A Fin-tastic Finish
“Daaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaad! Get your fin-pit OUT OF MY FACE!!!!!!!”
I’m trying to see past my dad’s stinky fin-pit down into the Olimpet Stadium, where the final race of the Underwater Olimpets is about to take place. And where Turbo Tex, the fastest shark in the ocean, is about to try to win his fifth gold medal of the games!
I squeeze my hammer head under Dad’s pit so I can look down into the massive whalebone-and-coral arena.
All of Shark Point is here. The arena is filled with color and noise. Some of the sharkletes are limbering up by the track but one is missing. Yes! I haven’t missed Tex’s entrance.
“Harry!” Dad squirms as I push past him. “Y-y-your dorsal is tickling me!”
Dad—Hugo Hammer, or Mayor Hugo Hammer, as he’s known to the rest of Shark Point—starts giggling and twisting. He bumps into my mom and the huge box of Weedpops she’s bought for me goes flying up above our heads. Me, Ralph (my pilot-fish pal), and Joe (my jellyfish friend) watch, openmouthed, as it gets caught in the currents caused by the crowd and floats away.
“I was really looking forward to picking those out from between your teeth!” Ralph whines. (Ralph’s a pilot fish, which means he eats his food from out of sharks’ mouths. My mouth in particular.)
I shush Ralph with my fin and try to spot my new hero.
I still like my old hero, Gregor the Gnasher, but he’s retired from wrestling and making films and gone to work as an ambassador for the UN (the Underwater Nations). So he’s hardly on jelly-fishion anymore—only the news. And who watches the news?
But since the Olimpets started and tiger shark Turbo Tex came along, I haven’t really cared. Tex is great because . . .
1. Tiger sharks are fast and totally scary. Their stripes make them super camouflaged in the water, so they’re the best hunters.
2. Turbo Tex is the fastest, scariest, and strongest of the group. The best sharklete in the whole ocean. Scarier than a mom who’s just found out you’ve shoved everything under your bed instead of cleaning ‘properly.’ Yes. THAT scary.
3. Tex does the TIGER TURBO (more on this in a minute and you’ll see exactly how cool it is).
4. He’s so fast he’s already won the 100 and 800 fathoms in these Olimpet Games. Probably because he doesn’t have a goofy hammery head to slow him down like me.
Basically, Turbo Tex is so cool you could use him to make icebergs.
The crowd goes wild as the announcer clears his throat loudly and starts speaking.
“And now, in lane six, the winner of gold medals in the 100 and 800 fathoms, the gold medalist and new world-record holder in the long dive and triple pike, it’s the one, the only, the very stripy Turbo Tex!”
I stretch my hammer head as far as it will go to see Tex coming down the tunnel onto the swimming track. He’s being pulled on a huge clamshell by three dolphin girls. He waves to the crowd, then, with a wink, he swims off the shell. He’s going to throw his signature move—THE TIGER TURBO! (See number 4 in my list.)
BOOOOM! Tex disappears in an explosion of bubbles as he begins to barrel roll like an out-of-control washing machine. He spins on the spot with precision power as a white whirlpool of water builds around him, then—wowsers! The bubbles from the whirlpool come together to form a giant T. Tex stops dead in front of it with a huge toothy smile on his pointy, stripy face.
The crowd goes even wilder. Mom and Dad are out of their seats, cheering like crazy. I can’t imagine how excited everyone will be if Tex actually wins the turtle-hurdles.
Tex takes his place on the track and fits his fins into the starting blocks. The turtle-hurdles look huge but the other sharks in the race seem to be more interested in Tex. Their eyes bulge as Tex flexes his tail and sets his nose at the right angle to get the best kick for the first bend.
Bang! The bullet mackerel is fired by the starting octopus. The race is on!
Tex is first out of the blocks, kicking away with a whoosh of his tail.
