I wonder if it ever occurred to you how delicious you are.
While skittering around in your little world, did you ever think that the muscles inside your exo-skeleton were tasty? Or that one day a hominid would use the tip of one of your spiny legs to dig out those delicious muscles and eat them?
I bet you didn’t. I mean, I’ve looked through your body thoroughly. I’ve seen the disgusting yellowish-green soup that fills the cavity just beneath your carapace. I’ve seen your white, finger-like gills there, too, on either side. I’ve seen your eye-stalks and your strange little mandibles and that odd little triangular flap of articulated shell (wide and blunt if you’re a girl–narrow and pointy if you’re a boy) at the very back on your bottom. I’ve seen your hard, chitinous claws, sharp and dangerously powerful (when you were still alive, at least). I’ve cut my fingers dismantling those claws in such a way that I could grab the cartilaginous tendon and open and close them myself while making growling noises and closing in on my brother’s fingers or face. I know you intimately, inside and out. And I’ve never seen anything that looks even remotely like a brain.
So it is highly unlikely that you could have been self-aware.
Nonetheless, I try to put myself in your legs, so to speak. I imagine myself crawling around on the ocean floor. I imagine the water to be nurturing not cold, with bits of food constantly floating by with every pulse of the tides and the surf, the soft susurration of the waves high above, the clicking of my claws, and the scent of rotting organic material all around.
I am the master of my realm. I have fought my way up from when I was tiny, winning the lottery, essentially, that spares some and turns others, many others, into dinner. My brothers, farewell. What I don’t run from I can frighten with my dangerous claws, maybe even kill and eat the little fish that I catch, the shrimp, the clams. The sea is teaming with meals just waiting for me to hunt them down. But I never pass up those things that have already died and drift down from above and into my world. Oh no.
I have no thought for who they were or what they did; when they arrive I see them only as food. And I will eat. I will have to eat fast, because others are coming, maybe they even beat me to it. But no matter, I will have my share and grow strong and dominate. The soft, squishy flesh shreds easily in my powerful claws. I transfer it quickly to my mouth-hole and masticate it precisely the right amount so that my gastric mill can process the raw material and convert it to energy so that I can carry on. I do not savor. I do not reflect. My focus could only be disturbed by something approaching from above.
I am always on the look out for things that descend too quickly. Things that descend quickly I run from. I can move forward or back fairly well, but I move sideways like lightning. Or I can quickly bury myself in the sand if my eye-stalks spot any danger from above.
However, I do not notice the ground upon which I stand falling away below me. If I had a brain, I might have been suspicious of the generous assortment of carp, a fresh-water fish, tied to the metal ribs of this odd grill, here in my salt-water home. But I have no muscle-memory to help me in this case. All I know is that it is food.
Erupting from the surface of the sea for the first time in my entire life, exposed to the air, I can make nothing of what I see, hear, or smell: light so bright and a competely new world spinning around me, the murmurings of the sea replaced with harsh shreaking, howling noises, the smell of the food barely perceptible even though it is still in my claws. I and my brothers and sisters are trapped. We cannot run; we cannot hide.
We could not have been aware of the hominids. I could not have determined that they were children. I could not have noticed that one had red hair, the other sandy blond. I could not really have even understood that I and my siblings were now in a bucket of fresh water that we could easily have escaped from as it sat there poorly guarded on the pier just below the Golden Gate Bridge in the chill San Francisco bay breeze on that bright summer day. In fact, if any of my brethren even tried to escape, I would pull them back. We all would.
We wouldn’t even struggle much when we’re placed in the boiling water. The pain would have certainly made our fate clear, but it would have been too late at that point. Within moments, a few short clicks, we were, ourselves, dinner.
And a tasty, delicious dinner at that.
Thank you, Dungeness Crabs. I have always loved eating you.
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- December 18, 2005 / 9:09 pm