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Copyright © 1994, 2010
A. Thomas Heald
All Rights Reserved.

1188 words


The Family of Tad
by Tom Heald

  For my grandchildren 
Faika, Ayse, Murat, Kerem and Jared.

Long ago in a far, far place there was a brilliant explosion. It was like all the lights from all the cities in all the countries were in one place, and then turned on during the darkest part of the night. From this light came a wondrous thing. The Sun, the Moon, and all the stars came and made their home here above our Earth, but it was not the Earth we know. For it had no trees, or flowers, or grasses.

The sea was also without life as it bubbled and smoked like a foul-smelling bog, but in this strange soup a marvelous thing happened. The water turned green like the edges of a duck pond in the middle of summer. For it had become a sea of life with small plants growing everywhere, and, over time, there came new life. A wiggly, squiggle life that swam free in the sea.

Tad was a little wiggly, squiggle fish that swam in the sea. He was a cute little thing, with short stubby fins, a pot belly, and a short tail turned the wrong way. Tad was different from other fishes, and some times they teased him. "Oh, look at Tad with his up and down tail," they did sing. "He swims like a pokey old piece of seaweed floating where the baby fishes feed."

Tad didn't care what the other fishes said because his short little up and down tail let him swim close to the shore where the sawtooths could not come. Every fish in the sea ran when the sawtooths came, for they were big, and fast, and always hungry. They were bigger than the largest shark with teeth like an alligator's and a body like the fastest fish. The big ones weren't so bad, for they fed far out to sea. It was the young ones, the teen-agers, that hunted close to the shore that Tad had to look out for.

One day while playing a game of tag with his friends, Tad was smashed aside in a swirl of bubbles. It was a sawtooth, and Tad was it! Tad's side hurt where the sawtooth's tail had hit him, but he knew he must flee. He remembered what he had been taught in school, when a sawtooth comes every little fish must scatter in a different direction, and then dart for shallow water. This way the sawtooth could only chase one fish and the others would be able to get away. But this time the sawtooth was chasing Tad! Tad's little tail went up and down so fast that it made bubbles in the water as he dashed for the nearest rock.

Tad saw himself surrounded by sharp pointed teeth as the sawtooth's giant mouth closed around him. He felt the water squeeze him tight as the mouth snapped shut. It was as dark as the darkest night, and Tad started to cry. Then there was a terrible thump and Tad saw a crack of light. He quickly swam out past the dagger-sharp teeth, and then darted under the rock that the sawtooth had crashed into.

The sawtooth was really mad. He had just a taste of Tad before running into the rock and now he wanted more. He poked his long flat snout under the rock and slowly searched back and forth for Tad. Tad crawled as far back as he could, but the snout came closer and closer. Tad saw the glimmer of sharp white teeth as the large jaws started to open, but it was too tight for the sawtooth to open its mouth under the rock.

Tad started to giggle as the sawtooth whipped its head back and forth as it tried to force open its mouth. Then Tad felt a cold shiver run down his back all the way to his short stubby tail. The sand was washing away as the sawtooth swung its large jaws back and forth. Then, quick as a flash, the sawtooth snapped his head. Tad went flying out from beneath the rock. The sawtooth had used his large snout like a baseball bat -- and Tad was the ball.

Hurt and very, very scared, Tad turned for the shore and swam faster then he had ever swum before. He swam so fast that he swam right out of the water and kept right on swimming. Those short little fins lifted his little pot belly up off the sand as his up and down tail pushed him forward. "Hey, this is fun," he said to nobody in particular. Then turning, he said "Na, na, de, na na. Sawtooths must swim in the sea, but Tad can walk free."

In time Tad taught his children to walk on the land where it was safe to be. And over many generations his great-great-great-and-many-thousands-more-greats grandchildren learned to live on land and only returned to the sea to play.

Others too learned to walk on land, and, in time, many creatures roamed the land among the trees, and shrubs, and grass that had also move there. The Family of Tad were among these land dwellers, but the land wasn't as safe as it was when Tad first came ashore long, long ago. Now there were many large, fierce beasts that roamed the land. The Family of Tad had changed also. Instead of short stubby fins and an up and down tail, they now had four long legs with powerful muscles, much like a dog with a short neck. They were fast runners and could out run any of the larger hunters except for T-Rex. T-Rex came from the Family of Monster-Lizards that stood on two hind legs with a long tail to help keep their balance. They had large bodies with short little arms, a big head, and a mouth full of sharp teeth that looked a little like a sawtooth's mouth. T-Rex was the biggest and baddest of these beasts we call dinosaurs today.

Whenever a T-Rex was around, Tad's cousins the dog would run and hide in a cave. The best caves were found at the sea shore. In time some dogs learned to hunt in the water and over many thousands of years a few of them moved back into the sea. Unlike the fish they still breathed air even though they spent most of their time in the sea.

Today we know this new branch of the Family of Tad by many different names. There are seals and walruses, porpoises and dolphins, and the wonderful whales who live in the sea. And all of them, each and every one, have an up and down tail to push them through the water just like Tad did many, many years ago.

With special thank to Mister Frog, who told me this story one fine spring evening while I was sitting by the Duck Pond in the middle of town. Frogs are very special, for they still honor the memory of Tad by naming their babies after him every spring.

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