A crabby story

Chinu Khandker
4 min readMay 26, 2022



One fine morning, my eleven year old son told me he wanted a pet. I said,”Another one? You already have a gold fish, a bird, and a gecko.” He insisted and started to whine until I gave in. We went to the Newport Center mall’s pet store. It was not a very big store but it had quite a number of lovable creatures including some smaller breeds of dogs. I told him to look around and find something small that does not take a lot of attention. I was hoping he would choose to buy a guppy. Then I heard him calling me excitedly from the other end of the store, “Mommy, come here, look!” As I hurried to him, he pointed to a tank with sand on the bottom. It had all different sizes and colors of shells strewn around. I asked, “What is it?” He said excitedly. “The crabs! The hermit crabs! I want a hermit crab!” Now, I know what a crab looks like and have some unpleasant childhood memories of getting pinched by them. But, what is a hermit crab? Never heard of it. I looked inside the glass case and saw nothing. I told my son, “ There’s no water in the tank. How could there be crabs? Crabs need water. Besides we are not buying a crab, They pinch. I don’t want you to have a crab as a pet.” He told me to stand there quietly and look carefully. After a few moments I saw a small shell moving from one place to another. He said excitedly, “Did you see that? Did you see the crab running?” That was interesting. I only saw a shell moving. How can a shell move by itself? Then I saw a few other little shells moving. But, I did not see any creatures inside the case. I thought it was some kind of trick by the store to sell these shells to young customers. To appease my son, I thought to buy a nice shell and put it in our goldfish tank. It will be a nice add. I told my son, “OK, you can buy a shell.” He went to get a store attendant. I looked at the prices of the shells. They all were priced almost the same regardless of their sizes and looks.

A young attendant, around 16 or 17 years of age, opened the case and asked my son which one he wanted. My son pointed it out and he picked the shell up, looked inside carefully and said enthusiastically ,”Yeah. I see him. Little cramped though. Pick up a little bigger shell.” I said to him with a smile, “Crabs? You mean there really is something inside that dead shell? Honestly, how do you make these dead shells move?” He looked at me as if he heard something quite strange, “You think we move the shells? No ma’am. We don’t move these using any tricks. Here, you want to see the crab?” He held the shell upside down. I saw something that looked like a thin short gray thread sticking out. “What’s that? I don’t see a crab”. He showed it to my son who jumped excitedly. “Yeah, Yeah, I see it. I see it’s legs. I want it, I want it! I was still thinking how that little thing could move the shell? Was it stuck in the shell and trying to get out of it? Perhaps that is why a shell moves.

I said, “If there is a crab inside, it already comes with a shell. Why do we need to buy another one?” The young sales attendant explained, the crab was going to outgrow his current shell soon and would need a bigger one. While my son was trying to choose another shell, I said, ”Pick up a big one. They are all almost the same price.” The attendant looked at me with an interesting smile. My son chose a shell that was a little bigger than the one the crab was in. I said wisely,”why did you pick that one? Choose a bigger one.” He said, ‘That is too big for him. This is the right one for him.” I said, ‘But, with a big shell he will have more room to sleep and play.” “No Mommy, that’s too big for him. Right?” He asked the young sales person who smiled and nodded affirmatively. I was getting annoyed. I thought, my son needed to learn about wasteful buying habit and should stay away from it. I told him,”If you buy a bigger shell now, you won’t have to keep buying shells unnecessarily as the crab grows. He can live in that big shell for a long time.” He looked at me and said, “But, that shell is too big for him. How is he going to carry it?” “What do you mean he is going to carry it? Why will he carry it? He can just go in and out anytime he wants.” My son was growing impatient, “It does not work that way, Mommy. He doesn’t just go in and out of a shell. He carries the shell with him wherever he goes.” ‘What? I know crabs walk or crawl by themselves. They don’t carry anything. Don’t tell me stories.’ I exclaimed! “No Mommy, hermit crabs carry their house wherever they go. Otherwise it can get stolen.” “What do you mean stolen? Do you mean ants or other insects steal their food from their shells?” “No Mommy, another hermit crab can steal a shell if nobody is inside. That is why they carry their house all the time when they want food or water.” “Oh, my God! This is just like us, humans!” I was thoroughly surprised. I just couldn’t believe it. I have never heard this before about a crab. Stealing the whole house? I apologized to the sales attendant for wasting so much time arguing. The young salesman shrugged his shoulder and said, ” That’s OK. Most old folks don’t know something but argue anyway.” I laughed.

We ended up buying the shell my son chose. I thought, from now on I need to listen to him more often. I was getting ‘old’ or at least fashioned.