Sea monkeys not quite as advertised, but close

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In last month’s instalment of “Nobody Asked Me But …” I discussed the multitude of minutiae, or trivial details, that have crammed themselves into every nook and cranny of this organ I call my brain. Almost totally useless for maintaining both my health and survival, these mini-tidbits of nonessential information continue to take up valuable real estate in my consciousness.

Take sea monkeys, for instance. As a kid, I would see the ads for them on the back covers of comic books and wondered what it would be like to have sea monkeys as pets. “Amazing Live Sea-Monkeys,” the ads would tease. “Just Add Water And Watch Them Come To Life!” Flogged by the Transcience Corporation, these little critters (actually a species of brine shrimp called hybrid artemia) were touted as “the world’s first INSTANT PETS” and you, as the sea monkeys’ human master, were encouraged to feed ‘em, grow ‘em, breed ‘em and train ‘em.

I never did cut out the comic book coupon, or send away for the sea monkey kit (which included the crystallized eggs, special nutritional food and a small plastic “sea-quarium” with magnifying bubbles imbedded in the plastic to allow you to get an up-close look at the little crustaceans). School friends who did send off their coupons with payment all reported the same outcome. After following the explicit directions that came with the kit and waiting expectantly for weeks, nothing happened. Eventually, the entire sea monkey experiment fell prey to its natural predator: mothers who flushed the liquid mess down the toilet.

I never forgot about the sea monkeys. It was one minutia that kept eating away at me. Finally, years later, when I reached that defining moment of total adult immaturity, I sprung for my very own colony of the exotic creatures. Again, as expected, days turned into weeks and zero monkeys (sea or land) made themselves visible. Then, one fine morning, I took my usual scan of the situation and blinked my eyes in amazement. There were dozens of tiny white dots floating about in the salty solution. Not only that, but they seemed to be moving! I squinted my eyes and peered through the magnifying plastic bubbles on the aquarium, but couldn’t make out much more than minuscule white specks without any more detail than that they were definitely moving.

As the next few days passed, more and more of my sea monkeys continued to hatch. I fed them the special nutritional sea monkey food that came with the kit and, sure enough, I could now distinguish certain features, especially among the ones who were the first to hatch. Okay, maybe they didn’t look exactly like the cartoon illustration in the comic book ad in which they displayed curly tails, three-pronged crowns on their heads and gleaming white smiles. However, they did appear to have small antennae and multiple wispy appendages which propelled them through their liquid environment.

More time passed by, and as I watched my sea monkeys grow to about five millimetres long, I noticed there were fewer and fewer of them in the aquarium. I’m not sure if it was disease or the “monkey eat monkey” law of the sea jungle that caused the attrition, but there came a day when I realized that there were only two survivors from my original colony of hundreds of sea monkeys.

I’m not sure why, but I chose to name my remaining sea monkeys Boris and Natasha, after the two nefarious cartoon characters, Boris Badenov and Natasha Nogoodnik in the 1960s much-heralded cartoon series, The Rocky and Bullwinkle Show. I can’t claim, with my somewhat limited zoological expertise, that I could really determine the sex of a brine shrimp, but to me, one was definitely the male and the other was certainly the female. In my mind, I attributed a rock-solid relationship between the two of them. They were mates for life. 

As fate would have it, I woke up one morning to find only one remaining sea monkey. Natasha had been taken to that great aquarium in the sky (don’t ask me how I knew it was Natasha; even sea monkeys have their wiles). As an elegy to her, I penned the following poem which is titled “Boris the Sea Monkey.”

Boris turns aimless spirals

In his plastic sea-quarium

His 800 white transluscent arms

Bend.

Prairie wheat

The rhythm of the wind.

He swims alone now,

The last survivor

From a colony of Sea-Monkeys

(just add water * they come to life)

— so said the comic book ad (inside back cover).

Gone is Natasha

His chosen, beloved, betrothed.

She sleeps now forever

In her bed of green algae.

She is snuff-ed.

No more loop-de-loops

No more lightning sprints to the surface.

Boris has 800 arms

But no one to hug.

Time decelerated after Natasha’s departure, and the hands on the clock seemed to stand still as I would watch Boris turn aimless spirals in his solitude. He no longer seemed to care about anything, not even the times when I tapped a few specks of his special food into his little “ocean.” As was inevitable, there came the day when Boris too left our earthly sphere. Now I could have believed, since there were a few specks of white particles floating in the algae tinged brine, that he had expired from a broken heart and simply disintegrated into his watery grave. I chose, however, to trust in my faith that Boris had made the spiritual journey to meet up with his beloved Natasha in that Elysian Fields of Sea Monkey World, that great big ocean in the sky.

Nobody asked me, but there are so many more morsels of useless minutiae I could deliver to your fertile minds, but time and space are somewhat limiting the discussion to sea monkeys. I’m certain this topic alone will stir up your very own useless bits of fluff inhabiting your brains. As the ad said, “Just Add Water And Watch Them Come To Life!”

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