The bramble shark in the next lane is blinded by the bubbles and shoots off sideways. The crowd gasps as he crashes into a group of schoolsquids on a visit to the stadium with their teacher. The squids are sent flying in all directions. The bramble shark bounces off a row of seats and Tex is waaaaaaay in the lead as he jumps the first turtle-hurdle.
Tex powers around the first bend. In second place, a sleek cookiecutter shark kicks and kicks, trying to make up the distance to Tex. But he’s nowhere near as powerful as the speeding tiger.
Wham! Tex takes the next turtle and turns his head sideways so that the electric-eel photographers can get the best picture of him with their cameras.
On the home stretch now, Tex throws in a shorter, moving version of the Tiger Turbo. Behind him a longnose spurdog from the South Pacific swims off with an injured fin.
Tex, now knowing that he can’t be beaten, jumps the next turtle upside down and now he’s swimming with only one fin!
At the last corner, the three other sharks still in the race—the cookiecutter, a velvet dogfish, and a gulper shark—can only fight not to come in last. Tex powers on, kicking and turning and whirring so that the current moves into the crowd and flutters all the flags and banners! The noise is incredible because:
1. Dad is screaming!
2. Mom is screaming!
3. Ralph is screaming!
4. I’m screaming!
5. Joe is hiding from all the screaming!
As Tex crosses the finish line, there are a million electric-eel flashes and a roar that threatens to send a tsunami across the surface of the ocean.
“Mayor coming through! Mayor coming through!” Dad shouts as he starts shouldering his way through the crowd, not even bothering to wait for the other sharks to finish the race. I quickly swim after him. Dad flashes his mayor’s ID card at the security crabs guarding the track and they shuffle apart to let us pass.
Usually I hate it that Dad is Mayor of Shark Point. He normally wears silly bow ties and vests, and he makes terrible jokes whenever he’s giving a speech. But right now, being the mayor’s son seems like the coolest thing in the world because Dad is heading straight for Turbo Tex!
Tex is waving to the crowd, and has his five medals hanging around his neck. Dad pushes up to him, takes him by the fin, and pumps it up and down about a thousand times.
“Mr. Turbo, can I say that was the most exciting race I’ve ever seen,” he gushes.
Tex looks down at Dad. “Yes, you can say it.” Tex winks at me then turns back to Dad. “Go on.”
Dad frowns, not really getting the joke, so I nudge him in the side. “Say it again, Dad.”
“Oh. That was the most excit—”
Tex laughs and slaps Dad on the shoulder with a big, meaty fin. “Only joking, dude. You the mayor of this town?”
Dad nods. “I certainly am, and can I just say how honored—”
Tex slaps Dad on the shoulder and winks at me again. “I guess this little fella must be your boy, then?”
Dad nods again. “Yes, that’s Harry, and as I was saying—”
Tex goes to slap Dad on the shoulder yet again, but Dad has learned his lesson and backs off. Tex sees that I’m holding out my autograph book and a cuttlefish pen. He reaches down and signs his name right across two pages. “I’m way too big to fit on one page, kid!” he says with a grin.
Coolest. Thing. EVER!
My smile’s so big it’s threatening to split my hammer in two.
“Get your phone, Mr. Mayor,” Tex tells Dad.
Nodding and trying hard not to open his mouth again, Dad reaches for his SeaBerry.
Tex spins me around to face Dad and flops his fin around me. “Smile wide, kid!”
But before I can open my mouth . . . FLUBBBBBBBBBBBBEEEERRRRRR!!!!
The world shakes and my eyes start rattling in my head. I hear Rick Reef snickering as the camera on Dad’s SeaBerry flashes.
When my dopey rubbery head finally stops vibrating, Rick Reef and Donny Dogfish come into focus. Rick is holding his belly and laughing hard. He’s always flubbering my head with his fin. He thinks it’s hilarious, and so does his sidekick Donny, who is wiping tears of laughter from his eyes.
I look about wildly for Tex, but he’s already swimming off with his fins draped around the dolphin girls.
