Melvin and the Sharks


Author’s note: This is not a finished piece; it’s a snippet, a little seed of an idea that may or may not grow into something bigger. I think the creative process requires this kind of work. And if it doesn’t, it’s fun.

Melvin Ziegler forgot to do his homework half the time and never paid attention in class. Instead, he drew sharks, lots and lots of sharks. Hammerhead sharks and great white sharks and sharks I’d never heard of.

“This is a goblin shark,” he told me once, pointing to a drawing in his notebook.

“There’s no such thing,” I said. “Do your math problems.”

He just shrugged and kept drawing, shading in one of the fins.

“You’re going to get in trouble, Melvin,” I said. “You always get in trouble. It makes me really nervous.”

“Goblin shark,” he said, pointing again. “Look it up. It’s in the encyclopedia.”

Part of me really liked the kid. The other part wanted to clobber him. No one else was very nice to him, so I felt like his only friend. He was scrawny and small and always seemed to need more sleep. And maybe a bottle of shampoo. His hair was slick and greasy and looked like a tangle of cowlicks.

And he really was always in trouble.

“Melvin,” Miss Grant would say, and I’d feel the muscles in my stomach twitch. Here we go again.

“Melvin, do you have your math work finished? I’m waiting for you to turn it in.”

A long silence would follow. I’d close my eyes and pray.

You could hear the sound of a bag being unzipped and a skinny hand rustling through papers.

“Sharks,” I’d think. “It’s nothing but sharks in there.”

I’d imagine dozens of them, all drawn in pencil and swimming through a sea of wide rule notebook paper, gobbling up every math assignment in their path.

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