The day before Jimmy’s sea monkeys vanished from the face of the earth, the happy nine-year-old couldn’t have been more satisfied with the way his life had been going. He had just gotten his report card for the third six-week grading period and to celebrate raising his average from a C-minus to a C-plus; Jimmy’s parents rewarded him with a dinner out. Jimmy’s older brother Ken was also taking part in the reward even though his grades didn’t come up at all—there isn’t much room for improvement when your grades are all A-pluses.
Nonetheless, dinner out meant a trip to Gasper’s, possibly the finest restaurant in the entire state of Ohio. It was a small place; six booths, maybe a dozen tables for two and a bar, but just big enough for a town the size of Shadyside, a sleepy little village on the banks of the Ohio in the eastern part of the state. Walking into Gasper’s one was met with the mouth-watering aroma of fried fish, onion rings, French fries, burgers sizzling on the griddle and of course draft beer which flowed like water into and out of the big tall glasses that were placed in front of each and every patron sitting at the bar of the combination eatery and tavern.
At the tender age of nine, Jimmy’s tastes had not quite matured beyond the stage of hamburgers and fries but he did enjoy the coleslaw which Gasper, or the person Jimmy assumed was Gasper prepared freshly on a daily basis in the back room kitchen of the establishment. Ken, who was eleven and a little more sophisticated, ordered a fish sandwich with a side order of onion rings and of course opted for the coleslaw over a cooked vegetable of his choosing. Jimmy’s mother had a steak dinner with all the trimmings and his dad ordered the shrimp platter, which came with twelve battered and deep-fried shrimp the size of chicken legs. The combined aroma of the feast when delivered to their booth was nearly intoxicating.
Jimmy ate his burger and fries as if he hadn’t seen food in over a month and had finished his dinner well before everyone else. He wasn’t begging and was sated enough by the meal to happily watch the others eat their dinner while he waited for dessert, which he was sure he could have. After all, with a C+ average and all, he knew he wouldn’t be denied. His father noticed him following a jumbo sized shrimp from the plate into his mouth and thought the boy might be old enough to do a little gastronomic exploration.
“Son, would you like to try a shrimp?” asked Jimmy’s dad.
Well, Jimmy wasn’t too sure he would like it but it smelled good and his dad sure seemed to be enjoying them so he took him up on the offer.
“Okay, I’ll try one.”
Needles to say, Jimmy loved the shrimp so much that his father had to order a jumbo shrimp appetizer, which the two of them shared.
“Do you know what that is?” asked Ken the genius, of his younger brother as Jimmy gnawed at the tail of the last king-sized shrimp.
“Yeah, fantail shrimp—did you know your sea monkeys are also shrimp?”
“Sure they are; they’re brine shrimp—same thing only smaller.”
It goes without saying that upon learning his little sea monkeys were actually shrimp, or a manner of shrimp, their days were numbered.
The following morning little Jimmy Fletcher feigned shock, dismay and puzzlement of the sudden and mysterious disappearance of his newest pets, the sea monkeys. The tiny simian-looking creatures he had ordered six months earlier out of the back of a Superman comic book. After receiving the eggs, or seeds as they may have been referred to, two weeks prior to receiving his much-ballyhooed report card, Jimmy had found a suitably sized mayonnaise jar to serve as their home. Up to the time of their unexpected departure the brine shrimp were happily swimming in their Hellmann’s habitat to the amusement of no one.
In spite of the loss of his only pet, or pets, Jimmy couldn’t wait to get out of the house and go to school that morning. Apparently the shrimp dinner was adequate incentive for Jimmy to become a scholar—or so it seemed.
“Has anyone seen the colander?”
Jimmy pretended not to hear his mother’s question as the heavy wooden front door slammed behind him as he hurried out of the house that cold winter morn.