The Shrimp Monster
by Damon L. Fordham
On a pleasant Saturday afternoon, Ernest Potts settled to rest after spending the morning sawing boards to repair his house. "I tell you," said the old man as he wiped the sweat from his brow, "Good thing I’m retired so I can quit whenever I want to."
Mr. Potts then went into the house, took a bath, and ate some lunch that his wife Lucinda prepared for him. "Lucinda," said the old man, "it’s still a nice day, so I’m gonna take a walk in the park."
"That’s fine, Ernie." replied his wife. "I’m going to the church in an hour myself for a meeting with the church sisters.
"Okay," said Mr. Potts as he kissed his wife, "see you for dinner."
Fifteen minutes later, Mr. Potts sat on a park bench feeding the squirrels and enjoying the sunshine when he heard a group of children playing nearby. As he looked past some trees, he noticed Lucas Moore with a group of other children, including Gunther Yates, who was already known as the town bully. The old man decided to watch from a distance, as the children were unaware of his presence.
"Say Gunther," said Luke, "betcha I can do something you can’t do."
"Like what?" asked Gunther.
"See that house over there?" asked Luke as he pointed to a nearby dwelling.
"What about it?" replied the bully.
"Well," exclaimed Luke, "I’m gonna take off my shoe and jump over it."
The other children, except for Lucas’ friend Natasha Washington, laughed along with Gunther. "Ain’t no way you can do that!" said some of the children. Mr. Potts himself looked on with added interest, from a distance.
"Just watch." said Lucas has he bent down to untie his shoe. The children stopped laughing as Lucas removed his shoe with a very serious expression on his face.
Lucas placed his left shoe in the direction of the nearby house. The children watched in eager anticipation as he stepped a few feet back and ran in the direction of the shoe and the house. As the boy ran closer and closer, the girls in the group began to hide their faces and Gunther broke out into a cold sweat.
Suddenly, Lucas stopped right before his left shoe and jumped….over the shoe.
As Lucas caught his breath, Gunther ran up to him and shouted, "What’s up with that? You didn’t jump over the house?"
"I didn’t say that I would." replied Luke. "I said, ‘see that house over there,’ and that I’d take off my SHOE and jump over IT- I didn’t say nothing about jumping over no house! Come on, Gunther, you’ve got better sense than that!"
Lucas smiled and folded his arms in triumph as the children cheered Lucas and laughed at Gunther.
"You think you’re slick!" exclaimed the bully, "I need to…" Gunther pulled back his fist to hit Lucas when suddenly, he felt an adult hand grab his fist before he could use it. The larger boy turned around, looked up, and said, "Oh, hey Mr. Potts."
"Look here, Gunther," said the old man, "that boy didn’t lay a hand on you and plus, Lucas is a whole lot smaller than you. So I suggest that you leave him alone and just carry your little self on home."
As Gunther and the other children proceeded to do just that, Natasha Washington turned and waved to Lucas with a smile as she joined the others.
Lucas sighed in relief, "Thanks, Mr. Potts."
"Don’t thank me," said the old man as he and Lucas approached a nearby bench, "If I wasn’t here just now, that boy would have beat your behind. You got to be careful about tricking folks like that!"
The smile disappeared from Lucas’ face.
"Anyhow," said Mr. Potts as he began to light his pipe, "to show you how dangerous that sort of thing can be, you ever hear the one about the Shrimp Monster?"
Lucas smiled, as he knew he was about to receive some good entertainment.
"You see," said the old man as he blew the smoke form his pipe and coughed, "There were these two little sisters. One named Tina and the other named Nina. Tina was the oldest, and a little on the stingy side. Anyway, their mama was frying up a nice batch of juicy shrimp and Tina said, (imitating a little girl’s voice) ‘MA-ma, can I have some shrimp?’"
Lucas laughed and noticed that other people were gathering around the park bench to hear the story, unbeknown to Mr. Potts.
The old man continued, "So the mama said, "Of course you may." Tina said down as happy as could be with that plate of juicy fried shrimp."
"As Tina sat down to eat, her little sister Nina came up and asked, (once again imitating a little girl’s voice) "TI-na, can I have some shrimp?"
Lucas looked around and noticed even more people gathering to hear the old man’s tale.
"Like I said," continued Mr. Potts, "Tina was a little on the stingy side, and wasn’t about to share that plate with her sister. So Tina called herself being slick and said, ‘You don’t wanna eat this shrimp!"
"Why not" asked Nina.
"You see, "says Tina, "When real little girls like you eat shrimp, some really scary things start to happen."
"Like most little kids," added Mr. Potts, "Nina got real excited and said, ‘like what?"
"Tina continued with the lie by saying, ‘When real little girls like you eat shrimp, you’re gonna go to bed. And when you’re sleeping, you’re gonna feel something funny in your stomach going, ‘poke-poke, poke-poke.’ And all of a sudden, your stomach’s gonna burst WIDE open and out will come-THE SHRIMP MONSTER!"
"As Nina shook in terror, Tina curled her hands like a monster and added, ‘And he’s gonna come after you and say with a deep and scary voice, YOU HAVE EATEN ME-NOW I WILL EAT YOU!"
Mr. Potts continued in an animated fashion, to Lucas’ delight, "So Nina cries ‘WAAAAAH!’ and their mama came running in the room. The mama dried the little girl’s tears and said, ‘What is the matter with you?"
"The little girl said as she wiped her eyes, "MA-ma, (sob), Tina told me (sniff), that the Shrimp Monster would eat me if I ate her (sniff), shrimp!"
"Oh she DID, did she?" said the mama. So she spanked Tina’s behind and Tina started crying herself. The mama said, "And just for that, you’re going to bed without your supper."
"So Tina goes off to bed good and mad. But she got real sleepy and she started to dream. Wouldn’t you know that a few minutes later, she had a funny feeling in her stomach that went ‘poke-poke, poke-poke!"
Lucas smiled in anticipation of what would follow.
The old man went on, "Next thing you know, Tina got real nervous and then it happened. She heard a loud ROAR and this real ugly creature BURST out of her stomach." Mr. Potts crossed his eyes and made a horrible face as he continued, "That big ugly beast said in a deep and scary voice ‘I AM THE SHRIMP MONSTER! YOU HAVE EATEN ME-NOW I WILL EAT YOU!"
"WAAAAAAH!" Screamed Tina. All of a sudden, her mama comes running in the bedroom. "What’s the matter?" says her mama."
"Tina cried and said, ‘MA-ma, (sniff), the big shrimp monster (sob), was after me too,(sniff)."
"Well," says the mama, "that’s what you GET for trying to be smart and scaring your little sister like that."
Lucas laughed as the old man concluded, "You see Luke, the old folks say that you reap what you sow. In other words, if you go around playing tricks on people, don’t be surprised if a nasty trick happens to you, too."
Suddenly, the crowd that had gathered around the bench without Mr. Potts knowledge began to laugh and applaud the old man’s story. "Great story, old-timer." said one man as he chuckled and clapped.
Mr. Potts blushed deep with embarrassment as he tapped Lucas on the shoulder, eased off the park bench, and said, "Come on, boy. Let’s go home."