The three of us lay on the bed with our toes danging over the edge into the room as if it were a warm pond. I smiled to my left and found a dark haired girl listening with eager attention to the book which I held awkawardly aloft in my crowded arms. I turned to my right and found her fair haired sister. The younger child twitched and twirled in restless circles, giggling at inopportune times and interjecting with irrelevant questions. I replied by tossling her curls and patiently repeating, “Just wait. Just wait. Let’s see if the book will tell us.”
We continued. The book was not particularly interesting to me, nor was it really to the girls, but they insisted I read them the next chapter, every night. I plowed on, word by word. I was a marathon runner. My reading legs now numb, I took a deep breath, counted the pages till the end of the chapter, and kept moving.
So, I was in a zone, and didn’t notice immediately when the creature tumbled into our pond and slowly positioned himself below us. He drifted motionless for several heartbeats, eyeing his prey through the rippling water. They lay there in the sun in front of him in a neat little row. They seemed to wave to him lazily. They invited him like careless sunbathers on the shore. He eyed their slow back and forth motion and drooled in anticipation. And we were oblivious to his stalking. He surveyed the morsels, selected the fattest and juiciest, and finally launched his attack.
“Why did you stop reading, Daddy?”
“Um, something is happening. Scoot over for a second.”
I set the book aside and moved a leg to discover a tiny bald head peaking over the side of the bed, my big toe stuffed inside his slimy mouth. When he saw us he drew back and squealed in delight, revealing four white hamster teeth surrounded by soft pink gums. The girls shrieked, kicking their legs playfully in their brother’s direction.
“Eww!” The two sang in harmony. “He wants our toes!” The little boy squealed again and lunged at their squirming silver fish toe nails. Back and forth he went, until he lost his balance and stumbled over backwards in a laughing pile of baby fat.