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YOU ONLY SWIM TWICE
The giant octopus and man-sized shark danced in time to the rap music playing over the Aquarium loudspeakers.
“You’ll love your trip, you’ll flip your lid,
With Mr. Shark and Mr. Squid!
We’re here to make your day here fun,
When you visit City A-quar-i-um!”
They finished in a kind of street-dance pose. I was just about to clap, along with the three other visitors that were standing there with us, when my best friend, Pradeep, said, “That’s a nice song and everything, but it doesn’t rhyme.”
“Huh?” the shark replied through his bulky rubber suit.
“‘Fun’ and ‘aquarium’ don’t actually rhyme,” Pradeep added helpfully.
The shark leaned menacingly toward us, so we could see our reflection in his huge white teeth.
“Not that it really matters.” I gulped. “We could totally see what you were going for!” I shot Pradeep a look that said, “Shut up! Or we may end up being pummeled by dancers in sweaty fish costumes.”
The guy dressed as an octopus wrapped a tentacle around Mr. Shark. “It’s not worth it, dude. Let it go,” he said gently.
The shark sighed. “You’re right,” he huffed.
They were just about to leave when Pradeep tugged on one of the octopus’s tentacles.
“Excuse me?” he said. “I just wanted to clarify something. In the song you say you are Mr. Squid, but you are dressed as an octopus, so…” He trailed off as the giant octopus loomed over him and waved his foam tentacles.
“It’s the same difference!” Mr. Squid snapped.
“Actually, the heads are a different shape and the tentacles are arranged differently and—”
“Pradeep!” I interrupted. “Shhhh!”
“That’s it! I can’t take this anymore!” Mr. Shark spluttered. “This is not why I went to drama school, to sing to a room full of irritating kids!”
“Dressed as a squid!” added the octopus. I think he actually flounced a tentacle as he said it.
“You mean an octopus,” Pradeep corrected.
“I quit!” the octopus shrieked, throwing all eight arms into the air.
“Me too!” Mr. Shark added as they stormed off.
Pradeep, Sami (Pradeep’s three-year-old little sister) and I watched them waddle angrily down the hall. Sami tried to copy the swish of Mr. Shark’s tail as he stomped along. She was wearing a bright yellow life jacket that she had begged her dad to buy her in the gift shop. It had a big yellow shark fin on the back, and ever since she’d put it on, she’d been pretending to be a shark too.
“Da-dum … da-dum … dum dum, dum dum, dum dum…” Sami mumbled to herself as she crashed into my leg and shark-bit my sleeve. “Mwhy are msinging fishies mgrumpy?” she added, her teeth firmly clamped together.
“I was just trying to be helpful.” Pradeep sighed.
I patted him on the back. “I don’t think they were happy here. You were just the straw that broke the octopus’s back.”
“Octopuses don’t have bones,” Pradeep said, “so technically that would be impossible. But thanks anyway.”
“Swishy fishy not grumpy,” Sami said, unclamping her teeth and picking up the City Aquarium water bottle that I had used to smuggle in my pet zombie goldfish, Frankie.
It was one of those bottles that had little plastic fish and glitter suspended in a pocket of liquid, so that it looked like the fish were actually in your drinking water. I’d kept it ever since our school field trip here in first grade. No one would notice one more fish in there. Even an undead, brought-back-to-life-with-a-battery, green-gunk-eating zombie goldfish with hypnotic eyes.
At least I hoped not.
Pradeep shot me a look that said, “You brought Frankie to the Aquarium?”
My look answered, “I’ve brought him to school, to a museum, on vacation, on a camping trip, to our sports day and the school play. I’m not gonna let him miss out on a trip to somewhere fish are actually supposed to be!”
“Fish are supposed to be IN an aquarium, they aren’t supposed to VISIT one!” Pradeep looked back.
“Not till now!” I said out loud.
Text copyright © 2015 by Mo O’Hara
Illustrations copyright © 2015 by Marek Jagucki