The Shrimp Has My Back

Deimos the cleaner shrimp has a new friend and it’s made a surprising difference in his behavior.

The new cleaner shrimp (not surprisingly named ‘Phobos’) came home just over a week ago. He took an immediate liking to Deimos, though it took big-D a couple of hours to adjust to the smaller shrimp dogging his every step. Where Deimos went, Phobos went. If Deimos tapped something with his feelers, Phobos ran in to do the same.

This irritated Deimos in the beginning. He even ran the smaller shrimp off several times, but the moment Deimos’ back was turned little Phobos ran in again, eager to follow the larger shrimp around.

When feeding time came Deimos grabbed for his portion as usual, snatching it from my hand and returning to the corner where he usually likes to eat. Phobos refused to hand-feed (though he’s learned the trick now, and usually beats Deimos to the food) but took his portion to where “big brother” was eating as soon as he got his little claws full.

Enter Red the fire shrimp.

Red often emerges from his cave at dinnertime to steal food from Deimos. Despite their roughly equal size, Deimos usually responded by retreating into a corner – and often dropped his food in his hurry to get away.

The day after Phobos’ arrival, Red made his usual foray into Deimos’ dining space, claws up and ready to take the other shrimp’s food away. To his surprise, he found himself face to face with two cleaners instead of one – and this time it was Red who ran away.

Curiously, Deimos didn’t run at the sight of Red once Phobos joined him. He held his ground and ate. As annoying as his new companion was, Deimos realized on some level that now they were two instead of one, and there was no need to flee.

Writing and life are the same. It’s easy to run when you’re alone – even (and perhaps especially) from things that shouldn’t scare you. Issues that offer no genuine threat seem far more menacing when nobody has your back. But bring in even a single friend and suddenly courage gets easier. Whether you persevere because someone else trusts you not to fail or because you don’t want to look like a scaredy-shrimp in front of the new kid makes no difference – if you stand the line it’s perseverance just the same.

Let’s learn a lesson from the shrimp this week. It’s not the size of your friend that matters, it’s the fact that (s)he has your back.

Who has your back this week? Toss them kudos in the comments and let us all know.