Guilt in a Box
by Lenee Cobb
I saved up my money and bought them and then, I killed them all. The king. The queen. All their subjects. The entire kingdom. Never had I felt so low. So guilty.
Why didn’t the advertisement in the back of the Archie comic book warn me about this? They should never allow an eleven-and-a-half-year-old to have this kind of responsibility. How was I ever going to convince my parents I was old enough to babysit myself and my little brothers if I killed all my monkeys?
I’d been ever so diligent feeding them, changing their water, watching their little miniature kingdom grow—scanning the developments of all their little faces daily, until I went to sixth grade camp that fall and killed them. All.
Why couldn’t I have remembered to ask mom to feed them while I was away? What I do remember is mom and dad telling me that the Sea Monkeys were my responsibility. Mine.
And then I got caught up in all the excitement of camp and was gone for a whole week and . . . came home.
I cried. I cried for the king. I cried for the queen and all their kingdomites. I remembered all their little faces, real little faces, real little creatures.
It’s almost time for my granddaughters birthday. She’ll be ten. I went shopping for her and walked into a toy isle and saw them – – – Sea Monkeys.
I lift the box from the shelf and stare into those faces, the same faces. They haven’t aged like me.
My noble victims looking so happy. Always happy.
Over 45 years have passed.
My heart contracts.
They still sell Sea Monkeys – – – to children – – – Tyrants!
I place the box of happy rulers and all their children back on the shelf with the other boxes full of kingdoms lined up properly behind it; boxes of guilt no child should have to bear, blink my eyes and sniffle once, and continue shopping.
* * *
Did you raise Sea Monkeys? Tell me about it, please.