The Battle of Sand Hill Cove
You’ve been on the edge of your seat waiting for another one of the wonderful entries in the “I Love Lucy [the Margate Elephant] Memory Contest,” haven’t you? Well wait no more! Herewith, The Battle of Sand Hill Cove and its prize-winning original illustration, both by Anne Fontaine (all rights reserved).
The Battle of Sand Hill Cove
Striding importantly through the beach peas, I was on my way to find my brothers and my cousins on the crowded public beach and bring them back to the cottage for lunch. It seemed to my 12-yr-old brain that as the eldest child and eldest grandchild there ought to be more to it but this was just the sort of errand I was sent on, often several times a day, when we stayed at the beach. I knew exactly where they were, too. Junior anthropologists all, they were crawling through the dunes to spy on awkwardly passionate teenagers. Fetching them out might blow their cover, a prospect I was looking forward to until I noticed the tide was out. The rocky shore on this side of the breakwater now extended past the middle of the jetties—it was like finding the door to a closely-guarded castle wide open and I thought, just for a minute.
It was slow going; some of the rocks were slippery, covered with green hair that lifted and sank with the rhythmic movement of the water. I was watching my footing. peering intently into the sandy pools, when the jerky motion of a small shell caught my eye. Two shells, actually, their occupants locked together, moving balletically over the sand and rocks. Then my schoolyard instincts kicked in and I recognised the behavior: the two hermit crabs were fighting. I knew boys fought, of course, and that men fought in wars; I knew that some animals fought over territory but they all seemed land-based, and large. Around and around they went, my view of the battle sometimes obscured by patches of sunlight that turned my watery lens opaque. Then, suddenly, with what should have been an audible POP, one hermit crab pulled the other out of its shell. It appeared on the sand, a bent knuckle with legs, as the victor quickly vacated his own shell and popped himself neatly into the emptied one.
Amazed and outraged at the same time, my head shot up to call out. I realised my mistake instantaneously, along with a few other things. I was alone and a lot further from the beach than I thought but I had to know what happened to the newly naked crab. Hurriedly turning back to the sandy battlefield, the water almost to my knees, the depth was now too great to see through clearly. I couldn’t find it. A frisson of fear shot through me as I heard, from the jetty to my left, the unmistakable gurgles and ominous sucking noises that meant the occupants of the black spaces between the boulders would be returning; the tide was on its way in and had been for a little while. I moved quickly toward the shore, suddenly aware that I might be trampling over other oceanic dramas, a silent sorry, sorry repeated in contrition, just in case. As the water level on my legs dropped and I began to see the stones again, a line of recognisable boys walked across the beach in the direction of the cottage, laughing and joking. I never told anyone I witnessed a war that afternoon. It seemed too big, and I was terribly late for lunch.