( February, 2002 Volume 2 No.2 )

There is sometimes more to be said for the quiet plodder who gets things done than the clever talker who starts things but never finishes them and lives off the generous spirits of others__especially where good friends are concerned. Take this old Japanese folktale about a crab and a monkey. The two animals were friends for a long time. The crab humored the monkey's foibles and the monkey took his friend for granted. One day, the pair were out foraging for food together when the crab came across a rice ball in the grass. As soon as the monkey saw the rice ball, he knew he wanted it.
"Crab," cried the clever monkey. "Look what I have found over here. It is a persimmon seed. I will swap it for your rice ball." "Fine," sighed the crab, leaving her find. She took the dry persimmon seed, and the monkey gobbled the rice ball up in one, never offering to share. But the crab did not throw the seed away. Instead, she went home, planted it in her garden and watered it tenderly. Each day she commanded the tree: "Grow strong and tall and bear me delicious fruit." And the tree obeyed because the crab was good and kind. It grew very tall and soon bore huge, juicy persimmons. The crab watched them grow and ripen. When she was sure they were ready, she set out to climb the tree. But her nippers could not grip. Each time she tried, she clambered a little way and slid straight back down. Nimble Monkey saw the fruit and was up the tree in two bounds. He gobbled the fruit greedily but did not throw any down to his friend.
"Help me get some fruit," Crab pleaded, but Monkey only grew angry.
"I'm busy," he yelled, and threw a big branch down at Crab, cracking her shell and mortally wounding her. Then the monkey, frightened of the consequences of his actions, jumped down and ran away.
"What happened?" cried Crab's friend Bee when he happened by.
"Monkey has killed me," said Crab. She explained what had happened without malice and died before Bee's eyes. From under her belly, her crab children ran out crying. Bee took them home with him. On the way, he met their lowly friends__a cowpat, a cedar tree and a heavy copper cooking pot__ and told them of Crab’s fate.
"Monkey must be punished," they said. "We are small things on this earth compared to a monkey, but together we can do it." They went to Monkey's house when they knew he was out. The pot went to the roof above the door. The cow pat spread itself under the bottom step, the baby crabs hid in a bucket of water by the sink, the bee hovered near the door and the cedar tree jumped into the fireplace. When Monkey returned, the cedar tree waited until he stirred the fire and jumped up to burn his hand. Monkey screamed and ran to soothe his hand in the bucket of water. The baby crabs bit him fiercely. Terrified and in pain, he ran to escape and bee stung him in the face. Monkey staggered to the door, but as he opened it the pot jumped, smashing him on the head. He tripped, then slipped on cow pat and fell flat on his face. By now, Monkey was a mess. He ran from the house and was never seen again. Monkey had once had a great friend in Crab, but he did not appreciate how diligent and giving Crab was, and once he lost Crab, he lost all his friends and eventually everything he had. So be careful. The friend you least appreciate may be the one you rely on most and the one your other friends would be the sorriest to lose.