Lights! Camera! Hammerhead!
“Open wider!” Ralph yells.
“Ahh caaaaaannn’t!” I splutter.
“Ahh said, ahh caaaaaannn’t!”
“Ghet zout ov muh mouf!”
Ralph swims out of my mouth and frowns at me. “Harry, I can’t understand what you’re saying. Why are you speaking in code?”
Now that Ralph is out of my mouth, I can speak normally again. “I can’t open my mouth wider!” I say. “If you went in any farther, you’d be able to shake fins with my rear!”
It’s the first day of the school vacation and my best friends, Joe and Ralph, and I are supposed to be on our way to Shark Park. But Joe has made us stop so he can go into Kois “R” Us for the latest set of koi carp cards, and Ralph has taken the opportunity for a feed.
Ralph narrows his eyes. “How else am I supposed to get my breakfast? I’m a pilot fish, and pilot fish eat the leftover food from between sharks’ teeth. It’s how we’ve always done it, and I don’t see why we should change now.”
“I’m not saying we should change it. I just don’t want to swallow you!”
Ralph flicks his tail angrily. “Well, if you’d saved me some of your prawn flakes in your front teeth, maybe I wouldn’t have to go searching the back of your mouth for bits of last night’s dinner.”
I poke around at the back of my mouth with my tongue and flip out two pieces of yesterday’s clamburger. Ralph gobbles them up greedily, then floats in front of me, looking hopeful.
“That’s all there is,” I say as Joe swims out of the store empty tentacled. “They don’t get the new cards in till tomorrow,” Joe says miserably.
“Well, I’m going to need something
else to stop my tummy from rumbling,” Ralph moans. “Half a prawn flake and two crumbs of clamburger aren’t enough for a growing pilot fish.”
Ralph and Joe swim off toward Shark Park. I hope they cheer up before we get there. Vacations are supposed to be fun, but they’re not if your best friends are moping around like a couple of bluefish.
As we get to the park gates Joe turns to me. “Do we have to go in?” he asks gloomily. “I still haven’t recovered from what happened last time.”
Ralph starts to giggle at the memory and, I have to admit, it was pretty funny. What happened last time was this:
1. Joe jumped on the wrecked-ship’s-wheel merry-go-round, but he hadn’t realized how fast it was going.
2. He came flying off.
3. He shot right up the slime-algae slide THE WRONG WAY . . .
4. He catapulted around the whale-rib swings SIXTEEN times, and then . . .
5. He landed with a huge TWANG on the seahorse-on-a-spring . . .
6. Which BOINGED him right up toward the surface of the sea like an out-of-control jellycopter!
If it hadn’t been for Ralph and me swimming up as fast as we could to catch him, Joe would have plopped right out into the air. And everyone knows how bad being in the air is for a jellyfish—the heat of the sun can turn them crispy in seconds.
Joe eyes the sign by the gate suspiciously. The sign says SHARK PARK—FAMILY FUN FOR EVERYONE!
“Hmm, I don’t call being spun around like my mom’s laundry fun,” Joe mutters. “I don’t call being thrown through the water upside down fun!”
I decide not to tell Joe that watching
him get flung around the park was fun for Ralph and me.
I look around Shark Park-at the merry-go-round, the slide, the swings, and the seahorse-and then I look at Joe, who is
folding each of his arms over the other. One by one. This is going to take a very long time, so I hold up a fin. “Okay, okay,” I say, “we’ll do something else.”
To be honest, I don’t know why I suggested Shark Park in the first place. It’s vacation for all the kids in Shark Point, not just us three. That means the place is stuffed to the gills with fish and sharks and dolphins and octopi. So I turn back to Ralph and Joe. “It’s already full,” I say. “It’ll be ages before we can get on the whale-rib swings, and they’re the best thing in the park.” Ralph and Joe nod, so I continue. “We’re all too old to go on the seahorse-on-a-spring.” Ralph nods. Joe hides behind Ralph, and his bottom toots. I know he’s trying to be brave, but the Seahorse TWANGING incident did scare him quite a bit. “The only thing left for us to do would be to go and play on the sea grass, but lots of girl fish—”
“Yuck,” say Joe and Ralph together at the mention of girls.
