Years ago, in Orange Beach, Alabama, I developed a new fear, one that I suppose was always crouching near the surface just out of sight, waiting to be released. It all started as we sat on the back porch of my grandparents condo, listening to the waves of the ocean breaking against the sand somewhere in the darkness below. It’s always very peaceful listening to the waves at night, knowing its vast awesomeness is out there although you can’t see it. I don’t remember what the weather was like that night but it was summer in Alabama so I’m sure it was pretty hot, with a light breeze providing some cool relief every once in a while. We saw a light moving across the shore near the water and heard voices, laughter, and squeals of excitement. I watched them make their way down the beach and eventually up the boardwalk where they paused right beside our porch to rinse the sand off of them. They saw us on the porch, and as people from the south tend to do, engaged in a conversation with us, though we’d never seen them before in our lives. They explained that they’d been crab hunting, and slightly tilted the bucket towards us to show off their catch, those little white spider like creatures falling on top of each other trying to climb up the side of the bucket to freedom. My cousins liked the idea, so it was settled, the next night we would go crab hunting.
Unbeknownst to us there had been crab hunting equipment hiding in the condo all along, masking as other things; a little bucket to make sand castles, a net to catch jellyfish, and a flashlight to…okay the flashlight wasn’t masking as anything else but you get the point. Once night fell we made our way towards the beach, and I have to admit, in the moment I did feel a bit of excitement, at the carefree possibility of spotting crabs with the flashlight and then scooping them up with the net and into the bucket. I scanned the beach, looking into the beam of the flashlight for any sign of a crab, but quickly wished I hadn’t. They started pouring out of the sand like ants from an anthill. I couldn’t look anywhere without seeing one of the sand spiders dart in one direction or another. I don’t remember exactly but I’m sure I squealed in terror as I moved frequently, high stepping my way down the beach, fearing that one would run across my foot.
Suddenly I wasn’t so excited to be crab hunting and was ready to leave this new activity behind. The pool wasn’t closed yet, and my aunt liked the crabs about as much as I did, so we, along with my dad and cousin decided to go swimming for a bit. After a little while we heard the voices of my other cousins and my uncle coming up the boardwalk by the pool, carrying in their hands the bucket. Like the crab hunters the night before, they were eager to show off their catch to us, and just like the other man, tilted the bucket towards us to see the disgusting creatures, only my cousin didn’t have the best grip on the bucket and it fell into the pool releasing the crabs. I don’t think I’ve ever moved that fast in my life as I swam to the other end and hopped out of the pool. In that moment I’m sure I could have been fairly competitive in a race with Michael Phelps. If you are ever with me at the beach and see me starting to get nervous as the sun goes down, now you know why, because the sand spiders are nocturnal and I don’t want anything to do with them.