“Johnny, quick, over here — Big Daddy just scrambled under this huge rock!”

Johnny splashed toward me through the creek that ran between our backyards. It was summertime, hot, the kind of hot that hovered in waves just above the blacktop at Elm Elementary, convincing us to give up basketball by 10am and go crawdad hunting in the cold creek instead.

Johnny helped me heave up the slippery rock. The clear water clouded with silt, but I wasn’t about to reach down into the mud not knowing where he was. I had to be patient.

We’d been hunting Big Daddy all summer. He had become legendary, rumored to be as big as a lobster by the first graders. Johnny and I had sworn we’d seen his shadow a couple of times but had never gotten ahold of him. I just knew today was the day.

The water cleared and that’s when I saw it — one gigantic blood red claw. I could swear it was bigger than my hand. “Smash him!” Johnny screamed we hoisted the heavy rock between us. My heart started pounding as the sun beat on the back of my neck. One thin, spiny antenna slithered to the surface, and then it appeared — a shiny, black eye as big as a dime looking right at me. Johnny must have seen it, too, because at the same instant we screamed and dropped the rock right on top of the monster. Mud once again clouded the creek.

Johnny started jumping up and down, doing his “heya, heya” dance. I wanted to join in, I really did, but all I could do was stare at the top of that big rock. Johnny finally punched me on the shoulder, snapping me out of it. I kicked creek water at him over and over.

When we picked up the rock, there was no sign of Big Daddy. Several versions of the story circulated: that he disintegrated on impact, that the mud sucked him up and ate him, that a ginormous snake slithered under the rock and swallowed him whole. I think Johnny believed all three stories, but I knew the truth.

The truth was that Big Daddy escaped, unharmed, and watched us from under the muddy water that day as we looked for his remains. That he crawled out of the creek that night and every night for a week and scuttled up to my window, trying to find a way in. And that under the light of the next full moon I snuck down to the creek, told him I was sorry, and buried my Reggie Jackson baseball card in the mud as an offering.

And that secretly, I was glad.