Author: Shawna Galvin

This is a short short of a trip to the Millinocket Lake outside of Millinocket, Maine when I was about five years old.

It was summer 1972 when my family and I spent a day at the Millinocket Lake. I was five years old and my brother Peter was two. Even though there were a few other families there throughout the day, it felt like the beach was all ours. Tadpoles were the highlight of that day for me.
I liked to play by myself sometimes. Back at home, in Millinocket, a small mill-town, I was constantly surrounded by neighborhood children—mostly boys. My only getaway was to play with my Barbie dolls alone in my bedroom.
Having no fear of the water, I swam around the bend of lake by a line of pine trees. Mom called to me, “Shawna, don’t go out too far!”
I heard her voice clearly. The call only mother’s could make. I listened to her and wandered up onto the swamp part of the lake. It was filled with thick tall grass peeking up through the water like a forest. When I reached land, I squatted down in my blue bikini to watch round brown creatures with squirmy tails. When grabbing for them, they slipped through my fingers. I ran back to our spot on the beach and snatched a small copper dish. Peter had just finished his fruit cocktail from the bowl, so it was still sticky. It had the remains of a white grape stuck to the bottom of it. I ran back to the swamp with that bowl in my hand and began scooping for a tadpole with it.
I finally caught this big one and named “him” Sigmund, like on the show Sigmund and the Seamonsters. Shimmering ripples appeared on the surface of the water as he swam in the bowl of July-warm lake I was holding. The sun tranquilized my gaze into an ever-peaceful state as I watched Sigmund wiggle around.
For the rest of the afternoon, I alternated between swimming and going up to the beach to play with Sigmund. The afternoon sky was clear and bright. Sun radiated through the typical dry air. The Maine scent of pine brushed across the water. Back then, sunscreen didn’t exist, but Mom put T-shirts over us so our shoulders wouldn’t burn. Our noses were already read like cherries.
As it grew later, Mom said she was ready to go home. Peter was cranky and needed a bottle. Dad and I had lobsters waiting back home to eat for supper. Mom couldn’t have them because she was allergic. If she ate them, she’d grow large pink hives. I just wanted to go home and put Sigmund on my bureau to watch him grow into a frog. We headed to our burn orange Bronco with the white hard top. Mom looked inside the dish I was holding and said, “You can’t bring that home with you.”
I begged and pleaded with her. “Please Mommy, I promise to take care of him!” My Father remained silent. I didn’t bother to ask him because I knew if one parent said no, never ask the other one. No meant no. I couldn’t understand why my mother wouldn’t let me bring my tadpole home after watching me play with him all day.
Mom grew more irritated with me. I felt my face burn with resentment. I wasn’t going to give into her. With angry pleasure, I popped and squished Sigmund’s body like a grape. Beige guts oozed through my fingers. I did this right in front of my Mother.
In the most accusing voice I have ever heard to this day, she said, “Now it will never see its mother again.”
Everyone remained silent while I went and dumped the remains of Sigmund back into the water. The sun was casting orange and pink rainbow-shaped ripples over the water. Vengeful guilt slithered through my flesh while hot tears gushed down my cheeks. I was an innocent murderous child.
As we all walked back to the jeep, I couldn’t look at my parents. I’m sure they weren’t looking at me. All remained silent during the hour and a half ride back home. This was my first taste of mortality.