“—are playing flounders.” (Flounders is like baseball but you hit a sea urchin with a bat made from a swordfish nose.)
I don’t tell Ralph and Joe my last reason for wanting to leave, because I don’t want to look like a scaredy-catfish. Rick Reef and Donny Dogfish are bound to be in Shark Park today, and I really don’t want to swim into them. Rick is a blacktip reef shark in our class at school, and his favorite subject is trying to annoy me. He is very good at it. In fact, you could say he is an A student when it comes to making fun of hammerheads.
Ralph and Joe nod in agreement.
“Staying in Shark Park is going to be boring,” says Ralph.
“And probably deadly,” Joe adds grimly. So we turn around and head back into Shark Point.
The town is swarming with kids too-all just as bored as we are.
We fin our way down the main street. There are complaining fish being dragged into stores by their moms, and a bunch
of tough-looking scallops hanging out on the corner of Coral Drive. They’re trying to be cool by blowing toots out of the sides of their shells in tune to the music coming out of Anchovy’s Arcade. The three of us swim past them pretty quickly, hoping not to catch their eye.
As I watch a kid dolphin being yelled at by his grumpy-looking dad I realize that it could be a lot worse. At least I get to hang out with my friends. At least I’m not being dragged around town by my dad. Luckily, my dad is mayor of Shark Point so he hardly ever gets any time off. Which means I never have to be dragged around by him during school break. I can’t imagine anything worse.
Except . . .
Suddenly I can.
It’s Mom! She’s swimming as fast as
she can toward us. “I thought you boys were going to Shark Park,” she says as she reaches us, taking a large polka-dotted handkerchief from her finbag and wiping something off my lip.
“Booger,” she whispers. But she might as well have shouted it. Ralph and Joe both heard, and they’re laughing so hard behind their fins and tentacles that I think they might choke.
Mom then makes it even worse by grabbing my fin and pulling me away. “Well, since you’re not in the park, you can come with me to see your dad opening the center.”
My tummy sinks twenty fathoms and I try to pull away, but Mom is holding me too tight. All I can see ahead is Mom pulling me along, and all I can hear behind is Ralph and Joe giggling.
Mom and Dad always want me to come and see him opening stuff and making speeches. Usually, I can find a way out of it, but not this time. Now I wish we’d stayed in Shark Park!
We turn a corner onto Starfish Square, and I see a huge crowd of fish and squid cheering outside the gleaming new Shark Point Sports Center. There is a flag billowing from the roof and banners hung above the door. Click! Click! Click! Electric-eel photographers flash their electric-eel tail cameras at the doors of the sports center as my dad proudly swims to the front of the crowd.
He waves his fin and taps his nose on the waiting microphone to make sure it’s working.
Mom finally lets go of me so she can clap her fins and whistle at Dad. Seriously, I don’t know where to look. I can feel my cheeks start to turn red as Ralph and Joe look at me and back to Dad. Dad is a popular mayor, but he can be really embarrassing sometimes. Ralph and Joe know this, and I can see they’re waiting for him to say or do something stupid so they can pull my fin about it for the rest of the week.
Mom just keeps waving at Dad and pointing at me so that he can see I’m here.
Dad waves back enthusiastically, and the eels all turn their cameras on me! I can feel myself turning redder than the reddest red snapper as Mom throws her fin around me and tells me to “smiley-wile.” That’s when Ralph and Joe fall over backward and almost die from laughing. This is the worst thing EVER!
“Yes, um, well-hello!” shouts Dad in his usual absentminded way. “Um, yes, well, I would like to welcome you all here today . . .”
Don’t do it!
“But before we begin . . .”
Dad. Please. Don’t do it!
“I’d just like to say that seeing you all here has reminded me . . .”
Nope. He’s going to do it. He’s going to tell one of his awful jokes. I try to hide under Ralph and Joe.
“Why did the deaf frog come to hear my speech today?”
“Because”-and here Dad chuckles to himself-“because he thought I was going to be opening a Warts Center!”
