He took a bite of the sandwich while looking at the huge shark as he passed by the glass. It was a majestic creature, a real wonder of the seas. Don loved to sit there every day at work and just watch such a creature swim from one end to the other of the tank. It was a very large ecosystem but the sharks had a tendency of always moving around, which made them very interesting.
Of course, there were many other creatures like manta rays and several types of fish, but none of them had the beauty of the shark, its elegance and just utter grandeur. Don’s lunchtime would soon be over. He only had thirty minutes to eat whatever he brought from home or bought from one of the many stores in the park. He really liked the big hotdogs from the stand by the turtle’s pond. They were always covered in thick mustard that was spicy and so rich and delicious. When he was in a good mood, he bought two.
It was also the day he had a night shift. He hated it because he had to parade all around the park, walking up and down with a flashlight, looking at nothing because there were never trespassers in an aquarium. Who was going to get in there? Some barracuda thief or someone who really wanted to have a real penguin as a pet? No one would do that. But the company that managed the park was so cheap with their hiring’s and expenses that they rather put him at night with a flashlight than invest in real security like cameras and all that stuff that any other place had.
In any case, he took that time to see the animals when they were less stressed out and it happened to be really nice. They behave differently, as if a huge weight had been lifted from their… Well, not shoulders but, you know what he means. Don loved to see the penguins sleep because they got all together and put their heads in a funny position and it was like seeing an old man trying to sleep at the park. They were little funny creatures and he had grown to care for them.
When he was finished with lunch, he had to go to his day job as a janitor. He knew he had to be close to the petting areas because kids always spilt water on the ground there and more than one mom had complained about the puddles there, which could cause accidents and a lot more things according to them but he rarely listened to the whole speech. It was funny to him how they thought he was like the owner of the place or something.
He always had his mop and his little cart to clean the mop not very far from him. Also a wet rag to clean the glasses and a bottle that left those glasses looking perfect in order for all the visitors to have a good look at every single creature in the aquarium. That was his job and he was kind of proud of it after having done it for more than twenty years. He had to like something about it after doing it for so long.
That afternoon, just before the park closed, he bought two hotdogs and asked the young lady to put them in a Styrofoam case, in which they sold burritos and nachos and other stuff. She complained because she knew he had the night shift and every one there was kind with whoever had the nightshift. Even Don would always give a chocolate bar to the person that had to do it all the other days. His name was Vinnie and he was an idiot but the surprising part was that Vinnie only worked for that job, four days a week. Don had to do it the other three days of the week. It was a fair settlement, although odd.
Vinnie was the type of guy not many people would hire: he had been in jail a couple of times and he appeared to show some evidence of mental challenges, if you will. He was very kind, organized and loyal to the place but, he was very dumb, always asking silly questions about the job and the animals, like how they mated in the dark at night or how the manta was able to fly and if the shark could read his thought. He was really insane but people, the other workers, cared for him. He was part of the aquarium family.
That day though, it was Don’s turn to watch around. He had his food, his flashlight had brand new batteries, and he had brought a bottle of fresh orange juice from home and a magazine he had found in the trash by the tank of the jellyfish. It was one of those celebrity magazines, where they show who has been doing who and how and where. He wasn’t particularly interested in all of that but the magazine had enough information to keep him interested all night and that was the real important part.
He also wanted ice cream but he had no way to store in order for it not to melt in his hand or his pocket. The weather had recently changed, from very windy and rainy to a dry heat. There were rarely clouds in the sky; no matter if it was day or night, it was really disturbing sometimes. He would have wanted his uniform not to be pants and a thick shirt with a hat on top and those big black shoes. He had even approached his boss about it but he had been convinced that if he wore that in the day, he might as well do it by night.
Don really didn’t get that logic because, after all, of the other guys in the aquarium got to dress in shorts and nice cotton shirts and sandals. The dolphin trainers were always half naked and no one said anything. There was even a girl in the shark tank that hated to wear shoes. She would never use them, even in winter. Her fashion only included sandals and that was it. She didn’t fell cold or so thought Don. In any case, he would have wanted a changed for the evenings.
As the doors closed, he decided to change things without telling anyone. After all, no one was even there to tell him anything. He had brought some flip-flops from home and he put them on as soon as the park got deserted. His feet were actually very thankful for that. The black shoes and socks stayed in his locker as his shift started. He watched the main map at the entrance, as he always did, and tried to create a route that would pass once by every single tank or exhibition. That way he did his job right and he had time to read his magazine and eat whatever he had around. He brought it all in a plastic bag.
It was strange to be the only one making sounds in the night. He thought it was funny how only was person was trusted to stay there at night, to take care of so many animals that needed constant care. Sometimes, he would chat for a while with the vets that came at night. It did happen every night but it wasn’t unheard of that one of the creatures was having problems with its food or something like that. And those men and women knew a lot. The night passed by fast when they were around, imparting their wisdom.
But that night, there was no vet or anyone else. Don was alone to read about how some celebrity had entered a rehab program and then gone out a week later. He ate one of the chocolates as he stared at the tank holding the sea dragons and then moved on to the sea horses, which he had always considered very particular, because of the fact the male can hold the babies while the mothers do other stuff. It was a little miracle in the sea and he pictured what that might look like in humans.
A noise good him out of his imagination. At first it seemed to be far, not very important. But then, it seemed to be getting louder, to be more and more serious. He realized it was water and the first thought he had was that he might have to go for the mop right away. As he ran towards the sound, Don thought that maybe one of the animals was restless. He had read about in a magazine, how aquariums weren’t a thing anymore. They had no whale there and the dolphins had a huge habitat but maybe it was them. But it wasn’t.
The sound stopped before he could arrive. Just as he arrived to the jellyfish exhibition, he saw someone run away. He attempted to follow but he tripped with his flip-flops and his bag of treats slammed against the floor. The Styrofoam case spilled hotdog all over the place. But that wasn’t the worst. The tank was spilling water all over and it wasn’t because of the animals. It was because there was a body floating just above the jellyfish, who seem to carry the dead man. As he got closer, Don’s jaw dropped realizing the corpse was Vinnie’s. He was purple.