“Oh,” says Dad, looking at his phone.
“Did you get the picture?” I ask, swimming over to take a look.
“Well . . . sort of . . . ”
My heart sinks as I look at the screen.
Rick flubbered me just before Dad took the picture. Tex is smiling and waving—Next to a hammerhead-shaped blur!!!!
Outside the Olimpet Stadium, I kick empty Weedpop boxes along the ground as the crowd streams around us. Ralph and Joe are doing everything they can to cheer me up, but it isn’t working. All I can think about is my ridiculous flubbery head, and Rick ruining what was probably the only chance I’ll ever have to get my picture taken with a superstar.
I kick another empty box, and huff like a sea cow.
For a moment, I think that Rick’s come back and flubbered my head again. But when I look up I see that I’ve bashed into someone. Someone wearing a bright red cap and scarf and a whalebone woggle.
“Look where you’re going, boy!” a voice booms.
My heart sinks. The voice belongs to Drago Dogfish, leader of the Shark Point Cub Pack, and dad of Rick’s sidekick Donny!
“Attennnnnnnnnnnnshun!” bellows Drago, straightening his scarf and pushing back his cap with a pointy fin. “Have you seen Donny? He should be busy getting ready for camp tomorrow—as should all of you!”
In the excitement over Turbo Tex, I’d forgotten we’re off to Cub Camp tomorrow. If my heart sinks any further, I’m going to have to dig it out of the seabed.
Drago glares at us. Joe starts to pop, pop, pop from his backside, and Ralph tries to hide in my mouth.
“I just asked you a question!” Drago barks. “Tell me—what are you supposed to do when someone asks you a question?”
“We have to answer, sir,” I say.
Drago shakes his head.
I look at Ralph and Joe. They look as baffled as me.
“You don’t just have to answer. You have to give the very best answer possible!” Drago says. Then he stares at me. “Go on.”
I look at him blankly. “What?”
“Give me your very best answer possible.”
I point back to the stadium with one end of my hammer. “I—er—think Donny’s still in there with Rick, sir.”
I’m not sure if that’s the very best answer possible but thankfully Drago starts to smile. “I see,” he says. “I bet he’s checking out the equipment and preparing for all the awesome races and sporting challenges I’ve got planned for you boys at camp.”
No, I think to myself. He’s probably up to no-good with Rick, looking for poor, unsuspecting hammerheads to flubber just when they’re having the most important photographs of their lives taken!
But of course I don’t say it.
“Ah, that Donny, he’s a chip off the old block,” Drago says. “Always thinking ahead. Always doing his best. Not like the rest of you, slouching home when you could still be in the Olimpet Stadium learning things. You’ll never amount to anything with that kind of attitude. You won’t be winners like my boy Donny. You’ll be losers! Is that what you want? No! No, it isn’t! Life is about pushing yourself to the limit, not tooting from your bottom, hiding behind someone else’s teeth, or failing to look where you’re going! Do I make myself clear?”
Me, Ralph, and Joe nod.
Well, Joe toots again, but he tries nodding too.
“Okay! I expect to see you three bright and early tomorrow morning. I have plans for you all. Plans!”
Drago pulls himself up into a salute, straightens his scarf again, then swims off toward the stadium.
I slump to the seabed. “Just when you think the day can’t get any worse, it does,” I say.
Ralph and Joe agree. Not one of us is looking forward to two days of being yelled at to do our best by Drago Dogfish.
I look up, hoping to see something—anything—to make me feel better. But all I see is a huge picture of Turbo Tex looking down at me with enormous eyes and sparkly teeth.
If only I was a supreme sharklete like Tex. Then everyone would love me and Drago wouldn’t shout at me and Rick wouldn’t dare flubber my head.
But the fact is, I’m just a boyshark with a dopey head shaped like a hammer. Tex is a winner and I’m a loser.
In fact, the only Olimpet gold medal I could win right now is the one for Most Flubbery Head in the World!