Subject: Starting the new route
Mr. Todd Sullivan
Thank you for the opportunity to begin the paper route in Sparrows Point. I know there were many other boys you could’ve chosen for this position, and I feel lucky to have it. Also, I’m grateful for the use of the company canoe. Until now, I used my bike to deliver newspapers. But Sparrows Point is on the other side of the Patapsco River, outside my community. The trip will go faster by water.
I’m especially grateful for the oar. It makes canoeing a breeze.
The trip will probably take me about an hour. I’ll let you know when I finish.
Sent from my iPhone
Sat, Feb 4, 2023, at 11:30 AM
Subject: I think I’m lost.
Dear Mr. Sullivan:
I know I said I’d contact you when I completed the paper route. But there was a problem. The trip down the river was windy and choppy, and it began to rain. Don’t worry, I kept the newspapers dry in my knapsack. At the end of the shower, there was a rainbow, and I sailed through it. It was cool. Right after, I found land. Instead of arriving at Sparrow’s Point, I made it to an island I’ve never seen before.
It’s a little strange.
I don’t see any people here. But there are a ton of crabs. They seem to be living like us. There are tall structures made from logs and grass, and the contraptions they’ve built on the sides look like elevators. I think they work and live in these buildings. Through the windows, I can see the crabs walking around and doing things like sitting around big tables with projection screens. Or banging their claws on a keyboard, like they’re typing.
If they’re outside, many of them are driving around in vehicles like cars made out of twigs and other stuff. The ones scuttling about seem like they got places to go. Everyone carries some small rectangular device in a claw and sometimes makes noises into it. Maybe they’re cell phones.
Plus, many of them are dressed. Or at least they’re wearing grass skirts that cover the undersides of their bodies. A few have things like top hats resting just behind their eye stems. I’m guessing those guys are important in the community.
Could this be some lost world where crabs are king?
I’ve been trying to get someone to give me directions back to my route, but all they do is come after me with a claw. I can run quickly, but those things can scurry sideways faster than I ever imagined. The only way to stop them from chasing me is to raise the oar high above my head and yell. Then they sprint away.
Don’t worry about the newspapers. They’re still safe with me.
I’ll continue to look for help. Thanks again for the oar. Without that thing, I don’t know how I’d fight these suckers off.
Sat, Feb 4, 2023, at 3:00 PM
Subject: I think I might need your help.
I’m sorry I haven’t returned yet. Believe me, I’m trying. Even though I’ve gotten lots of attention, they’re still not giving me directions out of here. Instead, they’ve corralled me into some sort of pen, like where you’d keep pigs or cows. I’d get out of here, but they got a couple of crabs with spears stationed at the entrance, and they’re not letting me go. Plus, in the stall next to me, they’ve lit a fire under a giant pot filled with water. A few of them wearing chef’s hats have pointed to me with their claws, then to the pot several times, like they plan to throw me in there. But I don’t know for sure. I don’t speak their language.
I’ve considered bashing them with my oar to escape. But I can’t. They’ve taken it, used it to stir the pot, and placed it alongside the wall in the second pen. If I can climb the fence that divides my stall from the other one without anyone seeing me, I’ll grab the rower and use it to help me escape. I don’t want to hurt them. Yet I don’t think I have any other choice.
There’s one last bit of bad news. They’ve taken the newspapers and distributed them to all the crabs on the island. I know that might seem like it would be good for business. But I don’t think they’re reading it. And they certainly haven’t paid me a dime for them. From what I can see, they’re spreading the papers open and putting on dining bibs made of grass, like they’re preparing for a meal.
Do you think I might be on the menu?
I hope not.
I’m really sorry they stole the newspapers. I guess you can take it out of my pay when I get home.
Sat, Feb 4, 2023, at 6:00 PM
I REALLY need your assistance. Like right away. While I managed to take back the oar and fight my way off the island, I have no idea how to get home.
It’s starting to get dark. Although I’m in the middle of the river in my one-person canoe, I’m not alone. There are other islands nearby, each one crawling with crocodiles or snakes. Meanwhile, dolphins with giant incisors and angry expressions have been surfacing and eyeing me for the better part of the hour.
And one of them just took my oar.
I now see you haven’t been getting my last few messages. When I tried calling my parents, the call wouldn’t go through. Wherever I am, there’s definitely no coverage for my phone. If you get these emails, PLEASE SEND HELP!
And tell my parents I love them.
Leslie Rider's been a language teacher since 1995. In her spare time, she paints and writes fiction. She's published short stories in Friday Flash Fiction, Alien Buddha Press, and Spillwords. Her novels are available on Amazon. She lives in the Mid-Atlantic with her family.