1) Be sure you have someone to take you home. Anesthesia and pain medicine will make it unsafe for you to drive or get home on your own.

The Croatian brothers offered me mushrooms. Invited me to watch them fuck the groupie pressed between them. I giggled when Luka tried to convince me they’re rock stars. Their music ossifies my tympanic membrane into a blade.

2) Understand exactly what procedure is planned, along with the risks, benefits, and other options.

We watched from Luka’s bed. He never has to wear a condom. Never gotten a girl pregnant. He’s twelve years older and wiser. There’s a silver place in my belly where Luka empties his humours.

3) Let your doctor know what medications you’re taking. Some painkillers can cause bleeding after the procedure.

Months later, the silver place glows. A pulse of life. A blood egg.

4) Make sure your doctor and the hospital have a copy of your advance care plan. If you don’t have one, you may want to prepare one. It lets others know your health care wishes. It’s a good thing to have before any type of surgery or procedure.

Luka does not want to be forced to tell my parents but is going to call them right away if I don’t hurry up and get it over with.


  1. Todd Clay Stuart

    Lisa, this is brilliant! I love “There’s a silver place in my belly where Luka empties his humours.” So many great lines to love. And the structure of this Hermit Crab provide the perfect vehicle to carry the story. Send this one out right away! ~Todd

  2. Martha Jackson Kaplan

    Lisa, Brilliant use of the hermit crab format! This indeed offers two abortion procedures, the metaphorical and the real. I love the accurate clinical directions juxtaposed with the “community” of sex. And that turn, Luka’s threat to tell the parents, and this is the final punch in the gut, “if I don’t hurry up and get it over with.” The callousness of that attitude, and its all too commonness, nails it. Well done.

    • Lisa Alletson

      Thank you, Martha! I’m glad I tried this format today. I see so many possibilities for the hermit crab format. I’m going to play with this one a bit more although I don’t know if I’ll submit it.

  3. Robert Vaughan

    Hi Lisa, this hermit crab form is so wonderfully strategic to offer the medical details illustrated here. I’m blown away, once again, by your numerical list, and the content is so tamped down, by use of spare, elegiac details. Fragments. Wonderful use of white space- leaving out, leaking out so many details. This is ready-for-the-moment. With women’s rights about abortion in serious question? PLEASE SEND THIS OUT!!!

    • Lisa Alletson

      Hi Robert. Thank you for the encouragement. I’m grateful to have this opportunity to try my first hermit crab. I’m nervous to send this CNF out. Maybe as a fiction piece in third person. Do you think it would still be as effective?

      • Robert Vaughan

        Hi Lisa, these are important questions to ask oneself as a writer. Who am I? And is this writing of me, about me? Meaning autobiographical. Possibly embellished?

        When we say something is fiction, of course, there is the safety or “remove.” But if you, Lisa, identify as a CNF writer, and a better way to ask this is- am I scared, possibly terrified to get this published? Then, I think you have answered your own question.

  4. Jonathan Cardew

    Hermit crab!

    Love this, Lisa. The blend of medical advice and story, the way you braid it together–this is quite quite special! Love all the word choices: silver, humours, tympanic membrane, blood egg. And the title is fantastic! The procedure could be read in a few ways.

    I think this is perfect structure-wise, though you may want to consider removing the numbers and just italicizing the guidelines. Maybe? I’m going back and forth on it and I haven’t even finished this sent-

    Send this out!


  5. Lisa Alletson

    Haha. Love your enthusiasm.

    Thank you. I’ll differentiate the structure. That’s a good idea.

    After getting some thoughts from Robert I think I may submit this one. I hadn’t planned to when I wrote it.

  6. Georgiana Nelsen

    I’ll warn you–hermit crab can be addictive!
    I agree with the folks that this is a great piece, and for what it’s worth, i read it as fiction. I recently read Sandra Cisneros latest book, Martita I remember you/Martita, te recuerdo…a story of three young women in Europe, with groups like this, and drugs and sex and all the subconscious fears of the women. It read like flash to me, and this piece of yours feels as raw and honest as the book did. Great job!

  7. Wilson Koewing


    I can’t say for sure, but would say i’m definitely one of if not the least fond writer of hermit crab flash in this prestigious workshop, but I found myself quite compelled by this one and I think it was mostly because of the provocative nature of the content and the very clever use of the medical procedure information. Another fabulous piece by you. You were en fuego this weekend!


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