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Watching Sandoval Sleep - Visitor's Story

by Lin Luttrell
(Silver Spring, MD, USA)

I was there on the first day of summer, sitting in the gift shop window watching people sun, swim and walk by in their bathing suits. Some of them would head into the cool restaurant next door with the big sign that reads, "Beat the Heat with Colonial Pete." Others would go up to the window with the pink plastic ice cream cone sign and "Ring Bell for Service." But mostly, people just walked past, seeing the sights on the boardwalk, their flip-flops clicking softly and the bills of their caps casting shadows over their eyes.

The people that I watched almost always noticed me too. I was hard to miss, and by far the most impressive item in the front window, being a six foot long, bright green plastic alligator with a wide toothy grin. The adults usually tapped my muzzle and read the tag that explained: "Flotation device, not to be used as a life preserver." The kids usually petted me and squealed and asked their parents if they could take me along.

Then the clerk would point out the sturdy handles on each side of my neck, and my broad, flat back before going to get one of my brothers from the back room to send into the water. Although everyone fell in love with me, I always had to stay in the window just looking out. I began to think I would never get into the water myself.

One night, when the moon was real bright, I told Great King Neptune, Ruler of All Waves Great and Small, how much I wanted to have adventures too. It seemed like a miracle when, the next day, everybody in the back room was sold, and I got to go with Sandoval and his Dad right into the water.

We had great fun for a couple of days, but then Sandoval's Dad had to go back to the city. That night, when Sandoval couldn't sleep, his Mom perched me on top of the desk and asked him how he could be scared with such a fierce dragon protecting him. I thought I would burst with pride when she said that I would be there on that perch every night for the rest of the summer, looking out for him.

There was always a night light, but evenings with a bright moon were best. I could look out over Sandoval sleeping in his Star Wars pajamas, through the window, down to the river in the distance. Nights when the air conditioner was turned off and the window left open, I could even hear the little waves that would splash up on the beach when a motor boat went by. Eventually, I would get sleepy and fall into a dream, but always with one ear open. My deep sleep only came in the afternoon when Sandoval's Mom was watching him build sand castles, and I was free to curl up on the blanket under the beach umbrella.

Then a couple of days ago, I never saw it coming, we were splashing out of the water like a thousand times before, and I scraped over a piece of driftwood with a nail jutting out. It cut a big gash in the middle of my chest, right where my heart would be. Sandoval made quite a fuss and didn't stop crying till his Mom bought him a strawberry cone. She perched me up here on the desk and said that maybe Sandoval's Dad would fix me when he gets here on Saturday. But Sandoval was so upset she finally stuck a piece of duct tape on my chest and blew me up a little so I wouldn't be so flat and shriveled. With an acrylic patch and a bicycle pump I could be as good as new in ten minutes. Better in a way, since Sandoval, I'm sure, would paint quite a picture of our battle with the Vikings.

But I've got to be realistic. This is the last weekend of the summer. Sandoval's Dad might want to wait till spring to fix me, toss me in the canvas bag with the beach toys that always spend the winter in the attic of the city house. Or even worse, what if he doesn't fix me at all? What if that tangle with the driftwood was our last adventure and we never ride the waves again?

I know I should just count my blessings, be grateful that I got my wish in the first place. Practically a whole summer is a long time to live when your body is made of plastic and air, and your life-force comes from a little boy who's just on the verge of growing up. I guess it's time again to put myself in the hands of Great King Neptune, Ruler of All Waves Great and Small, even those tiny waves that splash up on our beach.

But for now, just in case this really is the last time I'm able to perch nearby protecting, I think I'll stay up late tonight, and watch Sandoval sleep, even after the moon goes down.

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