Monday Stories: Tim

“Tim Tim, tiny Tim, you’re missing spikes, go take a hike!” 

“Tiny Tim, you’re so small, go back home, before you fall!” 

“Tiny Tim, your spikes are broke, you’re so weak, I hope you choke!” 

Tim woke from a dream, the echoes of childhood taunting lingering in the fogginess of just waking confusion. Tim cringed thinking of the chants directed towards him, embarrassed by his name and his stature and his missing spikes. Instead of making him shy and withdrawn later on in life, the taunts and jokes from his youth just made him angry and crabby. He felt betrayed by his parents who, in naming him Timothy after his great grandfather, had made him a prime target for teasing in verse by his other much larger and more spiky contemporaries. If a cartoon was ever made of tiny Tim’s life, surely smoke would be seen billowing out of his upper opening and his typically purply black spines would turn a ferocious shade of red. 

But there were no cartoons, and Tim and his companions remained underwater, where smoke could never exist. And since sea urchins moved with such frustrating slowness, any aggression was mostly verbal rather than physical. The truth is the taunts were a thing of the past. They ended as quick as they started, when Tim’s immediate and creative retorts cut through the silly songs with a vicious cruelty that was certainly not warranted. Tiny Tim, who could have chosen to embrace his tiny form and stubby spikes, instead chose the path of greatest resistance—a path of anger and self-hate and continual assault. It was rather unkind to pick on a smaller stunted urchin like Tim, but his violent response made it clear that he did not take teasing lightly. Eventually the unkind words escaped his big mouth unprovoked and most learned to steer clear of his path of verbal abuse. 

Tim lived in a state of constant tension. He felt he had to be always on the ready with a quick retort or reply, despite the fact he was rarely approached by anyone. He refused to let down his defense, which he felt was already weak because of his physical smallness and stubby spikes. He slept poorly, ate greedily, and moved slowly and awkwardly. Other sea urchins worried about eels and crustaceans and triggerfish, or took up hobbies like slow moving hide-and-seek in cracks and crevices or a sort of delayed cliff jumping where they would slide of the side of small ledges and see where they ended up. Tim stayed put for the most part. His only hobby was staying angry, and it left him with little time or energy to engage in anything else. He felt that life had dealt him the short end of the stick and he reacted to any advances, event those of friendship, with rather harsh words and a grumpy demeanor. 

His parents lamented their unfortunate choice of name and the fact that other urchins had decided to ridicule even just one time, their little Tim. They felt ostracized from their community for standing up for their son, who had become so bitter and angry that no one wanted to be around him. He was a bit smaller, and the spikes on his left side were short and stubby but they loved him none the less. Unfortunately they had spent many years being rebuffed by their misshapen son and had now all but given up on trying to show their affection and reaffirm his potential to thrive despite his small statue. 

One day, when the warm currents swept through their outpost, Tim decided it was time to make a move. He didn’t care about the threat of lobsters or crabs or the wandering sea otter, he just wanted to get out. While on the outside Tim was a hurricane of anger, inside Tim just felt insecure and vulnerable. He was ashamed of his mean demeanor and didn’t see the point of sticking around surrounded by those he had attacked with so much anger and hurt for so long. He would happily rather be eaten than continue in this state of perpetual misery and embarrassment. The preparation to leave of course took him weeks rather than minutes, but at last he unstuck himself from his cozy hole and let the current tumble and tow him into the wider ocean. 

After who knows how long he ended up on the sandy bottom of the great sea. It was brighter than the holes he was accustomed to and more silent than he had ever experienced. It was a bit haunting, the silence and the brightness. For days Tim was alone in his thoughts. Slowly the anger that had consumed him began to dissipate and the insecurity that he hid behind his anger seeped from his core and enveloped each little stunted spike of his. Without the anger to hide behind, or the taunts of his childhood to haunt him, Tim realized how fragile and frustrated he had felt all those years. He slept in the silence and woke to the silence. He no longer needed to fill his mind with negativity, and so instead it was filled with confusion and an overwhelmed regret that he felt for projecting so much hurt onto his sea urchin community, all because he felt so cheated by life. Tim realized how fully his anger had deprived him out of ever accepting his small stature and stubby spikes, and that he had lost any hope of creating a life of love, friendship or peace. This made him quite sad.

He woke one morning again in the silence, but with a feeling he wasn’t so alone. And sure enough just to his side was a bright blue crustacean. Tim had no way to know it was a lobster, his natural predator, as he had only heard descriptions of these creatures before. To him it was just another something. In his other life he might have yelled and screamed certain vulgarities at the unmoving blue beast, but now in his state of disturbed regret, he just stared in awe at something so bright and big and still. The lobster looked and Tim stared. Tim felt unsure if he should be savoring his last minutes in this world, as he knew there was many a creature that was hungry and vicious when it came to urchins. 

You see that blue lobster was alone too. Not because he was teased or taunted but the opposite. He was constantly cheered and celebrated as brave and strong and unique and beautiful. His bright blue shell was uncommon to the rest of his band of lobsters that were dark green and black. And he was even more unusual after a hungry octopus left him with one less claw than the rest of his two armed companions. The two had ended up solo on that sandy ocean floor under the bright light of the sun because they wanted to escape the projections of their peers, but they had never imagined to discover that their insecurities came from the inside, not the outside. The blue lobster was scared of not living up to the standards his friends and family had created for him. They told him he was brave and strong and beautiful, but he felt only unsure and unstable and quite different from everyone else with his bright blue coat and lacking claw. On the other hand Tim was scared of showing the hurt and pain he felt when childhood rhymes brought to light a lack in self confidence and sensitivity to his physical display. He was embarrassed by his unwarranted cruelty and a lifetime of loneliness in a crowded community of sea urchins. 

There on the bottom of the sea floor was the most unlikely duo, looking each other up and down. They were both a bit strange, in respect to their typical species specifications. In reality the lobster should have feasted on that small sea urchin when he was still asleep, but he found him so silly and adorable, with his tiny size and asymmetrical shape, that he felt he had found more of a kindred spirit than a feast. Tim felt a flash of fear, thinking he may be eaten but mostly succumbed to curiosity, as something so blue and bright and with an awkward claw seemed a vision from a dream, especially after so many days of silence and solitude. Then the lobster smiled. His smiled turned to a giggle and then a kind chuckle. The lobster laughed and laughed while Tim kept staring until something from the inside seemed to tickle his underbelly and he began to chuckle too. Tim had never properly laughed. Perhaps he had let out a guffaw or a HA directed in jest or unkindness after one of his particularly cruel retorts. But what started as a chuckle escalated to belly roaring laughing. The two looked and laughed and gazed and giggled.

With their laughter their loneliness faded and they saw themselves in each other. They were both a bit odd shaped, mirroring each other in their distinct asymmetry. One so bright, one so small, both so different from what was inherently expected of their species. The laughter loosened their insides and calmed their nervousness. The lobster had laughed because he saw such a lack of fear from his potential prey and then tiny Tim laughed because he saw such joy from such a strange creature. When the laughter finally faded from a roar to a chuckle to a sigh, the lobster crawled slowly away, leaving a vision of bright blue in his wake. Tim searched for the anger and insecurity in his soul but found none. He listened to the silence and embraced the solitude and finally felt calm and secure and fulfilled. He realized that he would have happily been the lobster’s dinner had he not been so small and misshapen, and for once felt filled with joy for having survived what could have been his last minutes on the sandy ocean floor. After so many years of hurt and anger, the laughter filled him and opened him and drained him, and left him alone with a renewed sense of wonder for the world—a world where bright blue creatures roam the sea floor with strange arms and inviting laughter.