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A Hermit Crab Gave Me a Pen

A Short Story by Rachel Johns

Photo by Rachel Johns – Dry Tortugas National Park

A hermit crab gave me a pen.

He held it tight in his pinchers, crawling homeward across sand, dragging the end along behind. He was making quite slow time, so I asked what he intended to do with his new treasure. He said he meant to decorate his shell nest with it and some half-rotted sea grape leaves.

Sea grape leaves are large and beautiful enough (when not half-rotted) to be written upon and mailed as postcards. He was very excited when I told him this and mentioned he’d always wanted to learn how to write, for while many hermits are avid readers, there aren’t many decent writers in existence.

I offered to teach him to write.

He gave me the pen. It felt oily and salty, much as one would expect. I took out a small sheet of paper and wrote HELLO. He asked me to write something else because hermits hardly ever use greetings, if indeed they ever arrive.

I wrote HERMIT CRAB. But he said that was too complex, to pick something simple to start.

I wrote SEA. He liked that.

I handed back the pen, which he gently took so as to not pinch my fingers, and I held down the slip of paper so he could easily see and it wouldn’t breeze away. He didn’t hold the pen properly upright. Again, he dragged it along behind. But that worked perfectly. He could walk the letters through in sand, tracing words among leaf debris.

He was moving slowly again, shuffle-scuttling the swoop of the S. It was a very large S. In fact, here at the first side curve it looked as if he may run out of room and walk into this sea grape tree… He disappeared with the pen among the lowest branches, a large swoop left in sand behind him.

I’d forgotten that hermits think goodbyes are hard to say, so they often leave, no goodbye. I smiled, unoffended. He had written his first word in a way.

It was unusually done, but there in sand on the beach before me was a large C.

The End.

From J Christian: Rachel Johns is a highly gifted Marine Biologist, Team Leader, and Diver for the Dry Tortugas National Park in Florida. Dry Tortugas National Park is at the southernmost point of Florida’s Coral Reef, which is North America’s only barrier reef. Rachel, along with her Team, work every day to preserve this natural treasure for its natural beauty, inhabitants, tourists, and all those that appreciate Nature’s great creations.

If you like, you can visit the website for the Park here:

Thank you for reading my friend’s wonderful story.

Cheers to your Sunday,

J Christian

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