July 2, 2013
It was the last day of school. My younger brother, Tadpole and I ran to Dad’s car, out front, where he always picked us up.
We were excited, of course. Summer was the best! It meant no school, lots of cookouts, longer visits to Grandma’s house, the beach, camping, and of course, going out on the boat.
My father and my oldest brother, Tallboy, had gotten an early start. They had spent that morning out on the boat, fishing.
As we pulled out onto the street, my father said, “Wait until you see what we brought home today!”
“Fish” I said.
Dad and Tallboy laughed.
“Well, yeah,” Dad said. “But this is something else. Another animal.”
“Another dog?” I asked.
“Nope,” Dad said.
“Another cat?” Tadpole guessed. That was fair. My father was always rescuing strays. We would keep them in our basement until we could find them good homes.
“Nope. Not a cat.”
I thought for a minute. “You didn’t bring home an elephant this time, did you?”
We all laughed. My mother always said that some day, Dad was going to bring home an elephant… and then, she’d kill him (My father rescued the strays, but it seemed like Mom always did all of the actual work that went into looking after them until their adoption.).
As soon as we were in our driveway, Tadpole checked the backyard from the side of the house. “I don’t see an elephant.”
There was more giggling as my father opened the front door. “It’s inside. Smart alecs.”
Our dog, Bullet, and our cat, Familiar gave away the new animal’s location. They sat staring at the closed bathroom door, tails wagging. Bullet gave an excited whimper.
I screwed up my face. “It’s in the bathroom?” Stray animals were always brought directly to the basement, until Doctor Dave (a veterinarian, and a friend of the family) checked them out.
Dad and Tallboy nodded. While my big brother picked up the cat and ushered the dog out to the backyard, my father opened the bathroom door.
There, in a tub full of water from The Sound, swam a baby shark.
Tadpole and I immediately hushed and knelt by the tub. Dad grabbed our hands as we went to pet our new friend.
“Don’t touch him! He bites!”
The shark didn’t seem to notice us. He just swam back and forth.
“Are you sure he bites?” I asked. “He looks soft.”
Behind us, my father spoke. “All sharks bite, Little One.”
I looked at Dad over my shoulder. “Even cute ones?” I really wanted to pet the shark. I had it in my head that he would feel velvety. Maybe even a little squishy.
“Yep. Even cute little baby ones,” Dad said.
“Oh.” My younger brother and I exchanged disappointed looks.
“Come on out, now. Your mother will be home any minute. Want to surprise her, so don’t say anything.”
Tadpole shook his head. “Mom’s gonna kill you!”
Minutes later, we were all on the living room floor, looking over Last Day of School Stuff, when Mom came home from the market. After our hellos, we followed her into the kitchen.
My father offered to put the bag of groceries away. “Go take a bath or something, Babe. I’ll take care of dinner.”
“Oh, that would be great,” she said, kissing Dad’s cheek.
My mother saw Familiar, sitting outside of the closed bathroom door, staring up. “What’s with you?” Mom said, gently nudging the cat aside with the side of her foot.
We all stood outside the bathroom as she walked in and closed the door.
From inside, we heard: “What the…?” Then, quietly (probably through clenched teeth), “I am going to kill you.”
We all laughed.
Tadpole looked up at Dad and shrugged. “Told you.”
The next day, the baby shark was returned to The Sound, and my father was no longer allowed to bring home strays.