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Papa Shark


By JaimiePublished about a year ago 3 min read
Papa Shark
Photo by Wai Siew on Unsplash

Every day was the same. I would arrive at the aquarium as everyone else was leaving, all those families with the roudy, sticky kids, and me, just chewing gum and with my hat pulled low as I walked in. My bag slung over my shoulder. The building itself looked fairly small, but it had a way over looming over me as I wandered inside.

That whole summer, every day when I walked into the staff room, Billy would roll his eyes at me and say, "G'night, mate. Was a rough day, good luck with the cleaning."

That whole summer, every day when I walked through the halls of the aquarium, past the tanks and the overflowing bins, my stomach would sink a little. I wondered a lot whether this is what I would end up doing with the rest of my life. Then I had to remind myself of the offer I had to go to university when summer was over. Then my stomach would sink more.

There was one tank that I enjoyed going to. It had a large sitting area in front of it, raised like a stadium, and I would sit there on my "lunchbreak", listening to Oasis on my Walkman, like any cool guy, and I would sit and watch the tank. Every now and then I could see movement through the water and that is when I would know Papa Shark was there.

Now, I've told this story to my kids so many times and everytime I have to justify how I named him Papa Shark before that damned song become a hit. I came up with the nme because Papa Shark was a big boy, scarred and beaten up. He was a rescue, I think, that they brought in to the aquarium after being caught in a net. But I coined the name 'Papa Shark', I swear.

I would talk to Papa Shark throughout the summer. I would tell him about my mum at home, smoking more cigarettes than one would think possible, but bakng the best chocolate cake all the while. I would tell him about my dad and how he wanted me to go to uni and be an engineer. I would tell Papa Shark and he would swish by, swimming on, but I knew he was listening.

About halfway through the summer, Julie started working at the aquarium. Then afterwards, every day, and along with Billy's "g'night-mate-was-a-rough-day-good-luck-with-the-cleaning", I would get a sweet smile and a "good night". It was about that time that I started enjoying my job a little more, wouldn't you know it.

It was after one particular night, after my father had argued with me again about my major that I found I had company in front of Papa Shark's tank. The well of anger that had sat in my chest the whole drive over, through the doors and past Billy's "g'night-mate-was-a-rough-day-good-luck-with-the-cleaning" suddenly disappeared, sinking back down into my stomach. I pulled myself to a halt so sharply that a muscle in my nek twinged. My teeth clacked together.

In front of the tank sat Julie, legs crossed, on the floor in front of Papa Shark's tank. She looked up at me with a smile as she heard me approach.

"You took longer than I thought," she grinned. "Any chance you want some company tonight?"

I remember swallowing. "Want to listen to my walkman while I mop up?"

She nodded, still smiling. Papa Shark swished by and, spooked, Julie jumped. Then she began to laugh. Her hand touched mine as she climbed to her feet and took the Walkman from my hand.

I don't think there was another night where I had done so much work. All while Julie talked to Papa Shark for me and danced and sang to the songs on my Walkman. After that night, I talked to Papa Shark about Julie. I noticed he swished closer to the glass and more times throughout the night when Julie was there.

I'm writing this now because when I opened the paper this morning, there was a tribute to Papa Shark's son, Baby Shark, who passed away just two days ago. I hadn't even realised Papa Shark was gone.

Short Story

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