Man the Crab

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4.

The following day Alan cleaned the kitchen in record speed, having been disciplined for not doing so properly the day before. With burger in hand, and his ultimate desire in mind, he headed for the beach. He hadn’t had very much sleep; there is a lot to consider when deciding your ultimate desire. Of course he had thought about money, and a money making tree, and a little box that contained anything he wanted at any time. He had also thought about wishing to become an immortal god. As he hurried giddily towards the beach, it hadn’t occurred to him that it was a sunny day; the beach was packed.

Alan stood by the shore and looked around. The sea was calm, so there were no surfers or body boarders, just a few swimmers. Most people were sunbathing or playing ball games on the beach. He waited for a while, but Man did not appear. He didn’t know what to do if Man did appear; he just sat in the sand looking miserable. Presently, he heard a voice on the wind, the same as he had heard the previous day.

“Come into the water,” it said, “swim out until you reach the jet of water.”

He looked up and saw a single jet of water blast into the air about fifty metres from the shore. He stood up and looked around; nobody else had seemed to notice it.

“I can’t swim that far,” muttered Alan quietly. The voice in the wind answered with a whisper.

“Then steal that kids dinghy,” it said.

Alan looked behind him and saw that a little boy had left his dinghy unattended and was playing swing ball nearby. He checked to see if anyone was watching, then took the dinghy into the water. Any ethical stance he had previously held about stealing from a child had been shoved to one side by an intense desire for wish fulfillment. He paddled out to where he had seen the jet of water. He looked over the side of the dinghy and saw a dolphin looking up at him from beneath the surface.

“Hello Alan, did you bring my burger?” Alan lay on his belly to get a closer look.

“You’re a dolphin!” he said.

“Yes,” replied Man, “at the moment I’m a dolphin. If I were a crab I might have burst your dinghy, and besides which it’s much easier to float being a dolphin.”

Seemingly unperturbed by the whole situation, Alan held out a damp chicken burger. “How are you going to eat this?” He said.

“In here please,” said Man the dolphin with mouth agape. Alan did as he was told, then watched as the dolphin cheerily chewed its burger.

“Have you decided?” asked Man when he’d finished.

“Not quite yet,” replied Alan, “I just have a couple of questions.”

“Questions, right. Go on then.”

Alan took a deep breath and gave a little cough. “Can you make me an immortal god?” He asked.

“A car, yes. A generous house deposit, yes. Magical powers… no, sorry.”

Alan gave Man a puzzled look. “Then what are my limits?” he said, “You said I could have anything I want.”

Man turned over and floated lazily on his back as if he had been expecting these questions all along. “Anything you desire from this world or the other world,” he said, mocking himself from the previous day. “Sounds good doesn’t it; I did it for dramatic effect.” Man turned over again and gazed up at Alan. “You can have one thing, but keep it simple. What do you want? Freedom, success, your own restaurant, a holiday in Devon; there must be something.”

Alan thought for a minute. As much as he would have liked to have his own business, or get on the housing ladder, there was something that he wanted much more.

“An adventure,” he said confidently.

Man was clearly excited by this request. He raised himself high up in the water and splashed about playfully.

“Good,” he said,“very good Alan. Not so much something you want as something you need.” Man the dolphin rose even higher in the water, so high that he appeared to be floating. He looked down at Alan and said, “one day your adventure will come. I have to go now Alan, it’s been a pleasure.”

Before Alan could say anything, Man was gone. It was then that he heard a distant whistle. He sat up in the dinghy and looked back towards the shore. It seemed he had floated too far out and the lifeguard was beckoning him back in. Next to the lifeguard he could make out an angry figure; it looked distinctly like a small boy holding what looked like a plastic tennis racquet.

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