at the face of Theo. He snatches the ball and throws me to the ground. There is no referee, so he never gets in trouble. He throws the exoball across the field to Peter, which somehow makes them score a bunch of points. Peter never lets go of the ball, and he trips. Lucy falls on top of him and suddenly everybody except me and Theo is in that pile. Theo starts chasing me, and I jump in. After what seems like hours, I somehow emerge with the ball. Theo, who is a few yards away, runs at me. All the training suddenly flows back to me in an instant; I flip over his head, onto his green sports shell.

Rock, of Arrvynn Adventures
Rock, of Arrvynn Adventures

He turns around in surprise. My friends catch on to what I’m doing, and in an instant they’re pretending not to want to get steamrolled by Theo. Both Kerm and Lucy point to Stanley, who pretends he has the ball and runs away from Theo. He pursues him and forgets all about having me on his shell. I bounce off into the point zone, and Indiana Vader takes the lead. I realize I could do this with other crabs on their team. They’re all faster than me. The game goes by quickly until I have the ball. I harness the power of Rick, the nicer of the twins, and then Ollie, who switches directions.

Apparently, I was going the wrong way. How could I tell what side is ours and what side is theirs? And then he trips over Rick, who fell down when I jumped. Ollie was already running fast, and I chose the right time to jump, right when he tripped, so I doubled the momentum. Then I landed in the point zone. Right then the buzzer went off, and even though I didn’t have my glasses on, I could tell I won the game.

*          *          *

One week later

So many things have changed in just one week. Me and my friends have climbed up two rungs of the social ladder. We have become somebodies.

You probably would never see me enjoy school. But here I am.

We are not just hermit crabs that hide behind boulders. We’re crabs that people talk to. Everyone except Theo and his gang is happy about the whole exoball thing. And for me? I’m perfectly content being popular. Personally, I think that if it weren’t for me, we never would have won the game.

But I never before imagined life at school turning out like this. This is pure bliss, and I’m happier than anybody’s ever been at school. This crab loves it.