In the Eye of the Beholder

(Here it is, my first flash fiction story to fulfill my challenge. I had to write quickly since I made the commitment so late in the week. I'm already doubting my decision to post each story, but like I said, the stories don't necessarily need to be good. This is a whimsical piece that showed up while I did a timed writing about a pet.)

In the summer of 2004, in yet another attempt to gain true friends, I hooked up with a group of pet lovers. Maureen had two Shiatsus, Marguerite, a calico cat, and Melanie owned a ferret. One sultry night, in the midst of communal inebriation at a downtown restaurant, Marguerite asked about my pet. As I was still relatively new to the group my insecurities took over and I lied. I said I had a pet crab.

It’s not as bad as it sounds, it was just the first thing that came to mind. I figured they’d never visit my dinky hovel and it was well worth the looks of consternation mixed with envy. So I did what any respectable person would do when desiring to avoid the embarrassment of being caught in a lie. I bought myself a crab.

Okay, so it wasn’t being sold as a pet, but what difference did that make? I named him Allen, just because he looked like one. I bought an aquarium, filled it with sand, rocks, and salt water, and brought Allen home.

What first began as a ruse turned into a surprising affair. I fell in love with Allen and spent hours playing with him, letting him walk across my bare back when it got itchy. We became so close I began to understand him and he me, and we thrived on the connection wrought through our uncommon conversations. He expressed how thankful he was to be rescued from a dinner plate and I admitted a deep appreciation at having found a simpatico companion whose eyes didn’t glaze over whenever I spoke.

Allen slept in my bed and alerted me if he perceived any danger. At first it was annoying since he wasn’t acclimated to the city and its noises of sirens and car alarms, but he was a quick study and soon slept through the usual racket.

Allen saved my life when a burglar or a rapist, I’ll never know which, tried to break through my front door. Allen awakened to the unfamiliar scratching at the lock and practically picked my eyes out trying to rouse me. I called 911, yelled to the would-be-intruder that I did so, then cried out, “Thank you Allen!” with such sincere exuberance I suppose it threw doubt as to the efficacy of continuing as planned.

It got so that every week my stories about Allen’s exploits out-shined my friends’ stories about their pets, which resulted in their insistence on meeting Allen face-to-face. Maureen showed up with a scowl on her face, unable to see Allen’s charm. Marguerite had the bad manners to declare him ugly. Then Melanie offered a gift of worms, mistakenly believing them to be the preferred food of crabs, and when Allen refused to eat them she called him a snob.

After they left in a huff of judgment, I realized I no longer cared for their acceptance, although I would always be thankful for them. After all, if I hadn’t wished to impress them I wouldn’t have Allen and really, when it came down to it, I enjoyed his company a whole lot more than all three put together.