My very own sea monkeys

Published 9:00 am Saturday, May 20, 2017

Brother and I always had cats and dogs while we were growing up. Mama even let us hang on to a snake or lizard for a little while if one was slow enough that we could catch it. I loved all my critters, but what I really wanted was Sea Monkeys. You know, the cute little critters that were advertised in the backs of comic books. They looked sort of like mermaids, with humanoid faces and three antennae that made them look like they wore crowns! The Daddy wore a tie, and Mama Sea Monkey even had a bow on her head! And Lipstick! They didn’t wear clothes, but that was okay, because their odd little tails were always strategically curled over certain areas, to keep little kids from learning too much about Sea Monkey anatomy.

I thought I would die if I didn’t get some of those little guys! Why, they could do tricks and swim through hoops and for only a little more than the One Dollar Plus Shipping cost of the basic set-up, you could order extras, like Day-Glo colored plastic rocks that were actually cleverly disguised chairs for them to lounge around the fish bowl on, and little steps for them to learn how to swim up and down. I had to have some Sea Monkeys who would be my best friends and go on adventures with me and help me solve crimes!

Mama said no way was I sending away for anything that came from the back of a comic book for crying out loud! Did I want the mailman to think we were the kind of family that believed the ads in the backs of comic books? No matter how I whined or pouted, I was not allowed to send away for the pets that would cause all my friends to ask longingly, “Can we come over and play with your Sea Monkeys?” or, “Hey Pepper! There’s a cool party tonight! Why don’t you come over and bring the Sea Monkeys! They can do their tricks for us!”

I begged for those “Amazing Live Sea Monkeys” for two whole years, but Mama was not moved. I had all but given up when, on the way back from a Florida vacation, we stopped at a roadside tourist stand for a potty break. I wandered around the little store, which was full of rubber alligators and t-shirts featuring a smiling sun wearing shades, and little tiny spoons with pictures of famous Florida stuff on the handles. I had my trip money, and I was going to go for one of the rubber alligators, but then, in a dusty corner, on a near-empty shelf, I saw it! A genuine, regulation, Sea Monkey kit!

It cost more than the ones in the comic books, but I had enough, and I ran right to the counter with my treasure! I snuck the kit into the back of the station wagon, and talked to the unhatched critters all the way back to Georgia. I told them all about how we were going to be the best of friends, and how I thought I might be able to sew them some itty-bitty waterproof clothes, and not to worry, I would surely find a way to obtain the extra goodies so that they weren’t bored with no little beach balls to toss back and forth, and wouldn’t get tired from not having cleverly disguised chairs to sit on.

When we got home, even though it was time for bed, I opened the little kit. It consisted of a small plastic aquarium that would hold about a quart of water, and three foil packets. One held the eggs that would hatch into my new buddies, one was dechlorinator so that I didn’t poison the little darlings with tap water, and one was food. The little tank, which was tall and narrow, had a red plastic base and lid, and was dotted with little magnifying “Windows into the world of Sea Monkeys!”

I snuck into the bathroom and filled the aquarium, then I carefully added the dechlorinator and when the correct time had elapsed, I added the eggs. It was supposed to be instant, but nothing happened. No triple-antennaed beings swam by to wave at me through the magnifying windows. I thought maybe they were shy from just hatching into a strange new world, so I put them under my bed where Mama was afraid to go, and went to sleep.

I checked every day for a week, but no Sea Monkeys made the scene. I’d figured that by then we’d be playing cards together and working on world domination. I was so disappointed I didn’t know what to do. I was on my way to just flush the whole shooting match, sure that I’d gotten a dud batch, when I saw movement in a magnifying window! I looked closer, and there it was! A…a…shrimp?

Mama came running when she heard me screaming that alien shrimp had invaded my Sea Monkeys and killed them all and I didn’t even get to say hello to them! She stood there for a couple of seconds looking at me holding the tank and blubbering, and then wrapped one arm around me and hugged me close. She gently took the Sea Monkey home from me and looked in a window. I could tell when one of the shrimp swam by, because Mama got her scientist look when she saw it.

“Ahhhh…brine shrimp. Artemia. Sea Monkeys. Pepper, did you really think these things were going to look like that advertisement? Honestly, child, I don’t know what I’m going to do with you!”

After I got over my disappointment, I decided to do the right thing and take good care of the little shrimp. Eventually, they grew large enough that I could clearly see them even without the magnifying windows. The mamas didn’t wear lipstick, and they never learned any tricks, but I swear they waved at me when they swam by those magnifying windows.