[This story, dated 7 July 2013, is the third of three that I recently rediscovered from when I was hoping to set an example that would inspire my kids to write their own stories.]
“I want to be a shark for Halloween,” Davey told his parents. So a couple of days later, Davey’s dad came home with a shark costume from the Halloween store.
“This looks fake,” complained Davey, standing in front of the mirror while trying on the shark suit. “A real shark doesn’t have legs that stick out.”
“Well your legs have to stick out,” explained Davey’s dad. “How else will you get from house to house?”
“Swimming, like a shark,” said Davey.
“That’s ridiculous,” said Davey’s dad. “There’s no water between the houses in our neighborhood to swim through.”
“Anyway, a shark’s skin isn’t fuzzy like this. And my face shouldn’t be poking out between the shark’s teeth. I want to be like the sharks in the aquarium.”
“Well that’s the only shark costume they had,” said Davey’s dad. “If you don’t like it, think of something else so I can take this back for a refund.” He left the room, muttering something about “constant unreasonable demands.”
Davey’s heart was set on being a shark for Halloween, and on being a more realistic one than a store-bought costume would allow. He sulked at his father’s brusque dismissal. Davey’s mom saw this and turned to Davey with a reassuring smile. She told him in a low voice, “Your dad’s having trouble at work. But don’t worry. We’ll figure something out.”
Several days passed. Davey’s dad didn’t notice how busy Davey’s mom was in the garage. Didn’t notice the length of tubing she brought back from the hardware store, or that the lawnmower was lying half-disassembled in the back yard. He was too distracted to think about Halloween. He had had an argument with his bosses at work. He felt like a hard worker and asked for a raise, but they said no, explaining that he always did the least expected of him and never went “the extra mile.” Davey’s dad was frustrated. He didn’t understand how he could get everything on his list done, on time, and still be told he doesn’t do enough.
Before he knew it there was only one day left. He turned to his wife and asked, “Did Davey ever choose something else to be for Halloween?”
“He wants to be a shark,” she said as she walked through the room smelling of hot-glue.
“I know that’s what he wanted, but he didn’t like the costume, remember? I told him to pick something else.”
“No, he still wants to be a shark,” said Davey’s mom as she disappeared through the doorway on the way to who-knows-where.
“Poor kid,” said Davey’s dad to himself. “Eh, we can always stick a cap on his head and call him a baseball player.”
The next day was Halloween. Davey’s dad got home from work a little late. Trick-or-treating had already begun. He wondered what costume Davey’s mom had put on him. He shrugged and put some dinner in the microwave, waiting for Davey and his mom to return.
As he ate he noticed the sound of a lawnmower engine in the distance, which was unexpected. Who mows their lawn while trick-or-treating is going on? A moment later he realized the sound was coming closer up the street, which was even odder. Davey’s dad got up and looked out the door. What he saw astonished him.
There was Davey’s mom, pushing what looked like a shopping cart whose large wire basket had been removed. In its place was a clear tub filled with water, and in the water was a shark, about the size of Davey. The water must have made the cart enormously heavy, because a lawnmower engine was attached to the wheels of the cart to help Davey’s mom push it.
The shark was sleek and shiny, made from a sheet of rubber cleverly folded and padded. It had a fin that stuck up above the surface of the sloshing water. Looking closely Davey’s dad could see that a clear plastic tube ran from the tip of the fin down into the shark’s body: an air tube that allowed Davey to breathe. The shark had black glassy eyes, gill slits, and pectoral fins that moved around. Davey’s dad guessed that Davey’s hands were in them. With a small movement of his head Davey could make the shark’s mouth open, showing a row of pointy triangular teeth.
As Davey’s dad watched, Davey’s mom wheeled the contraption up to a neighbor’s house, killed the lawnmower engine, set the brakes on the cart, and rang the doorbell. A moment after the door opened and the neighbor shrieked, Davey pushed himself up to his knees with his pectoral-fin hands, sticking up out of the water and pulling open a seam in the shark’s belly to reveal himself. “Trick or treat!” he shouted with glee.
Davey’s dad backed into the house, mouth agape, and sat down at his half-eaten meal, now totally forgotten. He finally understood something important. “The extra mile,” he said to himself in wonder.