No one laughs besides Mom. But Dad doesn’t realize that his joke has gone
down quicker than the Titanic and just continues as if nothing has happened. “So I duly declare the Shark Point Sports Center o—”
A piece of yellow seaweed drifts toward Dad’s face and catches him in the eye. As he raises a fin to wipe it away, he accidentally slices the OPENING TODAY! ribbon that’s stretched across the doors. Before he has a chance to say “—pen!” he is bounced out of the way by the rushing crowd and sent spinning up to the roof of the center, where he gets tangled in the flag and stuck to the flagpole!
I watch in horror as the photographers focus their cameras on Dad. Mom squeals and swims up to try and untangle him from the flagpole as the cameras flash and flash and flash.
I know what’s going to be on the front page of the Seaweed Times tomorrow-my dad wrapped around the flagpole like a shark kebab. And that means everyone in Shark Point is going to be laughing at him. And laughing at me
for having such an embarrassing dad!
I pull Joe and Ralph away.
I have to pull them because they’ve been laughing so much they’ve forgotten how to swim.
It’s not until we’re all the way on the other side of town by the movie theater that their laughing stops. And finally I see something that cheers me up.
Outside the movie theater is a huge poster of Gregor the Gnasher’s first movie, Parrot Fish of the Caribbean, in which he plays Captain Jack Sprat, the action hero. In the poster he’s wrestling with a giant squid. Gregor is my
total hero. Mom calls him ‘that tooth-head’, but she doesn’t understand-he’s the Underwater Wrestling Champion of the World and now he’s started making movies. He’s a total legend. It must be so cool to be a famous great white. I bet Gregor’s kids don’t ever get embarrassed by him.
I would have said, Let’s go and see the movie! but I haven’t gotten my
allowance yet, and with Dad currently stuck on the roof of the sports center, it wasn’t about to happen anytime soon. So we keep swimming until eventually, with nowhere else to go and nothing else to do, we end up outside the library.
“The library?” says Ralph. “Talk about double boring.”
“Well, what else can we do?” I say.
Thankfully, Joe comes to my rescue. “It’s probably the safest place to go,” he says. “Unless, of course, a bookcase falls on our heads.”
I slap a fin across my face. It would
be less work to be in school! But I lead them both inside anyway.
At least there’s no chance of running into Rick and Donny in the library. Rick’s only interest in books is how hard he can throw them at my hammerhead when Mrs. Shelby isn’t looking.
So now we’re sitting in the silent library, too bored to even pick up a book.
“Is it lunchtime yet?” Ralph whispers, looking at my teeth.
“The edges of those books look quite sharp,” Joe mumbles, twiddling his tentacles nervously. “I think we’d better just sit here and not move.”
Great. It’s the first day of vacation and we’re stuck in the library doing impressions of rocks.
I sigh, and try to think of something cool to do in silence that doesn’t involve moving.
When . . .
The shriek shatters the quiet, and I spin around in my chair, expecting to see Rick Reef waving a spider crab in front of a kid squid or something. But it’s not, it’s Pearl and Cora, the dolphin twins. They’re dancing around
and around, high-finning and shrieking, looking at their aqua-phones, looking at each other, then looking back at their aqua-phones, then looking at each other and . . .
The librarian, Mr. Gape, an elderly basking shark, heaves himself out of his chair and swims over to Pearl and Cora. “Will you
two please be quiet? This is a library, not an amusement park!”
“But—” says Pearl.
“There’s—” says Cora.
Mr. Gape holds up a huge fin to shush them. “Not another word, or I must ask you to leave.”
“We were leaving anyway,” says Pearl.
“Oh really?” says Mr. Gape.
“Yes,” says Cora. “We’ve got somewhere way more interesting to go than this boring old library!”
“And what, may I ask, could be more interesting than a library?” Mr. Gape
bellows, causing several people to drop their books in shock.
“Something,” Pearl says, her voice rising toward another shriek, “that we’ve just seen on the interwet!”
“What?” demands Mr. Gape.
“Leggy air-breathers! They’ve been spotted just off Shark Point, and they’re making a movie! Wooooooooooooooooooooooooo!!!” Pearl and Cora rush past us, spinning Joe around three times and knocking Ralph and me down in their wake.
But I don’t care about getting knocked over. I have too many things on my mind.
1. A movie?
2. A movie????
3. (And every OTHER number!) A MOVIE????
This vacation just got interesting!!!!