Creature from the Back Lagoon
The clatter of roller coasters, the screams of the crowd, the patter of running feet — all were more interesting than staring out at a dirty, dingy puddle of water grandiosely called a “lagoon” — but when Grandad Jessop said sit on the bench and look at the lagoon, we grandkids (all kitted out in cheesy angel Moroni t-shirts he’d bought) sat and looked at the lagoon in back of the amusement park.
“Us Jessops used to own all that,” Grandad said, sweeping a wrinkly hand at the wall-to-wall Ivory Home houses lining the far side of the lagoon. “Back when Farmington was nothing but horse pasture. My Grandpa Jessop — your great-great-grandfather — kept a four-acre spread after he sold the farm. Big white house, giant weeping willow, back lawn that ran right up to the water’s edge. Every summer, the folks’d drop us kids off at Grandpa’s for the summer. Used to fall asleep listening the folks having fun here at the park.
Grandad Jessop frowned. “Not that we got to go. Grandpa didn’t hold with what he called frivolity. Once I sent away for some Sea Monkeys like they used to advertise in comic books. Cute pink little flippered feller in the ads. Sure was disappointed when they showed up in the mail. Nothing but tiny brine shrimp.” He grunted. “’Course, I wasn’t disappointed for long. Grandpa dumped them into the lagoon out back. That’s what he did with everything he disapproved of.
“I came back from a day camp one time with a red jasper stone all cut and polished I won in a contest and a piece of pitchblende hot enough to set a Geiger chattering. Into the lagoon soon as Grandpa heard tell about them, not because they was radioactive, but because the camp instructor was the fellow he’d sold the farm to, a property developer planning on selling lots to out-of-staters and gentiles. Nothing riled up Grandpa like Gentiles moving into Utah.”
Grandad fell silent for a spell, ignoring the screams behind us. “Awfully strict he was about the Church. Gave us each a Book of Mormon every summer, expected us to read it right through. I got mad one day and chucked my copy into the lagoon. Would’ve got the switch from Grandpa, but I told him I’d given it to the fishes for them to read. Missionary work. Only time I ever saw him smile. Course, he made me stand at the water for the rest of the summer and read my new copy out loud to them.”
Grandpa Jessop got a sad look on his face. “After that summer, Grandma Jessop died and Grandpa got crankier, got meaner. Got in trouble with the law, too. Started putting out a newsletter calling for folks to chase all the Gentiles out of the state, wrote some pretty wild things. Sherrif came over. He found Grandpa’s mimeograph machine, but not any copies of the newsletter.” Grandad chuckled. “Guess the sheriff didn’t think to look in the lagoon where Grandpa ditched ‘em.”
Those screams behind us grew even more enticing, but Grandad went on with his story. “Other time he got in Dutch with the law, they thought he was poisoning reservoirs. Turns out he was just pouring cups of water from this lagoon into any body of water he could drive to. Can’t jail a man for that.”
Sounded like polluting clean water with this dirty old stuff, but I didn’t say anything. “Wasn’t until he started preaching for hours on end to the fishes,” Grandad continued, “that the family finally put Grandpa in a home. Stand on the bank across there, arms in the air like he was Chuck Heston doing Moses. Started prophesying on such-and-such date the fishes would rise up in righteous anger.”
Grandad shook his head sadly. “I still say he wasn’t harming anybody, but I got out voted. ‘Sides, the way things are nowadays, all the wickedness downtown in Salt Lake, can’t see how he was much wrong.”
He shrugged. “Anyway, reason I’m telling you all this is because you’re bound to hear the rest of the family badmouth him, and I wanted you to hear the truth, the good and the bad, before they did.” A pause. “See, today’s the date he prophesized.”
He stood up. The screams behind us seemed to have tapered off. “Sounds like the crowds have thinned a bit. Bet those lines have gone down some.”
We turned around.
The crowds had thinned, all right.
Giant aquatic creatures — mutated Sea Monkeys all pink and scaly and shambling around on two flippered feet — were chasing after what remained of the Gentiles in the crowd. Dozens of dead bodies lay motionless on the pavement. I half-expected the Sea Monkeys to eat their prey, but I guess brine shrimp, even radioactively-mutated giant ones, are vegetarian.
The leader of the Sea Monkey sauntered by, preceded by a Sea Monkey color guard parading a tattered Utah state flag like it was the Title of Liberty or something. The leader smiled and waved at my Grandad like he was a long lost friend.
Somebody’s dropped smart phone was still streaming some news channel, reporters talking about how the Sea Monkeys were rising up out of every body of water in the state, chasing out the Gentiles. Of course, the reporters didn’t know they were Grandad’s Sea Monkeys, they just called them creatures.
Creatures from the back lagoon.